Holidays & Divorce ~ Erika Englund on Happier Holidays for Divorced Families #divorcelifestyle.
Why is the holiday season so hard for divorced parents? We feel a lot of guilt and stress. We want to create magic for our children and are often nostalgic about our childhood holidays (because we remember them as perfect, or we have broken memories to repair).
It all creates pressure, and we want to give you five great tips to handle it.
1. We say this with love, but you’re thinking about it all wrong. It’s not your fault, because almost all the media we see is constructing this misperception. Our best tip — quit “surviving” the holidays! “I’m not spending Christmas with my children.” “This is my first Thanksgiving alone.” We understand the loneliness holidays can bring. But there are two huge problems with framing your holidays around “survival” :
It’s perpetuating a drama. You have the choice and opportunity to view this from a different perspective. And that’s what you should be doing.
Worse, you’re forgetting that it is about your children not spending the holiday with you, not the other way around.
Worse, you’re forgetting that it is about your children not spending the holiday with you, not the other way around. Flip your point of view and begin to think of how it feels for your child to be without mom or dad, cousins or grandparents on the holiday. If you’d like to give your child a way to avoid this loss, there are options. Best? Suck it up and join in your former spouse’s holiday. If this isn’t possible or well received, then host your own holiday on a different day! Let your children celebrate with mom and dad.
2. Set expectations. Especially if this is your first holiday season as a divorced family, it’s crucial to talk with your children and your former spouse to manage expectations and holiday schedules. Your children may be concerned about whether they’ll receive gifts, or if Santa will know where to go. Let your children know what to expect. Reassure them that although this holiday might be different, some things will be the same, while they will also have a chance to create new fun memories (see #3).
With your former, never assume that things will just work out. Even in the most amicable co-parenting relationships, it is easy to run into scheduling conflicts during the holiday season. Have the hard discussion with your spouse, and be an adult about it. Plot out your calendars well in advance. Don’t forget the activities, like school performances, that you can attend together.
Just as important — start a new tradition.
3. Traditions are key. When planning your holiday parenting schedule, try to plot schedules around your traditions instead of alternating random holidays year over year. Does your family do Christmas Eve every year, but your former’s family has a big Easter brunch? Prioritize your holiday traditions that are already in place, working with your former to help them prioritize theirs.
Just as important — start a new tradition. Particularly if this is the first year, but it is never too late. Even something small — like decorating cookies or taking a trip to see the snow — create bright new memories that help parents and children avoid comparing this holiday season with those past. Dates are not crucial, and traditions can be flexible. Children won’t remember that they didn’t spend every other new year’s eve with you, but they will remember that every year, you made chocolate mousse to celebrate.
4. Be generous. With your time, with your money, with positive and supportive energy. Holidays are the perfect time to show your children that no matter your situation, someone has it worse, and there is something that you can share. With your former spouse, and his or her family, holidays provide an opportunity to back away from acrimony, to be pleasant, even loving, to each other. Be flexible with your former’s schedule. Take the children shopping (even at the Dollar Store), to buy gifts for their other parent and family. Write your former a note to say what you appreciate about the way that they parent your children. Don’t be concerned about reciprocity. True generosity is giving without expectation.
5. Do you. Recognize that stress and business of holidays are compounded by the pressures of divorce. Early on, set an intention for what you want your holiday season to look like. If things don’t fit into that vision, say no! Give yourself a gift so that you have something to look forward to: a day off work, a nice bubble bath, a new phone, a spa day with a friend.
All of us at Split Decisions are wishing you the happiest holiday season ever. If you’d like to share your tips on having a happy holiday through divorce, hit us up on twitter at @_splitdecisions.
See our companion video on the topic: