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.
Co-parenting effectively is important for your children’s well-being as well as for your own. In many cases co-parenting can be a challenge because going through divorce is one of the toughest experiences in life and both parties may feel overwhelmed and emotional. However, there are ways to co-parent where you can help your children grow and develop into happy and healthy adults.
Lay the groundwork: Letting go of the past and consciously choosing to approach the relationship as co-parents rather than exes can help make co-parenting easier. If you can let go of the past, it will help you put your emotions aside when you’re interacting with your ex. Work on being respectful and kind to your child’s other parent - it will go a long way toward having a productive co-parenting relationship.
Refraining from judgment and standing your ground: Realize that it’s ok for each parent to have a different style of parenting, and you should be respectful of each other’s views. Instead of cutting down each other’s parenting, “She’s too strict,” or “He’s coddling them,” realize that it’s normal for children to have to adapt to different styles even when switching between homes. There’s no one right way to deal with parenting issues. Try to give up your firm view of how to parent and compromise with your co-parent whenever possible. Remember you’re doing this for your children, not your ex.
Collaborating to support your child. Collaborate with your child’s other parent by communicating with them about important things that come up. For example, if your child got hurt during school or didn’t feel well when they were with you, letting the other parent know will help develop trust between you.
See the good in both parents - yourself and your ex. Recognize that each of you have good qualities that are good for your children. One parent may be crafty and do arts and crafts with the children while the other is better at teaching them math. Point out these differences and appreciate them about each other. Talk to your children about being grateful about having parents who have different strengths. Focus on the positives and let go of the negatives.
When you can work as a team with your co-parent for the benefit of your children, it will pay off. Communicate, compromise and focus on the positive and you’ll be able to become an effective co-parent and help your children grow into happy and healthy adults.
Are you dealing with an ex who has a difficult personality? Whether or not your ex has a clinical diagnosis doesn’t really matter - you just know that everything is harder than it needs to be when it comes to interacting with him or her as you go through your divorce. If your ex can be controlling and confident in how they talk to you, you may be concerned that they’re going to get exactly what they want. This can be intimidating!
Here’s the secret. They can say anything they want but that’s not reality. Just because he or she says something intimidating - like “I’m not paying alimony.” or “You have to move out of the house now!” - it doesn’t mean you have to listen. I’m going to share some important strategies when trying to come to an agreement with an ex who doesn’t know how to compromise.
Take back your power by implementing boundaries.
When your ex pressures you and tries to exert power over you, take back your power. This doesn’t happen through matching aggression. You can reclaim your power over the situation by setting a boundary.
Say “I can’t talk about this right now. I need a break” and walk away.
Or text: “I’m not going to be available for the next hour.”
Or, you don’t have to respond at all! Giving yourself the time and space to calm yourself down is powerful. This helps you maintain your integrity in the divorce process, no matter what’s thrown at you.
Don’t take it personally and keep it about your end goal.
It is crucial to remove the emotion from negotiating your agreement. It truly doesn’t matter what your ex says or thinks about you. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past. That has no bearing on your future apart from them. What will affect your future is the agreement. No matter how your ex behaves, keep in mind that you don’t need your ex to be nice, but you do need a legal agreement. The legal agreement is your end goal.
Wait it out while conserving money and energy.
Your difficult ex may talk confidently and sound like they’re never going to budge. Once their attorney explains what’s realistic and after they see how much money can be wasted on legal fees, they usually become more reasonable. Even though it’s tempting, don’t feel the pressure to get your agreement done as fast as possible. Be patient. While you’re waiting, you can trust this - people usually get what’s fair according to the courts. After spending money on their attorney and getting frustrated with the process, most people eventually realize that they have to compromise to get through the process. While you’re waiting for this to happen - it can take anywhere from a month to several months - you want to spend the least amount of money and energy. If you don’t rush it, even the most difficult ex will usually come around. Or, the judge will require them to!
