4 Strategies for Facing the Holiday Season After Divorce

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The holiday season after divorce can seem a true nightmare, whether you have children or not. This is a time of the year when feelings arise even more than usual, and people face the reality that their life is not the same.   

If this is the first holiday season since your separation, you can expect some challenging reactions if you have children. Children are usually the most unsettled in the first year following divorce. Unsurprisingly, kids have fewer negative impacts from divorce if their parents minimize conflict and act in cooperation with each other. Of course, this is easier said than done.  

Holiday Season After Divorce is Tough

One time, I was mediating with a divorcing Muslim couple, and the Eid celebration was approaching. (By the way, divorce IS permissible in the Islamic religion). The family typically all went to the mom’s side of the family on the first day of Eid and dad’s side of the family on the second day of Eid. That would be fine, except for one thing: the divorcing couple was not yet ready to share the news of their separation with their extended family.  

My clients were both very agitated and worried about the prospect of turning up at a family celebration without their soon-to-be-ex and having to explain that person’s absence to their inquiring family members.  

This couple had a hard time finding agreement at that mediation session, but they did agree that neither of them wanted to discuss their divorce with their family yet.  

Creative Solutions

I remember sitting in this mediation, struggling to come up with a way to shift the conversation.   

Suddenly dad stood up and exclaimed, “Let’s just not go to either! I get anxious just thinking about all the questions I’ll get from my parents and the rest of my family. Why not just skip both Eid gatherings and celebrate this year together? I mean, not together together, but you know what I mean. Each take some time with the kids on our own.”   

 Mom stared at him really hard as he was talking. It would be an enormous departure from how they had always celebrated Eid. I fully expected the next words coming out of her mouth to be, “Are you out of your mind?!” But instead, she agreed. They would avoid awkwardness and conflict by skipping extended family celebrations for this year.  

The point is, holiday parenting times do not have to follow your regular parenting schedule. Neither do they need to make sense to anyone (including you sometimes). Just do what works and what keeps stress levels the lowest. 

4 Strategies for Happy Holidays

Many clients of mine, especially in the first year of separation, choose to keep the status quo. Sometimes dad will even stay overnight at the home, and mom and dad will be together with their kids to open gifts. Of course, this isn’t possible for every family, but it does happen quite often.  

Here are some other tips that can help you go through this season as smoothly as possible:  

Plan Ahead  

If you have children, figure out the parenting schedule in advance. It protects your mental health, too. If this year the kids will spend the holidays with your ex-spouse, you can make a plan to spend those days with friends and family.  

Let the Feelings Flow (just not in front of your kids)  

During this time of the year, it’s understandable to feel sadness, anger, or frustration from your divorce even more than usual. Try to remember that your children deserve the best celebration possible, so be aware of your own feelings.  

Create New Traditions  

If you have children, ask for their ideas to develop new traditions you can share with them. If you’re not a parent, think about how you want to indulge yourself during the season. You deserve it!  

Focus on Gratitude

This season is not about the presents; it’s about being grateful for the people we have in our lives, for our health, for having the opportunity to experience and conquer a new year.  

If you live in the present, cherish the moments you have with your loved ones, and realize that your future is ahead, waiting for you, you will experience the holiday season from a whole new perspective.  

Now is the time to be sorting out your holiday co-parenting schedule. We offer meditation to help ex-spouses co-parent successfully. It isn’t too late to come to a mutual agreement on the upcoming holiday season. 

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