Just as you think you’re getting your mojo back after your divorce, the holidays hit, and you come down with a major case of the holiday blues times ten.
The holidays have a way of magnifying a loss; that empty seat at the table can be mighty taunting. And what to do about your Christmas cards!? Awkward.
It’s only natural, especially for the first holiday season after divorce or separation.
The good news is that you’re also now divorced from your ex’s family and all the drama that comes with. Goodbye and good riddance.
No more button-pushing, judgmental mother-in-law! It could be a major relief not having to spend the holidays with the ‘other side’ of the family.
But, now you must divvy up where your kids will spend their holidays, and with whom. And this can be particularly painful for everyone.
Shuffling the Kids
The only family holiday traditions your kids have ever known are the ones you did together, as an intact family.
It may be hard on them to see those traditions come to an end.
Maybe your family tradition was picking out a Christmas tree, maybe dad would cut it down, and mom would make hot cocoa afterward, and everyone would decorate together.
Now, they’ll have two trees, one at dad’s, another at mom’s, and the ornaments split between.
The holidays won’t look or feel quite the same. In fact, not much will, and the holidays only magnify this fact for children.
They will mourn these lost traditions that can no longer be, yearning for what Thanksgiving used to be like when their parents were together.
For children’s birthdays, both parents can (hopefully) come together to celebrate for the sake of the child. This is something to work towards if you haven’t already mastered the skill of being in the same room with your ex and not fighting.
But coming together isn’t so easy or practical for holiday celebrations.
In fact, continuing to celebrate together may be giving your children false hope that their parents will get back together. It may be best to rip it off like a band-aid and work towards establishing new holiday traditions from the get-go.
But the major question remains: who will have the kids for which holiday, and who won’t?
Whatever you do, do NOT duke it out in front of the kids. Parents should decide amongst themselves if it’s not already written into the parenting plan.
Stick to the game plan, and do it with a smile on your face when you deliver the holiday schedule to your kids, even if it’s tearing you up inside.
Do your best to remain flexible and work with your ex on changes and trades.
If your grandmother is not well on the other side of states, and you want to take the kids over Christmas (possibly her last) to see her, but the kids are supposed to be with your ex that Christmas, you’ll appreciate an open line of communication and flexibility.
But to get it, you must give it. If your ex requests a reasonable holiday change-up or trade that doesn’t interfere too drastically with your own plans, consider accommodating his/her request. Throwing them a bone, extending that olive branch, goes a long way and benefits everyone.
Always maintain a positive attitude and act excited about the holiday schedule, even if you loathe everything about it.
Put on your best holiday game face, and get into the holiday spirit to put your children at ease.
If they think that you think it’s all good and dandy, they might actually think it is all good and dandy. That doesn’t mean it’s all roses and sunshine. If your kids are struggling, be there for them to talk through it and listen to whatever’s on their mind.
Make your own new or modified traditions. Honor the old ones that brought you all joy throughout the years, and scrap the ones that no longer serve or provoke sadness.
And never ever compete with your ex in the game of “who will win Christmas/Hanukah” in the gift-giving arena. There’s just no need to play that losing game, spend quality time with the kids and give appropriate, well-thought-out gifts.
Even kids ultimately know, deep down, that money and gifts don’t really buy love.
Kid-less for the holidays!?
No Kiddos – No Problemo.
If your kids will be with your ex for a particular holiday, even though you’ll miss them terribly, never let them know it.
Tell them you are excited for them and how much fun they are going to have, etc.
You are the adult, their rock and source of strength and comfort. They are going through enough, so don’t make it about you.
Comforting you is not their job. It’s your job as a parent to be there for them and support them, not the other way around. Having them feel sorry or worried for you only adds a whole unnecessary dimension to their already raw emotional state. See them off with a wave and smile.
Not that you should feel sorry for yourself either; you don’t have to accept the role of a defeated victim or Grinch.
It’s hard for a parent to wake up alone on Christmas morning only to hear silence, no jubilant children’s voices giddy with anticipation to see what Santa has left under the tree.
Instead of sulking around the empty house, depressed on a kid-free holiday, use this time an opportunity to work on yourself and on your healing.
Or, travel! Visit an old friend, or go somewhere exotic solo (Eat Pray Love kind of thing). Or simply spend the holiday locally with friends and family who love you and are there for you. It would serve as a welcome distraction, at the very least.
Though being around happy people can often exacerbate your pain. If you are feeling particularly raw, maybe avoid putting yourself in a holiday situation where you’ll just be annoyed and sad.
When I didn’t have my kids, it felt like a sucker punch when I was around happy, intact families with their kids swarming about. It would make me miss them, and wish they were there to share in the fun. Then I would feel guilty because I couldn’t be with them.
After all, Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, New Years – it’s just another day. When you awake, you can choose to make it a good, happy day…just like any other morning. Then one day, without making any conscious effort at all, you might just awake happy, naturally, without even trying. New Year’s resolution anyone!?
Although what exactly is happiness? Maybe its time to reevaluate what happiness means to you now.
“It’s hard to write about being happy, cause all that I get, I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject.”
– Florence Welch, No Choir