Use a mediator
Consider using a mediator to walk you through the process when dealing with a difficult ex. Mediators are trained in interacting with all kinds of people and can be the one to break through to your ex so that they realize that compromise is necessary.
Find strategies to keep yourself calm
Divorce is overwhelming and can be exhausting. You need strategies to be able to remain calm. Anytime your ex or their lawyer comes at you in an aggressive manner, it’s difficult. Recognize when you’re overwhelmed and take a step back. You can take back your power when you learn to avoid reacting and think through how you want to respond.
If you can be patient, keep yourself calm, and think about your long term goals, you’ll reach an agreement with your challenging ex. It may be a difficult journey but it’s worth it in the end!
Divorce can be an adjustment in many ways, especially if you aren’t used to being on your own. One of the top struggles I hear from clients is that they are lonely. Being alone can be a positive as you learn to like yourself. Whether you’re going through divorce or not, learning to like yourself and enjoy your time alone is good for you.
Studies show the ability to enjoy being alone has been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, and improved stress management. People who enjoy alone time experience less depression. Spending time alone also improves concentration and allows your brain to reboot. Instead of feeling lonely, you can embrace the time you get to spend by yourself and recognize the emotional benefits.
One way to spend time alone when you're separated or divorced is to take yourself on dates. Sometimes when you're married and raising children, you forget what made you happy before you were married. It’s so important to get to know yourself again after divorce and remember what you used to like to do. Taking yourself on dates is a great way to do that.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing what to do with your time on your own. Try to make sure that your time checks at least one of these boxes:
Do something that makes you laugh! Or feels fun.
Do something that helps you relax, mind and body.
Choose to learn something new and interesting
Do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone
Do something that gives you an adrenaline rush
Reconnecting with yourself is different for each of us. It’s up to you how much you focus on this - you could spend an hour on your solo date once a week or much more than that. The main thing to keep in mind is to do it regularly. Soon it will become something you look forward to and you’ll learn to welcome that time that you get to yourself!
Divorce is painful. But the grief is compounded when you aren’t the one choosing it. Being in any situation you didn’t sign up for can make you feel out of control, angry and stuck. There are things you can do to move yourself to acceptance. As you work to accept a divorce you didn’t choose, you will be able find peace.
Here are specific things you can do to help get you through divorce and make it much easier on yourself:
Surround yourself with support. Seek out people who have been through divorce as they will be able to understand you best during this time. There are a number of support groups, both online or in person in most areas. You can also find a divorce coach or therapist who can help you focus on healing and moving on.
Don’t avoid your feelings. While it’s important to intentionally pursue fun and enjoyable things to take your mind off the divorce, you still have to make room for those painful feelings to surface. Unexpected divorce provokes many powerful feelings like rejection and shame. You’ll need to set aside some time to process them.
Build your self-esteem. When you feel shame or rejection from a divorce you didn’t choose, it’s important to build your confidence back up.. You can do this by recognizing what you say to yourself - your “self-talk”. You can change your self-talk, listing and reminding yourself of your strengths, reciting affirmations daily until you believe them!
Choose to learn and grow. There are always opportunities to learn and grow in life. What can you learn from this experience? Identify things that you did or mistakes that you made. Then, work to forgive yourself and work on changing your behavior.
Don’t try to punish your ex. If you have children, this strategy will hurt them and yourself.! While it’s tempting, you’ll gain peace and stay true to your integrity if you don’t give in to the desire to act and speak out of anger to get back at your ex.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Work to feel and express your anger and then let it go. Journal, talk to a friend, divorce coach, therapist or join a divorce support group.
Divorce that you never wanted can be devastating, but know that you are strong enough to get through it. Each day you get through proves that you’re stronger than you realize. Take it one day at a time. You can do this!
Divorce and separation are challenging no matter what, but when you have a difficult ex, the challenge increases exponentially. However, it can be managed, with the right perspective and some proactive strategies.
