Divorce brings many changes to the family dynamics, from the way the parents and children interact together as well as with the extended family. During the holiday season, we all want our families to resemble Norman Rockwell’s version, however, divorce squelches that fantasy. Memories of fun-filled celebrations with loved ones may leave you longing for the past as you simultaneously deal with the confusion and fear of navigating the new and unfamiliar territory that is now your reality. The good news is that you can make the holidays special again by replacing old memories with exciting new ones.
You want to focus on making this new chapter in your life as positive as possible for everyone involved. You may be confronted with the idea of spending the holidays at your adult children’s homes with your ex, or your children may be challenged with the dilemma of rather they should go to Moms, Dads or if they can somehow manage both. If you have young children at home, this task may be even more taunting, especially if the little ones will be spending the day with the other parent. Just the thought that they will not be by your side breaks your heart.
If you have young children, it is important to show them compassion and allow them to talk about their feelings, regrets and frustrations. Assure them that their feelings are natural, as things will be different from now on. Invite them to explore new and thrilling traditions that you can begin together. You should also let them know that some things will remain the same, and it’s perfectly okay for them to have a great time at your former spouse’s parents’ home. Assure them that you will be fine and that when they are cheerful and having fun, it makes you happy. Young children are very resilient, and they are looking to you to see how to act. Thus, it is important for you to not only communicate with them on their level, but to show them, that you can handle this new situation without falling into despair.
Here are 5 More Tips to Survive Your First Holiday Season Post Divorce
- Decorate Your Home
If you can’t bear to drag out all of your old family decorations, create new ones. Sure you can go to the store and buy them, but why not tap into your creative side. You can go as simple or extravagant as you wish. Look at magazines and online for some new and interesting ways that you can decorate your home. Just adding a wreath and a few accents will bring in some holiday cheer which is sure to lighten your mood. Other options include setting out some bowls of holiday candy, pine-cones and candles. You might want to get the kids involved by stringing popcorn or making festive chains out of construction paper or aluminum foil.
- Make Special Plans With Young Children
If your children will be spending the holiday with their other parent, you can still create special magical moments for them. Help your child make or buy a gift for your ex and former in-laws. This communicates to your child that he has your permission to love the other family, which will greatly reduce his fear and tension. You can choose to have a holiday with your children before or after they leave. The celebration can be complete with dinner, family and friends. If possible, try speaking to your children for a few minutes on the actual holiday via Skype or the phone. Another idea is to purchase a special stuffed animal for each child. Let him know that this is a special teddy bear that unites your hearts while the two of you are separated.
- Create New Traditions
Ask your friends what type of traditions they have and adopt any that sound interesting. You might want to try your hand at cooking a traditional dish or two from another culture. Perhaps, you have always wanted to go caroling, if so set a time and place, then call all of your friends and tell them to meet you there. Another idea is to see a local production of “The Nutcracker,” “A Christmas Carol,” or another classic holiday show. You can go alone, with your kids or best friend. Tour the city to gaze at all of the magnificent lights. If you have young children, you may want to create a tradition of them going through their closets and donating gently used clothing and toys that are still in good shape to a local shelter.
- Surround Yourself with Love
Many newly divorced women think it’s best to hibernate and ignore the holidays all together. This is especially true of single moms whose children are not with them for the first time. It’s very important that you force yourself to be around family and friends, especially on the actual holiday. If you are accustomed to large gatherings with your ex’s family and have no family nearby, then it is imperative to make plans. You can start by letting your friends know you are trying to figure out what to do. If they invite you to their home, graciously accept and let go of the idea that you are being a burden.
- Give Back
Giving back to society is one of the greatest ways to feel good about yourself and get through the holidays. You can choose to volunteer at a soup kitchen or to work at a concession stand to raise money for a cause that is dear to your heart. You might elect to visit the elderly, disabled or sick children. Another option is to give gifts of food or small items of necessities to exchange students, homes for pregnant girls or residents of a detention center or prison. Other ways to give back is to be a bell ringer, or to visit lonely people that are in a long-term care facility that never get visitors.
The secret to creating new and wonderful holiday memories is to concentrate on what you do have, in addition to replicating what you enjoyed the most from your past. It’s about finding new ways to fill your heart with joy, such as by giving back. Choose to make it a magical time of year, by giving yourself permission to celebrate as you create traditions that you can enjoy for years to come. Keep your mind focused on the future and visualize a joyous and wondrous holiday season.