The holidays are a time for coming together as a family. Nothing could feel more opposite than a divorce. Yet your family has not disappeared – it simply looks different. Accommodating everyone’s needs in a new divorced environment can feel overwhelming around the holidays, especially if you have children. You are not alone. Many other families have been through the same ordeal and come out on top with a few healthy tips.
Plan Ahead and Communicate
Do not wait until the last minute to tell the kids they will not be with Mom or Dad the day of. Make sure everyone knows the plan well in advance. This will give your family plenty of opportunities to discuss what to expect and how the actual day will go – along with lots of time for children to ask questions and voice their concerns.
If your divorce is still pending but you and your partner have separated, you will need to work out custody over the holidays. If you can, spend the holiday together as a family to minimize the impact on children. Otherwise, work out a way to share your kids with your spouse. This may involve splitting the holiday in half or alternating holidays with each parent.
If a judge has already finalized your divorce, adhere to the court-ordered parenting plan. It may be one you and your spouse created or something a judge designed. Either way, stick to the plan to avoid springing any unwelcome surprises on your spouse or your kids. Communicate your holiday plans openly with everyone well in advance.
Make Fun New Family Traditions
Detract from the fact that things will look different this holiday season by focusing on something positive, such as creating new holiday traditions. Embrace how your family looks now by doing something special with your kids you never have before, such as cooking something new or doing a holiday movie night. Starting new traditions can bring more joy to your holiday season, as well as give the kids something to look forward to with you next year.
If you do not have kids, make new traditions for yourself. Since you will not be sharing the holiday with your spouse, do something for you. Try a new restaurant, host a gathering with other single friends or spend the holiday with your family back home. Whatever you choose to do, try not to spend the holiday alone. The holidays can be difficult enough during a divorce without feeling extra lonely by spending too much time alone.
The holidays are a time of peace and goodwill. Set a good example by extending goodwill toward your ex-spouse, especially around children. Your kids may be struggling with enough after a divorce without you creating a toxic environment by badmouthing your ex. Try your best to cooperate with your ex, or at least to speak amicably when in front of the kids. If you and your ex are on bad terms, use an attorney or mediator to communicate between you. If possible, work with your ex on matters such as child custody. The last thing you want this holiday season is to put everyone through a lengthy court battle.
Be flexible during a divorce around the holidays. Now may not be the time to put your foot down about assets you want to keep or other terms of your divorce. Instead, try to compromise with your spouse for the fastest, easiest and most efficient divorce process possible. If you have to go to trial, agree to at least put arguments on pause for the holidays. Do not discuss your divorce on the day of to keep things friendly. Try to arrange a trial for after the holidays, if you can. Then, spend the holiday focusing on your kids and doing as many things as a family as you can.