Your ex may have made you feel bad about yourself during your marriage/relationship so your self-esteem is low. You may be exhausted from years of dealing with your ex’s difficult behavior and you can get triggered by this. How do you co-parent when it’s so hard to control your emotions? Follow these 5 guidelines to make co-parenting with a difficult ex more effective:
1. Build your self-esteem and be patient with yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Be patient with yourself – if you mess up, recognize that you’re learning how to deal with a very difficult situation. Change your self-talk from “I can’t believe I let her get to me.” to “I’m doing the best I can and it’s ok.”
2. Don’t get triggered by your ex’s provocative remarks. This is easier said than done. If you can take a pause before you respond, you’ll give yourself the time to think through how you’d like to handle the situation. A pause enables you to respond rather than react. Take a few deep breaths, meditate, call a friend – anything that helps you calm down.
3. Seek a parenting coordinator through the courts. Courts can appoint a parenting coordinator to coordinate scheduling and communication issues between the parents. It’s helpful to have a professional who is trained to deal with high conflict divorce handle these issues.
4. Develop your divorce strategy. What are your priorities? What kind of life do you want in 6 months or 1 year? Without a strategy, you can get derailed by your ex’s behavior. Remind yourself why you’re leaving the marriage and what kind of life you want going forward. This will give you perspective beyond the current struggle.
5. Don’t make your child the middleman. Don’t use your child to send messages to the other parent, don’t vent to your child about the other parent and don’t ask your child for information about the other parent. Let your children know that it’s not ok to do those things and if either parent tries to do any of those behaviors, they will know that it’s not ok. They can learn to set boundaries with their other parent.
The life you want is waiting for you. Ignore the noise that’s coming from your ex and celebrate that it can’t control you anymore. Focus on the present moment, breathe deeply, notice nature, appreciate freedom. Once you recognize that finding your peace has nothing to do with anyone else, you’ll have the life that you’ve been dreaming of.
Setbacks, such as deep sadness or difficult days, are a normal part of getting through divorce. You may be feeling good for a while and then something triggers a strong painful feeling (like a text from your ex). Setbacks can be frustrating and can make you feel helpless. You can feel disoriented and scared about the future. You may feel exhausted, unable to sleep and anxious. You may question if you will ever feel good again.
Although it’s difficult, setbacks are an indication that you’re actually moving forward through your divorce recovery. Some setbacks are small and fleeting while others may be more intense where you don’t see an end to the pain. It’s important to address each setback as it occurs. If you avoid addressing each setback as it comes up, you can remain stuck in the pain or bitterness and it will take longer to move on. Throughout the process of tackling each setback you’ll take another step forward in your healing process.
Here are 6 tools to help you tackle any obstacle that you face:
If you focus on what you can control, it will help you move through your divorce with more confidence. Use the tools above and you will have an easier time facing your setbacks. These strategies will enable you to feel good again and to cherish your new life!
Join our Thriving Through Divorce Online Group Coaching Program here: https://go.divorcecoachjill.com/thrivingmonthly
Moving on from divorce isn’t easy for most people. You may feel overwhelmed, angry and sad and not know how to deal with these intense emotions. It’s difficult to start to find a new path for your life after you’ve spent many years building a life with someone and that person isn’t a part of your life anymore. But you will be able to recover and there are several things that you can do to build a happy and fulfilling life after divorce.
The first step toward moving on is to understand what went wrong in your marriage. This doesn’t mean that you assign blame, in fact it’s the opposite. Reflect on what was wrong in the relationship in a non-judgmental way. What was the relationship lacking? What needs weren’t met for you and for your partner? The more you understand your past, the easier it will be to start the process of letting go and moving on.
It’s normal to feel grief when you’re going through divorce and it takes time to process those feelings. Processing feelings involves thinking about them, talking about them and possibly writing or drawing them. It involves feeling the feelings which is difficult and many people avoid feeling the feelings for good reason. Although it can be painful, if you don't process your grief you can get stuck and you won't be able to build your new life.
