Turkey, dressing, presents, Santa Claus, there all part of our holiday traditions. But what about fighting, yelling, guilt, regret and pain? For some people these are more common, especially for those who have suffered through a difficult and painful divorce.
So what do you do when the holiday season approaches and instead of a smile and good cheer you have pain and suffering? The first thing is identify your expectations and realize it may be time to restructure your holidays. Know for sure that the holidays after a divorce will be different for you and your family.
And don’t be surprised that while you’re performing the requisite rituals of the season – school and church programs, baking, gifts, correspondence, and family gatherings, you may not feel as connected or joyful as in the past, but that does not mean it won’t eventually get better. The good news is there are steps you can take to improve the holiday season.
Steps to tackle before the holidays
1. Understand the parenting agreement.
Most likely the holiday schedule is set. Whether you alternate holidays, split the holidays, or spend time together with your children and ex-spouse it is important that you have a plan to handle the holidays in a healthy way.
For example, if this is the year that you will not have the children maybe plan a trip with a friend. If you split time with the children make sure you understand the chaos and stress that you may experience as you transition the children from one place to the next. Finally, if you and your spouse are on friendly terms and you can spend the holidays together, make sure have options if negativity or hurt feelings interfere with your plans.
2. Focus on what you have.
If you only have Christmas Eve together with your children focus on them and be positive about the time you have together. Schedule your holiday celebration around your parenting agreement. Kids won’t care when they open their presents if their family is together and there is limited conflict.
3. Eliminate strife for the holidays.
Maybe you and your ex-spouse fight 365 days a year, but why not decide to create a no-conflict holiday with your children? Hopefully, your spouse will agree to this as well, but if not, do the best you can to eliminate conflict.
4. Start new family traditions.
The word for the holiday season is flexibility. Start new family traditions with you and your children. Traditions can include volunteering at a soup kitchen, decorating the tree together, or cooking a new favorite treat. Get creative and have fun, but make sure that you do not try to be competitive with your spouse. Make it about you and the kids and creating a good relationship.
5. Take care of yourself.
Whether it’s taking a little extra time off work, getting a good night’s sleep or spending time with a friend, it’s important to make sure you have the strength and energy to be the best parent you can be. Fail to take care of yourself and no one will have a merry Christmas!
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