Newly Divorced Over the Holidays? Dos and Don’ts for Making Holiday Plans
The first holiday season after a divorce can be difficult for everyone. Parents may find themselves taking on new responsibilities and juggling schedules, from cooking Thanksgiving dinner to shopping for gifts and planning activities. Kids may get upset that their holiday routine is different and worry they’re losing some of their favorite family traditions.
Though newly divorced parents may face novel challenges during their first holiday season, they also have a unique opportunity to create new traditions and make new family memories. If you are getting ready for your first holiday season without your former spouse, here are some dos and don’ts to keep your holiday happy, relaxing, and drama-free.
Things to Do for Happy, Healthy Holidays
The key to creating experiences that are memorable for all the right reasons is preparation. Heading into the holidays with a clear picture of where and how you and your children will be celebrating, and knowing what to expect from your children, former spouse, and other family members, can minimize the stress for everyone. Here are some things you can do (and avoid doing) to help your family prepare for your first post-divorce holiday season.
- Talk to your kids about what to expect during the holidays. If you have joint custody, talk about how you will share times and traditions with their other parent, especially if you have family visiting who may need to align their schedule with yours. If you’re creating new holiday traditions, be sure to let the other parent know what to expect.
- Remain civil with your former spouse. Simmering tensions with your ex can exacerbate holiday stress, so try to be extra mindful of your feelings and goals this time of year. Remember that you’re setting an example for your children about how adults should resolve conflict. If you and your former spouse can’t be in the same room without conflict, try working out holiday plans over the phone or via email or text instead.
- Make sure you have a custody agreement or court order before the holidays. A clear, legally-binding framework outlining where and when the children will be during the holiday season will help avoid any confusion or argument about the arrangements.
- Talk to your family and friends about your divorce before the holidays, especially if they’re not up to speed on your arrangements and might ask awkwardly-timed questions. This way, you can keep your get-togethers focused on the celebrations.
- Take breaks when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to ask for help from family and friends or just say no to holiday invitations. You don’t have to do everything on your own.
- Don’t put your kids in the middle of an argument with your former spouse — the conflict is likely to be confusing and upsetting for them. Don’t use your children to communicate with their other parent either. Keep your discussions to yourselves, relying on phone calls or texts if you need to.
- Don’t try to one-up your former spouse over the holidays. Competition between the two of you will only raise tensions and create conflict, with your children in the middle. Try to teach your children to appreciate the activities and opportunities both parents provide.
- Rituals and traditions are a vital part of the holidays, and your kids may have been looking forward to them all year. Don’t make big changes to your plans without talking to them first and offering reassurance. Helping them set new expectations, and even get excited about the new arrangements, can make things easier for everyone.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. The holidays should be enjoyed, not just endured, and the first holiday season after your divorce is no exception. If you need a time-out to relax and recharge, take it, even if it means missing one or two events. You’ll enjoy the ones you do participate in the more for it, and so will the people you’re with.
Successful Post-Divorce Holidays are Possible
No matter what your holiday plans are, remember that divorce is a difficult transition for everyone involved. Give yourself and your family some grace this holiday season, and try to focus on the positives. With a bit of planning and communication, you can make it through the holidays with minimal stress. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even find some new traditions to enjoy along the way.
At the Miller Law Group, we believe that divorce doesn’t have to be a hostile and contentious process. By working together and creating a plan for the holidays, parents can ensure their children feel excited and secure. If you are in the process of divorce or are contemplating separation, contact the Miller Law Group today to learn more about your options.