Grief is processed by going through the following stages:
Journaling is one tool to help process grief. Writing down your feelings enables you to get out what you’re feeling so that you don’t stuff them. Stuffing your feelings can lead to anxiety, depression and physical illness. Also, counseling, divorce coaching and divorce support groups can be really helpful. I run a divorce group coaching program which helps people going through divorce find support from others going through similar experiences in a safe environment.
Another way to move on is to set small, achievable goals each day. Maybe it’s a chore that has to be accomplished or starting a new project at home or work – what is your first step towards that goal? Setting small, achievable goals, builds your confidence and enables you to start a process of moving in a positive direction.
These techniques take time and work. Having support while you go through this is one of the most important things you can do to get through this process so that you can move on in your life. But if you get your team of support behind you and work at this moving on process, you will be able to develop a happy and fulfilling life for yourself. It’s definitely worth it!
We can get provoked or “triggered” by many things – a fight with a spouse, a child who won’t listen, a boss who treats you badly, an aggressive driver, etc. Being triggered simply means that some event has impacted us emotionally and we have a difficult time reacting rationally. When we’re triggered, we do things that we shouldn’t do. We yell back at our spouse or child, we say something inappropriate to our boss, or we leave in a huff. How wonderful would it be if we could somehow, in the moment that we are triggered, find a way to detach?
One skill that you may have tried in the past when you’ve been triggered is deep abdominal breathing. Deep abdominal breathing is where you push your stomach out as you breath in and pull your stomach in as you breath out. This enables your lungs to expand much farther than if you take the typical “chest breath”. When you do it correctly and for long enough, your brain will release a hormone that will calm you. This calm will enable you to detach. Once you’re detached, you can respond logically rather than emotionally.
Sometimes deep abdominal breathing doesn’t work. You try it and you’re still triggered and unable to detach. Grounding is another technique that can be helpful in these circumstances. Grounding is a type of coping strategy that is designed to “ground” you in or connect you to the present moment. You can only use grounding if you have given yourself some space from the person that you were interacting with. You can say that you have to go to the bathroom, ask them if you can talk about this a little later or find some other way to get to a separate space. Once you’ve gotten to a separate space, you can try these steps for grounding:
The key to being successful with these techniques is to practice them when you’re not being triggered. You can also make up your own method of grounding that enables you to distract and detach yourself from your emotions. Learning to detach is a powerful tool that can help you to be more successful in your communication skills and improve your relationships with your spouse, children, boss and anyone else important in your life. Let me know what techniques work for you!
When you are going through a divorce, you may feel hurt, guilty, alone, scared – a lot of very difficult feelings. Starting a new relationship is appealing because it can help you feel less lonely and it can provide support when it may be difficult to get support from others who don’t understand what you’re going through. However, relationships take time, energy and a lot of compromise. Thinking through what is best for you and your family will help you determine when to move forward with a new relationship.
Some things to consider when starting a new relationship after divorce:
Look into your situation and assess where you and your children are emotionally. This will help you determine if you’re ready for a relationship.
There are parents who don’t consider starting a new relationship because they feel that they need to focus on their children. They feel that they can’t have a relationship at all until their children are out of the house. Although some may think that this is best for children, there can be some negative consequences to this.
A parent who focuses primarily on their children may find that they don’t have any time to develop their own life, hobbies, interests, friendships or take care of themself. This works for young children as they want and need their parent’s undivided attention. But as children get older, they start to develop their own life, friends and activities. If their mom or dad is solely focused on them, the children may feel responsible for their parent’s happiness and feel guilty that they don’t want to spend all their time with the parent.
There is a middle ground. You can have a relationship and your own life after a divorce while putting your children as a priority. One of the reasons to develop your own life outside of your children is that you are your children’s main role model. If you are happy and have a full life, it encourages your children to have that too.
There is no one right or wrong answer. Think through what you want and take your time with every decision. Talk to a trusted friend or therapist to help you think clearly. Balance your own needs with that of your children. You know what is best for your children and for yourself. Have faith in yourself that if you take the time and space you need, you will come up with what will be best for you and your family.
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.