While the holidays can bring excitement, they can also bring stress, especially when a family is going through divorce. Families struggle around who to spend the holidays with, what traditions to continue and what new traditions to begin.
Here are a few tips on how to not only survive the holidays, but create holiday memories that will be happy and long-lasting, even if your family is going through divorce.
1) Focus on what’s best for your children
Regardless of what each family or divorced parent wants to do, the priority should always be on the children and what’s best for them. This means that if your son or daughter wants to go to your exes’ house to visit grandma, you need to put aside your feelings towards your former partner and be supportive. This can be difficult, as you navigate the sadness, loneliness or other difficult emotions. Take this time to get emotional support from your support system. If you don’t have one, build one by joining a support group, finding a therapist or divorce coach or reaching out to friends and family.
Don’t punish your ex or use your children as bargaining chips. If you won’t allow your children to see their other parent during the holidays, and your children want to, you’re hurting your children. Try to carve out some time – maybe an hour or two – for them to see each other. While this is difficult, it is best for your children. And it will create a better co-parenting relationship for the future when you’ll ask something of your ex.
2) Have a clear plan
Talk to your ex in detail about what the holiday will look like, the schedule you will stick to as well as pick up and drop off times. Remember there will be a lot of compromise needed from both ends. It may help to write it in an email so that you can refer back to it if necessary. Remember, communication is key for this to work.
3) Prepare your children for the changes
The way that you celebrate this holiday will be unfamiliar to your child which can create stress for him or her. It’s important that you talk to your children and tell them what to expect this year. Unlike other years, this holiday will be split between two homes or it might be spent with one person’s family on Christmas eve and another’s on Christmas day. Ask your children questions – how are you feeling about the holiday? What would make it easier for you? What are you most excited about? What are you least excited about? When children are given the chance to openly talk about their feelings, they feel less anxious. Tell them to have fun with the other parent and to enjoy their time and don’t make your child feel guilty about spending time with your former partner or their family. Reassure them that you will be ok when they’re not with you. The main goal of the holidays is to spend time with your loved ones, and that’s exactly what you should be encouraging your children to do.
4) Have patience with the changes and be kind to yourself
The loss of the intact family will be an adjustment hurt for everyone, but it won’t be as difficult as time passes. As you move forward, you’ll choose which traditions to keep and you’ll make new ones. Children are extremely resilient and will look forward to your new traditions and getting to celebrate with both families in different ways.
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.