The holiday season can be a wonderful time of the year, but also a stressful one. This is especially true for parents who are recently divorced and now must abide by a visitation schedule that splits their children’s time between two homes.
To cope, parents sometimes overcompensate, overindulge, and overreact. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right mindset, flexibility and planning, the holidays can still be a wonderful time for you and your children. Here’s eight tips for surviving the holidays with kids after divorce.
Put Your Children First
Our society reserves some things for adulthood, but unfortunately, stress is not one of them. It is not uncommon or unexpected for children of divorced parents to feel sad, disappointed, or even angry around the holidays, especially if it is their first one without both parents in the home. If this is the case for your children, take the time to listen to their concerns and validate their feelings. Make a conscious choice to avoid conflict with your ex, and instead, focus on fostering a happy, loving environment. Put your children first. That’s the best gift you can give them.
Don’t Compete with Your Ex
Not all divorces are the same. For some, dealing with an ex can be frustrating, especially if you are trying to create holiday plans and they’re not cooperating or just being obstinate. It’s easy to overreact and retaliate or even try and “one-up” the other parent
Clearly, it’s not in the best interest of anyone to turn the holidays into a self-serving competition to see who can provide the best presents, activities, or holiday vacation. Instead of attempting to outdo your ex, try to think of other alternatives that will make your children proud. For example, keep the other parent in mind when shopping. Consider giving your child money to purchase the other parent a gift. Or combine resources with your ex so you can get your child that special present that they really want from both parents. This can reinforce the idea that, although you are no longer married, you are working together.
Take Care of Your Health.
Children come first, but you’re not far behind. It’s important to take care of your health. Divorce, holidays and cold and flu season do not a make a good combination. These ingredients can wreak havoc on your health and you need to stay strong for your children. Kids can feel your stress. That’s why is extremely important to focus on getting plenty of rest, eating well and exercising. Avoid binge eating or overindulging in alcohol.
Don’t Be Haunted by Holiday Memories
The holidays are a time to make new memories, not dwell on old ones. Don’t visit the places where you created holiday memories with your ex and children or pull out holiday photos and take a trip down memory lane. It is not productive. Don’t let the past stop you from creating a future. Focus on creating new memories with your kids.
Create New Traditions
It is easy to focus on traditions lost because a marriage didn’t work. Jaimie Seaton, a contributor to Solo-ish, changed the way she decorates her house after divorce. During her marriage, she would only decorate her house with “tasteful” white lights and no “tacky” Christmas displays. She said they wanted the appearance of having the “perfect-looking family and the perfect looking house.” Now, her son helps her decorate and suggested an inflatable Santa in the front yard and so many colored lights that you can’t even see straight. Seaton says, “If that means that you can’t even think straight because there’s so much Christmas stuff, that’s okay. It’s a new tradition. It’s totally different than it used to be, and it makes him happy.”
Perhaps another way to create a new tradition is to give back to your community. Volunteering is not only good for those whom you are helping, but it also helps ward off feelings of loneliness and depression. Additionally, volunteering can help lower your blood-pressure and stress levels if you are doing it for the right reasons. If it is not already a tradition to give back during the holidays and you are thinking of creating some new ones, consider adding volunteering to that list.
Coordinate and Cooperate with Your Ex During the Holidays
If you are co-parenting, the need for coordination, communication, and cooperation increases around the holidays. Perhaps there are family gatherings or events that the children will miss out on due to the visitation schedule. Talk to your ex and see if he or she will agree to certain scheduling changes. Maybe grandma is flying in from out of town and will only be here for one weekend. Perhaps there is a holiday parade that cousins on one side of the family always attend. Be flexible and reasonable. Work with each other on possession arrangements that are in the best interest of the children. The smile on your kids’ faces will be worth it.
Find the Silver Lining
It is easy to focus on the negatives and everything that is different this holiday season. Turn that negativity on its head and find the silver lining. Maybe you don’t have to sit next to your ex’s weird uncle or struggle through your ex-brother-in-law’s story about his newest get rich quick scheme.
Television, magazines, social media are great for a lot of things, but they are terrible at providing a realistic view of the holidays. Instead, they inundate you with people telling or showing you how the holidays should be celebrated. After seeing it and hearing it enough, it becomes easy to believe that you and your children are not celebrating the holidays the right way. That belief amplifies stressful feelings, and instead of looking forward to holiday meals, celebrations, or gatherings, those things trigger sadness because you think they are inadequate.
Remember, there is no right way to celebrate the holidays, and the images on TV of rehearsed and choreographed meals and festivities are certainly not it. Don’t compare your holidays to those of other people, but instead spend your time enjoying them with your kids the best way you know how. Stay positive.
Focus on New Beginnings.
The end of the year can be cathartic; it can mean new beginnings. Leave last year in the past – the fights, the failures, and the disappointments. Take the steps to put yourself back out there, join a new club, gym, or meet new people. Embrace the joy and spirit of the season with your children. No matter how heartbreaking the divorce was, those feelings are not permanent. We have seen countless people recover from divorce to find love and happiness; it just takes the willingness to go find it.
Family matters are often emotionally-charged and contentious. The attorneys at VS Family Law Group provide compassionate, skilled representation in all types of family cases, including divorce, child custody, and enforcement. If you need help with a family law matter, contact us today for a free consultation. Call 817-900-3220. You can also contact us online.