The holiday season can be stressful for any family, but it can be especially difficult for anyone experiencing his or her first holiday season after a divorce.
The holidays were once a merry occasion for family and togetherness. You, your former spouse, and your children will experience some sadness and awkward moments during your first holiday season after a divorce. Knowing that the reality of spending their first holiday season as a divorced family will hit your children hard and the activities and holiday gatherings you once experienced as a family will now seem confusing. Who is taking the children to which family gathering? Who is doing the annual holiday traditions with the children? How will you survive the family holiday party if you are there without the children? The list can go on and on.
Here are some suggestions to provide you and your children with the best emotional environment possible this holiday season.
1. Reach out to family and friends.
It’s okay to ask for help or talk things through. Your family and friends are probably as busy as you are, so do not hesitate to reach out if you need a little extra help getting through the holidays. Don’t wait for someone to read your mind or appear at your door with an invitation to celebrate. Be mindful that everyone deals with divorce in his or her own way. If you leave your friends and family guessing on how you want to celebrate the holidays, they might not get it right. Instead, communicate with family and friends to get whatever support, comfort, or feedback you need. Doing so will give you the closeness and togetherness to which you have grown accustomed this time of year.
2. Avoid Unsupportive Family and Friends
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. We all have those people in our lives who never have anything supportive to say. Stay away from those folks on the first holiday season after your divorce. Give yourself time to feel stable and secure in your new situation. Regardless, you need to surround yourself with people who will be kind, upbeat, and supportive of you during the holiday season.
3. Don’t spend the holidays alone.
In my opinion, sitting around too much will lead to overthinking 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.
4. Get into the holiday mood.
Decide what you love above all else during the holiday season and figure out a way to get more of it. Whether it is giving gifts, looking at holiday lights, preparing a family meal, or watching holiday movies by the fire. Set a course for happier holidays by doing the activities that put you in the holiday mood. Don’t feel like you need to avoid activities you once did especially with your ex-spouse. Instead, make those activities your own.
5. 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.
6. Let go of the past.
Trying to re-create what the holiday season 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 holiday celebrations 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 celebrations and traditions will be different.
7. Make a New Year’s resolution.
This past year has had its share of disappointments. Leave the court dates and divorce-related tension behind you. Join a gym, meet new people, revive an old hobby, and get yourself back out there. Or, if you rarely keep a New Year’s resolution, instead ask yourself,”What have I learned this year about myself and about life?” Then, if you feel really ambitious, focus on how you can use that information to enhance the coming year.
8. Set realistic expectations.
Divorce is a major life change. Your responsibilities have changed, your financial situation has changed, and how you spend your free time has changed. Before you do anything, factor these changes into your plans for the holiday season. This will help alleviate stress and eliminate surprises.
9. Take care of yourself.
Divorce is exceedingly stressful, especially when right before the holidays. Stress leaves you susceptible to common colds and bugs — things that could prevent you from suitably enjoying the holidays. Allow yourself to recuperate. Take care of 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.
10. Work together with your ex-spouse for the sake of your children.
If there is one thing you and your former spouse will always have in common, it’s your children. The divorce is between you and your ex, not them. Allow the children the holidays they always celebrated. This holiday season can be just as wonderful for your children if you and your ex-spouse work together towards a shared goal. Find a way to make the most of the holidays for everyone involved.
Things could be worse. No matter how bad the breakup was, there are plenty of things for which to be thankful. Try to remember that divorce is both an end and a beginning.
Your divorce should not keep you from properly embracing the spirit of the season. Have a happy and healthy holiday season.
Should you need the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney in Creve Coeur and O’Fallon or have questions about your divorce situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those questions with you.