Halloween ended and you packed up the decorations, costumes, and candy. Next holiday on the calendar was Thanksgiving, which was a lot of work to prepare for, a big event for extended family, and a lot to clean up afterwards. You enjoyed having your children with you for both holidays but won’t have them for Christmas. This three-month holiday season has now become a catch-22 for you and other parents who have gone through (or are going through) a divorce.
How do divorced parents make Christmas easier for everyone? You should begin with a simple reality: unless you want to share Christmas time with your ex, you will have to divide up the time. How a family divides up that time determines who will be in a celebratory mood.
You want to love this time of year, but not having your children with you is making you think of every Christmas movie you have ever watched. Inevitably you start to question whether the Ghost of Christmas Past is torturing you. Is there a way to survive your first Christmas without your children? Here are 10 tips to help you survive Christmas when going through a divorce.
1. Let go of the past
Trying to re-create what Christmas used to be when you were one family is a painful exercise in futility. This year is different. You are divorced or are going through a divorce. Accept the fact that your life has changed. This means that your Christmas celebration and traditions must change too. This doesn’t mean that your new celebration and traditions can’t be just as great. It does mean that the celebration and traditions will be different.
2. Stop trying to overcompensate
You’re going about this all wrong if you are trying to put on a show by making your front yard the “Disneyland” of the neighborhood. You don’t need to convince yourself that you need lights, props, and a soundtrack to make your Christmas special. Your first Christmas apart from your children isn’t going to be amazing because your house is decked out in more lights than anyone in St. Louis. Your first Christmas apart from your children can become amazing because you decided to be with family and friends who make you happy.
3. Its ok to be a bit sad
Your first Christmas without the children will be tough to get through. Its ok to shed a few tears. This is new life territory, and you will experience growing pains. If you choose to make dinner for yourself, or decorate a tree by yourself, or hang a few lights outside the house by yourself that may make you sad. However, that same experience may also be empowering. You may prove yourself to be strong and know that over time it will all be ok.
4. Do something different
Just because you always did Christmas a certain way when you were married doesn’t mean you have to continue to do it after you are divorced. If you always wanted to do something different for Christmas now is the time to do so. Make some changes in how you do Christmas as a single individual, and you will feel more in control.
5. Ask for help
If you used to do Christmas preparation with your ex and you can’t do it all on your own now, ask for help. This could be as simple as hiring a company to put up the Christmas lights or ordering your entire dinner from Dierbergs. It’s okay to admit that you can’t do it all by yourself. Once you learn to ask for help, you will discover that you have time to spend doing other things leading up to Christmas.
6. Stay away from Debbie Downer
Maybe it’s your relative who hasn’t said a nice comment to you since learning of your separation. Maybe it’s your friend who knows you’re going through a divorce and thinks she is being supportive by always talking about the past. Maybe it’s the coworker who simply can’t stop talking to you about anything and everything negative going on in his life. Regardless, you need to surround yourself with people who will be kind, upbeat, and support with you during Christmas season.
7. Start new traditions
It can be something as simple as baking cookies or as complicated as decorating ornaments. Whatever you choose it to be, make that new tradition bring comfort and consistency to your new life. If you begin a new tradition this year without your children, let them know this is something you’re going to do every year, and then stick to it so you will be doing it with them next Christmas. A new tradition can be hard to start, but a source of comfort once they become part of your Christmas as a single parent.
8. Don’t RSVP no to every party
It is easy to dread going to your first Christmas party without your ex. Don’t be worried about going to a Christmas party solo. Instead, expect everyone to understand why you are alone and focus on you. So, find your best party dress and go have fun. If you look your best, everyone will keep saying how great and happy you look. Life mimics action, so make your action positive.
9. Don’t sit at home alone
In my opinion, sitting around too much will lead to over thinking everything in your life. It will also lead you to over-analyze, which will lead to obsessing, which will lead to … well, you get the point. Go do something. It can be going to the gym, going to a tree-lighting ceremony, a Christmas lights festival, or a clothing department store to walk around amidst Christmas lights and music. You should make an effort to get out and among similar people when you can.
10. Pamper yourself
Find something that comforts or nurtures you, and then do it. If taking a long bubble bath sounds good, then light a candle and head to the bath. Treat yourself to a massage or even a manicure and pedicure. The pamper chosen doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to involve anyone else (if you don’t want to). The important thing is that you give something to yourself.
We understand that the first Christmas can be rough when you’re going through a divorce – or have just been through one. Take it one step at a time, and you will survive Christmas in spectacular fashion.
Christmas has changed for you, but that doesn’t mean Christmas can’t be great again as a single person. Put some cheer back into your holidays, start new traditions, and try to see this as a new beginning. Chins up, my darlings. You might even find a surprise under the mistletoe, so remember to bring your lipstick.
Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce and child custody attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.