Holidays that encourage spending time with friends and family can often emphasize how much your life has changed after divorce. And dealing with divorce during the holidays can be both sad and stressful. But making plans in advance for major holidays is a great way to develop coping strategies following your divorce.
If you were close to your former spouse’s family, and spent every significant holiday with them, then your first holiday away from them will likely be difficult. The same is true if your former spouse has sole custody of your children. Luckily, while your life may not be exactly where you want, there are steps you can take to ensure that you have a happier holiday. Below are three steps to dealing with divorce during the holidays.
1. Start Planning as Soon as Possible
Do not wait until a week or two before the holidays to start making plans. This is especially true if you have children. Communicate with your former spouse in advance in regards to who will get the children for the holidays. Also, if your children are of age, then get them involved in the decision-making process. Be fair and reasonable when deciding the parenting schedule — generosity often breeds generosity.
While you may have your heart set on spending time with your children on a particular day, you must be open to compromise. For example, if you don’t have your children on Christmas day this year, then you get them for that day next year. Plus, you can still have a happy Christmas celebration with you children a day or two before or after the actual day. The key to avoiding stress while planning out your holidays during divorce proceedings is to plan well in advance and be flexible.
2. Change Your Holiday Expectations
Society as a whole often puts certain pressures on holidays. For instance, Christmas brings with it the feeling that you must spend time with your friends or family. These expectations can be extremely difficult if the people you most often spent time with during the holidays were closely tied to your former spouse. While you may feel depressed or lonely because you can no longer meet your old expectations of these holidays, it’s important to remember that these expectations are not set in stone and can be changed.
If you start to feel alone on a particular holiday, find some sort of distraction. For example, book a day at a spa, go catch a movie at your local theater, or even just relax in the bath with a good book. The holidays are also a great time to reconnect with people from your past. Dust off your old phone book and grab lunch with an old friend. If you start to miss your children, in today’s technological age, you can still connect with them via text, email, Skype, or even just a phone call.
3. Create New Holiday Traditions
Holidays are often weighed down in tradition. Unfortunately, divorce often disrupts these traditions. If you’re used to doing the same thing over and over again on a particular day, it may seem hard to change. However, it is possible to create new traditions. If you’re newly singly without children, or without custodial access, then create a holiday tradition that you want to do. Recognize your limits and work within those limits to develop a new tradition that makes you happy. If you keep these traditions up long enough, then they’ll feel just as right as your previous traditions.