If you are recently divorced or separated, you may be wondering how to approach the upcoming holidays, especially if you have children.
There’s no question that holidays can be a challenging time for families going through divorce. The changes you’ve already made and survived as you’re coming to grips with the end of your marriage have been tremendous. The holidays are just another one of the traditions you had as a family that needs adjustment. As challenging as this change may be, you can find your way through the holidays if you know the best ways to approach them.
“This is what I wish all the kids with divorced parents thought about the holidays —
double the presents, double the fun and double the love.” – Dr. Karen Finn
You may or may not have your children with you during the holidays.
If you have your children with you, you can create new traditions with them that you both can look forward to.
If you don’t have them with you, make sure you let them know that you have some fun and/or relaxing plans of your own and that you are looking forward to the holidays so that they don’t worry about you and can enjoy the holidays with their other parent.
Here are tips about co-parenting through the holidays from Vesta network professional and Parent Coach Beth Greenawalt.
1️⃣ Take a positive approach: Try to recapture some of the joy you experienced as a child during the holidays.
- Know that it’s OK for the holidays to be different this year. Brainstorm new ways to celebrate the holidays with your kids and come up with new rituals and family traditions. Find out from your kids what makes the holiday special with a list with everyone’s input.
- Focus on what’s good.
- Avoid spending the holidays completely alone.
2️⃣ Encourage your kids to be excited about spending some time with their other parent.
Have you ever noticed how much more you enjoy something when you’ve been able to anticipate it? The same things works for your kids. The more you allow them to anticipate the holiday events with you and their other parent, the more they’ll be able to enjoy all the festivities and the more comfortable they’ll be in just being themselves.
3️⃣ If you are spending part or all of the holidays without your kids, plan to do something that is fun, relaxing, and as stress free as possible with people you really care about.
Get together with friends. Invite them over, or meet up at your favorite neighborhood spot.
4️⃣ Take care of yourself. Fill your alone time.
Some ideas include: buy or cook a special meal; go to a movie; read a good book; go away to some place you’ve always wanted to visit; start a new hobby; create something special to surprise your child with — a mural on their wall, a batch of cookies, a fort you built in the backyard.
5️⃣ Get up and get moving!
Go for a walk or a run, or go bowling or dancing. Exercise is wonderful for getting your blood pumping and building endorphins, and can make you feel great!
6️⃣ Volunteer at a soup kitchen, bring cookies to a nursing home, or find another way to become involved in your community.
Sharing yourself and giving back to others can be a great mood lifter!
7️⃣ Help make your kids’ holidays stress-free and wonderful.
- You need to be okay with knowing your kids love their other parent (and even their other “bonus parent”) and that it’s okay for your children to have fun with them.
- Eliminate confusion about where the kids will be and when by creating a calendar for the holidays.
- Plan ways to communicate with your kids while they are with their other parent. Send a warm text or email, call, or arrange Skype with them. Be mindful of not infringing too much on their other parent’s holiday with the kids. Also, make sure your messages are in line with being a great co-parent (i.e. no negative talk about the other parent).
Making it through your first holidays after divorce or separation will require some compassion — for yourself.
Being kind to yourself is necessary for dealing with divorce, and over the holidays, you may need to extend even more gentleness to yourself. Taking care of your can be the most wonderful gift you can give yourself this year. And your children will also benefit.
Beth Greenawalt is a Parent Coach and Owner of Parent Solutions. She has specialties in parent-child connection, building parental confidence, co-parenting strategies and child-centered divorce. In addition to her work with VESTA, she works one-on-one with parents, facilitates parenting groups and teaches parent education classes. Beth’s focus is to help create relationships between parents and children that are based on personal values and to raise children who feel seen, supported and loved for who they truly are. Beth is an advocate for child-centered divorce and helps parents support their children during and after divorce. Beth has a deep empathy for the challenges parenting presents and a belief that we are all capable of positive change and growth. You can find Beth online at Parent-Solutions.com.