The stress of the holiday season can be overwhelming for divorcing families. With the major transitions facing your family, the holiday season approaches which generally is about families getting together. How can you deal with this?
Is it possible to have a “normal” holiday for the kids? How do we share the holidays, with the kids, future ex-spouses, and new and extended families?
Be open and flexible, willing to share and figure out new and exciting ways to celebrate, even if it is different from what you’ve done in the past. Try to smile and be happy even if you feel stress and fear underneath. If you feel angry, wait before making any rash decisions. Try to reach out of yourself and use common sense. Think to yourself, is the anger, or argument really worth the stress on you or your kids. Sometimes the best battles won are through patience and understanding.
Some tips to cope during this holiday season:
1. It’s all about the kids. This may be your first holiday apart from your ex or future ex and for the children’s sake you are trying so hard to maintain as many traditions as possible. Following the same routine would be the best possible scenario. Eventually sharing holidays will come easier as long as all of you are getting along. But in the beginning, certainly try to keep the traditions, and then new traditions can and will develop. In the beginning, try to keep change to a minimum. Ease the transition and then start anew.
2. Put on a happy face. This may have been a very tough year for you and smiles are not coming easy. The holidays feel like a chore and you don’t feel like celebrating. Smiles go a long way. They are contagious! Smile, do it for yourself and your children. Decorate, shop, cook, party, and smile. You may see that actively participating in the celebrations may even lift your spirits, and your kids will be happy all the more when they see you happy.
3. Think out of the box: There may be those traditions where you and the whole family went to a family’s house for Christmas Eve or the first night of Hanukah. Now you may not be invited if it was your in-laws. Well, let your kids go and find a special time or way for you to celebrate that same holiday you may be missing. Now you may be creating a new tradition!
4. Remember you’re parents forever: Not only are you and your spouse parents forever, but ex-in-laws or soon to be ex-in-laws are your children’s family forever too. Start early and show the children you appreciate all family members by including them when you do holiday cards and shopping. These gestures now will go a long way in the future when special occasions arise in the future. Graduations, weddings, birthdays all involve the entire family. Your children will appreciate the fact that you have worked to keep those times stress free and loving for all.
5. How can I pay for those holiday gifts. Now may be a financially difficult time as well as emotional. Remember your kids will be getting twice as much now, so you don’t have to overdo it! Maybe talk to your ex or soon to be ex and talk about what each of you will be getting the kids. Share and divide the wish list.
6. What is this Holiday schedule anyway? I can’t tell you how many couples come to me and say we have to alternate the holidays, right. This is what they hear from other families, many of whom have gone through the Court battle to end their marriage. Remember as the marriage was yours, the divorce is yours too. What works for some families may not work for yours. Be creative. Think of traditions. Can you keep the traditions and add new ones? If your family spends Christmas Eve together each year, while your spouse’s family spends Christmas Day together each year, why not keep it that way. Do your kids usually go to the in-laws summer home for Labor Day weekend, can they still do that? Sure. Why don’t you make Memorial Day weekend your weekend to go to Montauk? If your family has a huge Thanksgiving Dinner and your ex spouse’s family is not around for Thanksgiving so make Thanksgiving Day yours and the weekend after your spouses’. What works for your family is the answer to the puzzle! Think about how your families celebrate each holiday and where your kids would likely prefer to be and use that to start your holiday schedule. Build and keep those childhood memories for the kids.
It’s all about tradition, memories and building a happy future!
Happy Holidays from Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York