Handling the Holidays after Divorce

Christmas is for children but when Mom and Dad have separated or divorced, it can be a difficult time. I remember how difficult it was my first year after separation. I was devastated. Now, many years later, we schedule our "Christmas" any time between December 22nd and December 28th. The actual date does not matter... it is the joy of spending the day together. 

Here are links to two past blogs I did about the holiday season Part 1 and Part 2

Our guest blogger, Marvin Hoffman from the Houston, Texas law firm Holmes, Diggs and Eames, PLLC offers some very good advice for parents.

The holidays can be a difficult, anxiety-filled, and frustrating time for anyone, regardless of your situation. It’s a time when a lot is expected of you, from buying presents to traveling from place to place, and it seems as if there is less time to get it all done. However, after going through a divorce, the holidays can be even more difficult, particularly when children are involved. Depending on a divorced couple’s custody and/or visitation agreement, the holidays can be an especially complicated time, as parents are trying to juggle who gets the children during which holidays, how long they have them, and what to do about the myriad of other holiday arrangements that need to be made.

Making it through the holidays as a divorced parent doesn’t have to be as difficult as many make it sound, though. With careful planning and taking a few tips into consideration, a divorced parent can more thoroughly enjoy the holidays and make them fun for the kids.

Tips for Divorced Parents

You want to do more than just survive the holidays after a divorce – you want to enjoy them fully. Although being a divorced parent can certainly put more pressure on you, making this a harder task, it’s not impossible. In fact, you may be able to make the holidays much easier to handle by keeping the following tips in mind:

  • Make very detailed and specific plans – whatever you and your family are doing for the holidays, try to make the plans as detailed as possible so arguments and problems do not arise, particularly with your ex-spouse. The more planned you are, from the time you’re leaving for a vacation to exactly which days and times you’ll have the children, the more you’re likely to reduce potential frustration and fighting.

  • Plan well ahead of time – by making plans as far in advance as possible, you can allow your ex-spouse, children, and family to plan better and more accordingly, which also helps prevent more arguments from arising at inopportune times. This way, you can also make arrangements with your ex-spouse and vice versa.

  • Find out what’s most important – decide what holidays, traditions, and arrangements are most important to you. This way you will know what you can compromise on and what you should ask for.

While these tips are not the only ones that can help you through the holidays (and if you are looking for more, consider talking with a Houston divorce lawyer about tips and options), they can dramatically decrease your frustration with the holidays, helping you to enjoy your family and loved ones during this special season.

If you are in the Simcoe County, Muskoka or York Region, you can get good advice from our lawyers. Here is our website and our contact information.  We can help you get it sorted out... so you can just enjoy the holiday season. 

Surviving Holidays Without Your Children

Suchada, also known as Mama Eve, did an excellent blog  about what to do when you don't have your children for the holidays, especially for the first time.

She is honest, insightful and offers hope about how to cope without your children. 

Divorce sucks. You have a choice how you respond to its challenges. You can make it worse or you can take Mama Eve's good advice and make the most out of a difficult situation. 

In time, it gets better. Truly... it does. Hang in there. 

Here is her blog

 Acouple of days ago my children left on their first trip without me.

 

My husband and I separated earlier this year (I will write more about this later, and yes, it’s one of the reasons I didn’t keep up with my blog for a while). While much of this has been difficult, nothing has been harder for either of us than being away from the kids for the holidays. I got them for Thanksgiving, and he took them to see his family in Ohio for Christmas.

It sucks.

However, I try to make the best of even the worst situations, so here goes: my top 5 ways to survive being away from your kids for the holidays.

1. Stay busy

There was no question that when my boys got tickets to Ohio, I was getting a ticket to somewhere. I didn’t want to stay at home by myself and be lonely. So I’m flying to Florida to see my parents, and I’ve packed my schedule full of activities I love to do. If I’m bored I know I will wallow in my loneliness and guilt, so my goal is to not let it happen. And on the positive side, it’s been more than three years since I’ve had time to myself anyway, so I’m going to take full advantage of it with things that aren’t easy to coordinate with two little ones – like scuba diving and sailing and some nighttime fun.

2. Be flexible

While I would love to get on the phone and Skype with my little ones during the times it’s convenient for me (when I wake up, before I have dinner, a quick minute between errands), I have to remember they’re busy with their dad and his family. They have their days filled up with relatives who haven’t seen them in years, and grandparents that want to play with them, and sightseeing trips to all kinds of exciting destinations. If I want to talk to them and see them, I need to remember to be ready for when they have a moment, and not count on them to squeeze in regular appointments during a special trip like this.

3. Make memories

Since I know it isn’t easy to coordinate regular phone calls and Skype sessions, I decided to port myself to where they are, on demand. I made video recordings of me reading a stack of their favorite books, and then posted them to YouTube, and also a video just to tell them how much I love them and miss them. It’s not the same as interacting with them, but at least if they get lonely they can see my face and hear my voice reading something familiar anytime, anywhere (thanks to laptops and smartphones). Another benefit is it allows them to keep up part of their bedtime routine in an otherwise unfamiliar environment.

