The jingles are playing everywhere you go. Every sitcom is re-running past specials on a loop. You feel like you can't escape the cheery joy. Perhaps the holidays once meant a time for your family to come together, but after your divorce you're wondering how that will play out now. Maybe “the most wonderful time of the year”, is feeling less than wonderful this time around. That is alright. We’ve compiled some key tips for you on how to navigate the holidays after a divorce:
Make a holiday visitation schedule
If you and your ex have a comprehensive parenting plan, you likely have discussed who gets the kids on certain holidays. Ideally, you have a thorough holiday visitation schedule that both parents agree on and respect. This schedule may involve alternating custody on holidays yearly, splitting the day amongst both parents or even spending the holidays together. A holiday visitation schedule will always trump a regular parenting schedule. You should create a comprehensive plan sooner rather than later to avoid any last-minute conflicts.
Create new traditions
Your holiday visitation schedule may dictate that your kids are with your ex this year. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot make the most of your time together when you do get to see your kids. Plan an alternative celebration that allows for some quality time and new memories to be made. Make new traditions by switching things up, but don’t feel you need to change everything. Maybe try a different take on something you’ve always done. Familiarity can be nice during times of intense change.
If you won’t be with family this holiday season, find a friend’s place you can go to or a community event to attend. Volunteering is another way in which you can enrich your life, be surrounded by love and practice gratitude. Or, you might choose to treat yourself by taking a vacation. Getting away may be exactly what you need to get your mind off things.
Keep in touch
Not being together on the day of a key holiday can be hard for both the parents and the children. To ease this transition for all members of the family, co-operate and empathize. Encourage your kids to contact the parent they are not staying with. Or, if your former spouse would like to briefly drop off gifts for the kids to feel more involved, let them, but plan out the circumstances. Understand that this is not the time to discuss any conflicts. Being courteous may also mean helping your child purchase a gift for their other parent if they are not of the age to do so themselves. This demonstrates thoughtfulness and is a kind gesture without crossing any lines.
Discuss gift giving
Talk to your ex about the gift ideas you have for your kids. If a face-to-face meeting is out of the question, this can be easily done over email. Discussing your ideas will ensure that you do not buy the same gifts. Bear in mind that you should not compensate for your divorce by showering your kids with gifts. This can create a competitive situation between ex-partners, especially if one parent is better off financially than the other. If you fear the gift-giving may get competitive, set a reasonable price range with your ex.
Practice self-care. You are going through a hard time of change. It is okay to feel lonely or even cynical during this time. To be surrounded by holiday cheer all the time may be hard to bear. You should not isolate yourself, but you should give yourself the time you need. Allow yourself to not be fully functional at this time. Everyone needs time to find a new normal. Allow yourself to re-group your thoughts, and identify priorities. Taking care of your well-being, including your mental health, should be at the top of your list.