No matter the amount of time you were married—whether it was for just a few years or multiple decades, the first holiday season without your spouse can be particularly difficult after a divorce. Holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, can already be stressful on their own, and the emotional turmoil you might be feeling after a divorce can make them feel unbearable at times. Add children and a shared custody plan to the mix, and those feelings may then be exacerbated. If you’re struggling with similar emotions this holiday season, take a deep breath, and consider the following tips:
Be Selfless for Your Kids: It’s challenging to share custody of your children when you’re accustomed to seeing them nearly every day. Not having them for a holiday can be painful. It’s not uncommon for change to be emotionally taxing, but remember that this is difficult for your children as well, and they’re likely looking to you for confirmation that this new split in time is going to be okay. It’s expected that you’re going to miss them and that’s okay, but you also need to be strong for them. As difficult as it may seem in the moment, be excited for them on the days when they’re scheduled to be with your ex—allow the holidays to remain an animated and joyful time for them. Lean on your adult friends and family as emotional support system through difficult seasons—not your children.
Don’t be a Scrooge: Don’t forego the holiday either! Just because your children are spending the holiday with their other parent doesn’t mean you should isolate yourself and ignore the holiday. Create new traditions, and spend time recognizing new dreams of yours that can be fulfilled in that time. If you find that you’ll be alone on Thanksgiving, have a “Friendsgiving” and invite other’s in your similar situation. If you have a love for adventure, book a ticket to experience a new place for the holidays, or go visit an old friend you haven’t had the time to see in years.
Alternative Holiday Dates: Just because a holiday falls on a specific day, doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it when you want to! Children of divorced parents understand better than most that holiday cheer is not defined by a specific date, but rather the days that family can gather and enjoy each other’s company. If your kids are not with you on the actual holiday, just have a separate celebration with them before or after. They get to have two Christmas days, and you still get to celebrate with them. It’s a win-win!
Support System: When you think of a support system, your mind usually goes to friends and family. Hopefully, you have those people in your life, but it can also be beneficial to make some new friends. Other divorced parents, especially those who have been through a few of these holidays already, can really be helpful when you’re going through your first set. They know what you’re going through and can relate on a level that some of your friends and family might not be able to. In addition to this, if you’re struggling with some deep-seated sorrows and need a new perspective, consider seeing a counselor for a season. Therapy is a wonderful way to better understand and redefine your outlook on life.
“Me Time”: You’re probably missing your children during the holidays that they’re not at home with you. Aside from missing your babies, you may also be missing the comfort of having a partner to share the day with. First of all, trust that this season will pass, and it will get easier. In the meantime, however, take some time to pamper yourself! Everyone is different, so do whatever it is that makes you feel personally restored. You may have had very little “me time” in the past when you had your children full-time, so look at it as an opportunity to focus on yourself. Whether you accomplish this through getting a massage, focusing on a hobby that brings you joy but tends to fall to the wayside, or just allowing yourself to relax at home and read a book or watch a movie, sanction time to focus on personal fulfillment without interruption.
Remember, just because you’re divorced, and your holidays have changed, doesn’t mean you can’t and won’t still enjoy them. You might struggle with the first few holidays, but it will get better! If you’re just starting in the separation or divorce process and need some guidance, we encourage you to reach out to Pacific Cascade Family Law. We can help take some of the stress out of an already difficult situation. We are here to make your tomorrow brighter.