Divorce is never easy or simple, but I noticed that around the holidays it gets really complicated. It is interesting to note that although the Holidays are super exciting they can often be complicated even for intact families. There is a lot going on, between prepping for the family dinner, buying gifts, decorating and making decisions for all the nitty gritty details, which adds additional stress to our already busy hectic lives.
When you add divorce in the mix it gets a LOT more complicated. Although the additional stress from the holidays can trigger parents to fight even more it is imperative that they make a bigger effort to be civil to one another for their children’s sake. Professionals say that the way the Holidays are handled can actually set the tone for the upcoming year.
It is hard to want to be kind and civil to someone who has hurt you deeply, and someone you are walking away from. It is even harder to keep your cool, when you have added stress. But it is very important that you remember that the CHILDREN are your priority and for their sake you have to learn how to become partners in parenting them. It will help them adjust easier if you can make this a smooth process.
Here are some suggestions that might help you ease into the Holidays a little easier:
If this is your first Holiday after the divorce it will most probably be the hardest one to get through. A lot of parenting issues might not have fallen into place yet, and you are still feeling the wounds deeply. It is the first year when you and your children will realize things will not be the same anymore. It is a time where you will feel a lot pain and go through a roller-coaster of emotions, don’t suffocate your feelings. Allow yourself to feel them and start accepting this new reality. Remember though that however hard it is for you it is a lot harder for your children to adjust to this new normal, because our culture is very focused on traditional holiday celebration and your children will feel different from everyone else. They might feel displaced and lost. Talk to your children about their feelings. Allow them to express themselves and let them know that you love and your ex spouse love them dearly. Most of all be sure to keep the tension between you and your ex or soon to be ex at an all-time low and stay civil. One of the things I always tell my clients to help them control their anger and pain is: “think of what you want your children to remember you as. Is this really YOUR best self? Is this who you want to be in their eyes”. Kids are a blessing and one of the many amazing things they bring into our lives is the ability to grow and evolve into better people. As long as you have your children’s emotional health and best interest in mind you will be able to overcome your challenging emotions and do what is best for them.
Please don’t kill the messenger here, but it is important that you learn to have open communication channels with your ex. Especially when it comes to gift giving. Some parents have different financial situations and it can often get in the way, where one parent will try to outdo the other. Trying to outdo your ex will only work against you in the long run. Children need balance and discipline and if they see that one of the parents will outdo the other, they will take that cue and use it down the road to get their way. In addition you don’t want your child to get a duplicate gift from both parents. As hard as it is, perhaps the holidays are the best time for parents to learn how to communicate effectively. Don’t forget there will be way more issues coming your way that you will have to discuss with your ex, such as vacations, medical decisions, school decisions, and more, so now is actually the best time to start figuring out how to make it work.
If you don’t yet have an ironed out parenting plan agreement, it is very important that you plan and communicate clearly who the kids will be spending which part of the holiday with. It is very stressful for children to have to choose who they want to spend time with, and often induces a sense of guilt in them. It also gives your child more power than it is appropriate. Your child does not decide whether or not he or she wants to go to school. Divorced families often fall into the trap of giving children more power than is appropriate. You want to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem and confidence by instilling the appropriate responsibilities in them, but not by imposing decisions that are too much for them to handle. One of the most difficult aspects of single parenting is not having another adult in the house to offer support and validation. That is why it is so important to have a support system that you can turn to for advice and encouragement. So to be sure to avoid putting your children under pressure, arrange appropriate plans for them with your ex. I strongly advise that once you have a proper game plan you should have it in writing (legally binding agreement) in order to avoid confrontation down the road.
Get into the spirit of the season
You are strolling along in the city and see families shopping for the Holidays with smiles on their faces and loaded shopping bags. Your heart breaks realizing that you will not have that sense of belonging and unity with your family this year. Perhaps things are tight financially and you don’t even know where you will scrape some money together to get your child/ren a gift for Christmas this year. I know it’s hard… I know the pain, I know the fear! But do know that you have the ability and the power to create a NEW sense of holiday tradition, that can be filled with just as much love and fun. Think creatively of way you can bring the holiday spirit into your home, make it warm and cozy and safe. Maybe go to the dollar store and see what they have that you COULD afford. Decorate your home, and bake something that fills the house with that warm homey smell. Don’t just resign because it isn’t the way you wanted it to be. I did it for 12 years alone and my daughter tells me that she has the best memories of those years. You can do it, if you want some ideas feel free to email me and I will help you figure out a plan that will work just right for you.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get a PRIVATE (and free) consultation session with me.
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