Regardless of your faith, religion or traditions, we all know how challenging divorce and the holidays can be. Every year, people look forward to the holidays because it is a time with family. So what happens when divorce happens? What happens when the family won't be together because mom and dad are separated and the children are sometimes caught in the middle?
The good news is this…
It doesn't have to be complicated or stressful. If you follow our survival guide, our divorce lawyers promise you that the holidays will not only be tolerable but the divorce you are going through won't ruin what should be the peaceful and joyous time of the year.
A predictable holiday schedule
Too many divorcing parents "wing it" with the holiday schedule. Most of the time, it doesn't work and conflict arises when mom or dad both want Christmas day or eve or have made plans with their own side of the family without consulting with the other. Having a schedule makes the holidays much easier.
Schedules typically go like this - Holidays are split 50/50. Parents will split the holidays on an odd year and even year basis.
For example Christmas day will be dad on even years and mom on odd years. Christmas eve (if the parents don't want to combine it) is flipped the other way so, every year, one parent has eve and the other has day. The same is true about New Year's eve and day. All of this will depend on the children's ages and the family's proximity. