Thriving Through the Holidays
A guide for divorcing couples navigating through the holiday season.
The holidays can be stressful at the best of times. Shopping, decorating, baking, year-end work deadlines, kids concerts, work parties, scheduling, gift-wrapping, family obligations! Are you exhausted yet?
It’s a wonder we don’t all do what Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon did in the movie Four Christmases and just bail out of the whole thing. So how do you manage through the holidays when you add divorce to the equation? Well there are some things you can do to help ease the stress load. And I’m all for reducing stress in our lives!
If you have kids:
- Meet with your former spouse and plan a schedule. Don’t wait until the last minute. Work out the details (be specific). Post it on the fridge so the kids know what to expect.
- Try not to shuffle them back and forth. This may be the year where you cut back on Aunt Minnie’s celebration and just keep it simple. Besides, would you want to eat 3 turkey dinners within a 2-day period? This is your opportunity to participate in the functions YOU want to.
- When it comes to gift giving, the new toys belong to the kids, not you. Let them bring the toys with them when they go to mom’s or dad’s. Maybe after the novelty has worn off you can work out a deal that some toys stay at your house. But in the beginning, let them take what they want when they travel. It’s tough enough for kids to shuffle back and forth. Be glad that they love the gift you bought them so much that they want to take it with them wherever they go.
- So the kids won’t be with you until the 26th or 27th? This is great! Permission NOT to cook a turkey! Involve the kids in the menu planning. Kids love finger foods, fondues, make your own kind of stuff. And you don’t have to spend the day in the kitchen alone, stuffing, basting, carving birdzilla only to be left eating turkey pot pie until February. It’s a chance to start new traditions that can be fun!
What about when I’m alone?
The first holiday post separation can be particularly stressful and filled with a wide range of emotions. Below are some tips to helping cope with the first holiday season.
- Acknowledge how you feel. Recognize that is it completely understandable you may feel sad, lonely or missing your former spouse and extended family. If you had nieces or nephews on your spouse’s side of the family, that can feel like an even bigger loss. With the healing of time you might even be able to continue a relationship with your former spouse’s family. If the two of you have open dialogue, talk about what that might look like.
- Give yourself permission not to attend all those holiday/work parties if you don’t feel like it. While sometimes being out with others can be a great distraction, if you just don’t feel like it or don’t want to go out alone, then it’s OK to take a pass. Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to please others and we forget to think about ourselves. It’s OK to put you first.
- Pamper yourself. Our lives are full of obligations, have-tos, should-dos, deadlines and responsibilities. We rarely take time to do what WE want. When was the last time someone said you have 2 days with no one to be accountable to or for. No emails, no deadlines, no obligations! Rent movies and have a PJ day, buy a good book and read all day, go to the movies. Buy yourself that gift you always wanted!
- Establish your own new traditions. You former spouse never wanted a real tree but you always did. Now you can decorate, plan new traditions, meals just the way you want it.
- If you have the budget and time for it, check out last minute deals to warm destinations. Nobody usually flies on Christmas Day and there can be some pretty good deals out there. After the last month of crisp weather, a couple of days on a warm beach could be pretty inviting.
- If you don’t have family near by, lean on your friends. You’ve been there for them many times; just be honest and tell them you don’t want to be alone. Chances are they’ve been thinking about you but don’t want to invade your space.
Holidays are stressful enough. This year make a plan to consciously take the stress out of the holidays. Take care of yourself and surround yourself with people who bring you joy.