5 Ways to Survive the Holidays as a Divorced Parent
The holiday season can feel like a commercialized whirlwind of festive traditions and holiday cheer. It can be difficult to feel lonely or isolated by the time December rolls around, but rest assured that you’re not alone.
Many Americans find it difficult to merrily embrace the holiday season. Whether they’re grieving the loss of a loved one who won’t be there this season or mourning the end of a marriage, there are various reasons why the holidays can be challenging.
If you’re a recently divorced parent, you may be wondering how to survive the yearly festivities. In some cases, entering the holidays as a divorcee can open the door to unwanted questions from family and friends. The season can also be a painful reminder of the hardships you’ve endured. If you’re struggling to feel mentally prepared, don’t worry. There are healthy ways to cope as you wait to ring in the New Year.
5 Tips to Keep the Holiday Season Merry & Bright
As a parent, it’s normal to want the holiday season to be a cheerful and stress-free time for your child. However, it can be tricky to navigate family dynamics after ending a marriage with your child’s other parent.
Keep reading to learn 5 tips to keep the holiday season merry and bright for your family this year.
#1. Plan, plan, and plan some more.
If you’re more of a “Type A” personality, this tip is likely a given, especially around the holidays. From gift-giving to holiday parties, being a planner can help you maximize your family’s holiday cheer. It can also help provide your child with a sense of stability and care they can rely on.
Taking care of practical responsibilities can help your child continue to transition after this major change in your family unit. Figure out your holiday plans in advance to set clear expectations for both your child and your coparent.
Which parent is hosting? Are others invited? Will you invite your family, your coparent’s family, or both? Is it acceptable to bring a new significant other? These are items you will benefit from establishing beforehand to avoid confusion, conflict, and ultimately disappointment for your child.
#1. Take a silent night to yourself to mentally prepare.
The holidays can be a social time jam-packed with good friends, good food, and loved ones. However, it's okay to prioritize your health—in fact, it's encouraged.
Planning ahead is an excellent way to prioritize your child’s happiness and limit potential misunderstandings, but consider taking a moment to prepare mentally, too. Divorce takes its toll on adults and kids alike, and it’s okay if you’re not exactly feeling flooded by the carefree “holiday spirit” this year.
If you’re experiencing feelings of grief, rage, or loss, this is entirely okay. Take quiet time to reflect and feel, as this can not only make your family’s transition easier, but can prevent you from being overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
#3. Collaborate on gifts.
It isn’t uncommon for divorced parents to try to “one-up” each other when it comes to gift-giving, even if it’s more of a subconscious effort. As tempting as it can be to engage in the competition, it’s important to put your child’s needs first.
Yes, your child’s face may light up when they open up your expensive gift—but years from now, your child will likely benefit more from having healthy, functioning coparents than they will from a present they may or may not remember.
In the event that your child has siblings, stepsiblings, cousins, or other relatives that are close to them in age, collaborating with your ex for gift-giving can also help prevent one child from feeling left out or less loved than the others. Communicating about budget and gift selection can make sure every youngster feels included and loved after opening presents.
#4. Bury the hatchet—at least for a little while.
We get it: it can be hard to bring yourself to like the person you divorced, let alone cooperate with them to raise a child. While tolerating an ex is no small feat, it may be worthwhile to bury the hatchet, at least during the holiday season.
As most parents already know, children are very intuitive. They can often pick up on adults’ energy faster than we give them credit for. If there is tension or hostility between you and your coparent, it probably won’t escape your child’s notice.
For your child’s sake, it may be beneficial to play nice with your ex—even if that means making a few sacrifices, like not letting one irksome comment get under your skin, or forgiving your mother-in-law for nitpicking your parenting decisions…again.
This isn’t to say that you should be a doormat during the holidays. If the situation demands it, strong and assertive communication may be necessary to set boundaries and protect your family’s safety. It’s always important to stand up for yourself and fight for your child’s best interests, as long as you understand that your child’s best interests can be as simple as having two loving parents who are capable of being in the same room.
In these cases, putting your differences aside for a night or two can mean the world to your child.
#5. Put your child’s needs first.
While many adults can successfully hide negative emotions, it’s less easy for a child. It’s important to accept and acknowledge the range of emotions your child may feel during the holidays, whether it’s sadness, confusion, anger, or a combination of these.
Letting your child vent can be an enormous help. While they may just need a listening ear, they may also need information, validation, or closure at other times. It’s important to listen to your child and meet their needs as best you can, whether it’s reminding them that their emotions are okay, providing truths they deserve to hear, or setting realistic expectations for them.
Dedicated to Achieving Real Results for Your Family
At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, our specialized knowledge of family law allows us to serve families in need by providing compassionate legal advocacy they can count on. Our mission is to help our clients resolve family disputes regardless of complexity. We take pride in executing customized legal strategies that benefit each client’s unique needs.
Our skilled divorce attorneys have a hard-earned reputation for providing efficient and cost-efficient solutions to families in Orange County. You can count on us to maintain a forthcoming and respectful partnership with you from start to finish while prioritizing your family’s needs and wellbeing.
If you’re preparing for divorce, you don’t have to battle alone. With over 100 years of collective legal experience, you can count on our team to guide your steps, minimize conflict, and fight to achieve the results you desire.
Our firm is here to help in life’s toughest seasons. Whether you’re filing for divorce or in the thick of a custody battle, you can count on us to have your back. Call (949) 565-4158 today to schedule your complimentary case evaluation.