At risk of stating the obvious, the holidays can be a stressful time for families of separation and divorce. Here are a few takeaways that have help me through the years.
Decide what the most important traditions and customs are for you.
For me, that was Christmas morning with stockings and presents. My ex-husband and I agreed to keep this morning just for our family when we separated and not to include significant others. For some of you, this is unthinkable and and for others, simply impossible. But the point I’m trying to make is that there may be some windows or some opportunity for all of you to be together and as difficult as that may be for you or your ex, an hour here and there, possibly attending temple or church together, going to a neighbors’ holiday party or agreeing to decorate a ginger bread house as a family, can offer a lot of healing and support for your children.
While holding onto the traditions that you see as most important, be willing to let some others go.
As much as I wanted everything to be exactly the same, I knew that wasn’t possible. So hanging onto Christmas morning was important but I also had to let go of Christmas Eve. Or I had to at least share it. The important take away here for me and I think hopefully for you, is to do it with self respect and grace; don’t stand at the door and watch your kids get in their exes car as they go to a party and you are alone. This only tugs at your kids heart strings and makes them feel badly so make yourself busy, fake it if you have to, but remember the holidays are about the children and the last thing they need is to feel like they have to take care of their lonely mother or father.
Create some new traditions.
Sometimes it’s helpful to spend the holiday in a different place so it’s not fraught with memories. Sometimes it’s a good idea to change up the schedule and sometimes it’s a good idea to add in a new tradition. For me, I started having a holiday charity party. There were simply too many empty hours with the kids and I wanted it to feel more festive. I also wanted the attention to be taken off of me and our circumstances and put on something bigger and broader. So I asked each of my three children to choose a charity. They had to research and do a write up on the charity and why it was important to them. One year, my daughter had traveled to Honduras so she chose an organization there to help with education, another year my youngest was soccer obsessed so he chose an organization that brought soccer balls to impoverished countries. We would then put the write ups next to some jars and put it out on the
food table. When the kids were little, they would walk guests over and explain their charities to them. As they got older the jars became more of a centerpiece and not as individually explained but through the years it’s been a really nice focus of a gathering, and it’s allowed us to think of Christmas in a different way. (Honestly for me, it was more about having some people over to fill up what felt like a pretty empty house.) It is now something, 10 years later, that my children feel very strongly about and look forward to every year.
Schedule in some relief time.
Often what causes the most stress are situations we are not prepared for, so think about some of the pit falls, triggers or some things that might make it difficult for you. When those times come up (and they will) remove yourself; walk the dog, get fire wood, heck, go to the bathroom, but take some time to pause so that situations don’t escalate.
Take good care this holiday season.
With warm wishes,