Despite the circumstances, divorce remains one of the most traumatic events you can experience in your adult life. The psychological impact of divorce may leave you anticipating a holiday season filled with emotional challenges. Many clients express concerns about the potential stress associated with spending the holidays with their ex-spouse, which could involve excessive drinking, arguments with family members, or a toxic atmosphere at home.
However, it’s important to emphasize that this time of year offers an opportunity for positive change. I often remind my clients that, despite the challenges they may face, this year doesn’t have to follow the same pattern. In fact, it has the potential to be the best year yet!
Here’s how to make your first holiday season during or after your divorce feel like something special again:
Figure out the holiday schedule in advance. If you have a predetermined holiday schedule, collaborate with your co-parent to confirm all the details of your parenting plan for the holiday season, right down to the minute. Keep in mind that holiday visitation takes precedence over regular weekly visitation, so the holiday schedule will be in effect. Plan everything ahead of time to avoid last-minute disagreements.
Do it for the kids. If there’s no established holiday plan, it’s advisable to work together to schedule separate family events that accommodate everyone’s schedules. For instance, if your co-parent typically celebrates the holiday with their family, consider the importance of allowing the children to continue that tradition with the other parent. Practice flexibility in scheduling; for example, if Grandma is only available on the actual holiday, it would be considerate for the children to spend time with her, even if it interferes with your scheduled time. Ultimately, prioritizing the children’s best interests ensures they enjoy happy, healthy, and enjoyable holidays with both parents. Besides, choosing the high road is beneficial for maintaining a positive relationship with your co-parent and fostering a healthy connection with your children.
Set REALISTIC expectations. Even individuals not experiencing a divorce can set unrealistically high expectations for the holiday season, but it seems that expectations often escalate after a divorce. It’s as if there’s a perceived need to compensate for something. It’s crucial to recognize that your holidays will likely differ significantly from when you were married. Holding onto high expectations can lead to disappointment, as you may find yourself constantly comparing the present to the past. So, take it easy! Consider lowering your expectations to allow yourself and your children the chance to be pleasantly surprised as things gradually improve. Embrace the holiday spirit, but also remember that it’s not everything, and it’s entirely okay to feel a bit Grinchy this year if that’s what you need.
Make yourself a priority. Plan things for yourself with family and friends so you are not alone and lonely on these days. Spend your time doing something that makes you happy. Make your enjoyment a priority. At the very least, make sure you have some distractions ready and alternate plans. If you find yourself without the company of family or friends, consider creating a list of your favorite movies and indulging in a relaxing movie marathon. Self-care is extremely important when you are going through a divorce. As difficult as this transition may be, rest assured that you will make it through the season. Whether the change in your relationship status is welcomed or unwelcomed, it might evoke raw emotions during the holidays, catching you off guard. Navigate this period as best as you can, be gentle with yourself, seek support if necessary, and keep in mind that a new year is just around the corner, bringing with it the promise of new beginnings.
Create new traditions or plan an alternate celebration. If your child won’t be with you on a significant holiday, don’t despair. Schedule your celebration for the next time you’ll be together, even if it’s on a random Saturday. This can become a meaningful and special day that both of you can anticipate. Consider introducing new family traditions that everyone can look forward to each year. It can feel overwhelming to try to do the same things the way you usually do them without your ex. I get that it can be hard to let go of these traditions. If you have kids, you might choose to keep some of the old traditions, but make sure that you’re taking the time to make new ones. These new traditions can be something special that only you do, and they will allow you to make new memories and give your kids (and yourself) something to look forward to during the holiday season.
Navigating the first set of holidays amid a divorce is undeniably tough. It’s important to pause and remind yourself that these challenges are temporary, not permanent. As you reflect on this, envision that by this time next year, you’ll most likely be making significant strides in your recovery from the divorce.
The Divorce Coach for Men