Handling The Holidays After Divorce

Most of us look so forward to holidays. Holidays mean time to stay home from work and school, time to visit with family and friends, time to travel, cook, and enjoy traditions. But even for the healthiest of families, holidays can be stressful.

Divorce can add another level of challenges to holidays, especially if you have children. No longer is your nuclear family spending the holidays together. The children will likely be dividing their time between both parents; and, if not, they will probably be missing the other parent.

Here are some steps to help you handle the holidays following your divorce. Traditions can be comforting and fun, but if you embrace flexibility and communication, you can begin new and different traditions for yourself and your children during the holidays.

1. Communicate.

Communicate with your co-parent about the schedule as far in advance as possible. Begin the discussion several weeks if not months before the holidays. Look at the children’s school and extra-curricular schedules, check your own work schedule, and check with your family members about dates everyone will want to get together.

2. Schedule.

Decide the holiday schedule together; then put it in writing. This way neither parent can misremember what the agreed schedule is. Having a defined holiday schedule will allow others to plan as well. (If Grandma likes to bake cookies with the children before Christmas, she will know when they are available.)

3. Declare A Truce.

If possible, put the legal process aside for a few weeks so that you can focus on your own peace of mind and your child’s needs. Unless there is a hearing scheduled, declare a truce and do not discuss litigated issues.

4. Let Go.

Let go of the past ideal. Whatever you had established as routine or tradition as a nuclear family will no longer be the same. You might choose to incorporate some of the same things in your holiday. Ask your children which rituals are important to them and that they would like to continue. Take the opportunity to create new, fun traditions, too!

5. Be Flexible.

Be sensitive to what the children may miss and try to accommodate this in the parenting schedule. For example, if your family went on a ski trip with your ex’s parents every winter since the kids can remember, try to work out a visitation plan that allows them to continue that tradition.

6. Be A Safe Place.

Remember that your children will likely be experiencing loss, confusion, and/or sadness because things aren’t the way they used to be. They may not know what to expect and sense you are sad as well. Focus on creating a safe, happy time even if it looks different than before. Kids take so many cues from adults—especially their parents. If you present a hopeful, pleasant, calm holiday atmosphere, the children will feel more comfortable welcoming the new/different holiday experience.

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