4. Remember it’s not all about you

This was the hardest thing for me as this situation unfolded, but once I accepted it, it’s been the most freeing. My kiddos are having a big adventure with a capable parent, surrounded by a big family that adores them and is thrilled to see them for the holidays. I miss them terribly, and I want to cuddle with them and smother them with kisses, but they don’t need to know how painful this is for me. What’s going on between their dad and me is an adult problem, and my boys don’t need to feel the weight of it. While I would do anything to be with them, I can’t change it, and moping and reminding everyone of how sad I am doesn’t make it a better holiday for anyone (including me).

5. Find joy in what’s around you

While my ideal situation would be to spend the holidays with my boys, I can’t pretend there aren’t a lot of positives to my Christmas plans. I will be with my parents, and my sister and her family, in a beautiful location with many friends. I will be able to go on adventures that aren’t easy to coordinate with two little ones, and I have friends and family who love me, and are thinking of me and praying for me. I know not everyone is so fortunate when they’re away from their children, but I believe something good can be found in even the dreariest circumstances. Even if it’s rock bottom, it means better days are coming.

I hope you all have restful holidays with people that love you, and I will see you again in the new year. Merry Christmas and lots of love!

 

 

Your First Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzza Since Divorce? Ugh.

Santa letterAre you dreading Christmas? Will it be your first  special holiday since your separation?  Are you depressed about not having your children for New Year's Eve, or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or some other special day. Whatever the holiday, you are not alone.

I remember the first Christmas that my three boys were with their mother Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I cried and felt depressed most of the day. The time seemed to creep by so slowly. I felt all alone and like a failure.

I should have taken my 6 year old son's advice.

A few days before Christmas, he knew he would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with his Mom because that's what we agreed. So, he asked me to write a letter to Santa and ask him to come to my house on December 26th instead of the 25th. My son said that Santa comes to Steve's house (Steve is my friend who is divorced with kids too) on the 26th so he was sure he wouldn't mind coming to our house then too!

Of course, Santa did come on December 26th, even without a letter, but I think the message my son unwittingly was giving me was that it does not matter when we celebrate Christmas...lets just make whatever day we have together full of love, gratitude, Santa and fun. He knew Santa (and joy) would arrive whenever we wanted them to arrive. We just had to schedule it.

To help make your holidays special, here are ten things you can do:

  1. Ensure your schedule is specific. You and your ex spouse should confirm well in advance when each of you will have the children. If you don't have specific times already agreed, negotiate the days and times as soon as possible. There are too many other sources of stress in December so try to nail down your times with your children now.
  2. Don't fight over which days you have your children. Whenever you have them, make it special. If you really need particular days, offer to trade days with your ex spouse or give your ex spouse those special days next year. Treat your ex they way you would like to be treated, even if it isn't reciprocated.
  3. Do something special for yourself. I make myself some of my favorite food, pour myself some wine, watch some basketball in front of the fireplace and wrap presents all day on December 25th. Actually, I look forward to my day spent all by myself. I am totally relaxed and ready when the boys come over on December 26th.
  4. Support your children having a good time with their other parent. If you need to speak to someone about your sad feelings, talk to a friend or therapist - not your kids.  The children don't need to hear it. They need to hear that it is okay to have fun with their other parent too.
  5. Create new traditions. This is a new beginning for you and your children so don't try to replicate the past. Find new ways to celebrate the event. You can preserve some of the past traditions but find new ways of celebrating too. My parents always put a maraschino cherry on the top of our grapefruits Christmas morning so I continue to do the same now. Change things up too... I started singing Christmas carols after our Christmas dinner.
  6. Get outside. Go for a walk or ski or snowshoe. There is nothing more rejuvenating than being outside with nature and your family. When your kids are with you, take them outside too. A good snowball fight can really build up an appetite.
  7. Give of your heart. If you have just recently separated, money is likely short so don't try to spend like you did in the past. Do something special for the people you love. Maybe you can write a special little poem for each of them or list twenty ways you appreciate them. Gifts often don't have lasting meaning. Can you even list five gifts you received last year or the year before? It is the feelings of love and appreciation that last forever.
  8. Stay sober. If you over-drink,  you run the risk of crumbling into a pile of self-pity and depression. Nobody wants to see that and certainly your kids don't need to see it. Have fun but be careful so you can keep it together emotionally, especially during your first Christmas since your separation.
  9. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. If your family or friends are negative, remind them the season is all about gratitude, love and appreciation. Park you own negativity and search for the positive in everything and everyone, even your ex spouse.
  10. Relax. Know that in time the holidays will become easier to get through and more fun. Just take a deep breath and get through your first set of holidays. Next year, it will be better. Trust me.

There are several wonderful blogs about surviving the holiday season after divorce. 

Now, my youngest son is 12 years old and he says the best thing about Mom and Dad having separated is that he enjoys "two Christmases, two Easters and two Thanksgivings!" He says "if you like that kind of food, it's great!" Let me assure you... he certainly does like "that kind of food!"

So make it a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa or whatever special holiday you are celebrating this year. Joy will come whenever you schedule its arrival. It is up to you.