Are 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.