The holidays are difficult for many people, but when you’ve just gone through a divorce, it’s even worse. Holidays are the time to see and spend time with family, and your family has just changed dramatically.
These holiday times can make feelings of sadness, loss, and failure more intense, and spending holidays away from your kids for the first time can be especially difficult. Luckily, there are ways to have a happy holiday and get used to your new normal.
Plan ahead: Don’t wait until the last minute to decide who gets the kids and when. It may be mapped out in your divorce decree, or it may be up to the two of you to figure it out. If it’s the latter, try to remain civil and agreeable. Don’t dig your heels in for every premium holiday day. You’re going to have to learn to compromise, whether you believe your ex deserves it or not.
Remain civil: The worst thing you can do to your kids is let them hear you arguing about them or speak ill of your ex in front of them. Children internalize these things, and it will cause major issues for them. If your ex is in a new relationship, don’t belittle that person to your kids, either. The only people you’ll hurt is your children.
Rely on your dog: Your dog can be the most comforting support in your life. She doesn’t care how your hair looks or whether you’re the best parent to your children. She only wants your love and some food. Use your dog to fill in the gaps when your kids are away visiting your ex. She’ll love the extra attention you give her, and taking her for walks will help you both get fit and ease stress and depression. Your dog will also be a source of comfort to your children who are going through a difficult time, too. When your kids are home and you have to visit many different holiday parties with them, consider hiring a dog walker so she doesn’t get left behind in the shuffle.
Take care of yourself: If there was ever a time for self-care, immediately after a divorce is it. So do something relaxing like getting a massage. While your kids are busy visiting the other side of the family, make a new tradition for yourself. Go out of town for a weekend and relax.
Don’t cling to old rituals: As a family, you probably created holiday traditions that you won’t be able to duplicate as well now. Do what you can, but don’t get hung up on the past. There are tons of new rituals you can create with your children, such as making ornaments, making cookies, seeing a movie, going out of town or to a tree-lighting in your town, and more.
Keep communication open: It’s perfectly OK for you to call your children regularly, and technology makes it even easier to see them. If they are traveling to their other parent’s house, or if they live there full-time, you can now video chat for free. It often helps for kids to see their parents, and it helps you to see their smiling faces.
Volunteer: Giving to others helps you get outside of your own head. It helps you gain perspective on your own problems, and when children get involved, it helps them learn the importance of giving. Consider donating toys to a family homeless shelter or serving a meal at a holiday soup kitchen.
Be with friends and family: They love you and will help you through it. Go out to eat or see a play with your high school buddies. Take your parents on a drive to see holiday lights. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends when you’re feeling down. Chances are, they’ve been through it, too.
It may seem rough now, but eventually, you’ll get used to life as a single parent. You and your ex will become masters of co-parenting, and life will go along swimmingly.
Alexis Hall is a single mom to three kids. She created SingleParent.info to provide support and advice for the many families out there with only one parent in the household. She works as an in-home health nurse. When she isn’t working or spending time with her kids, she enjoys running and hiking and is currently training for a triathalon.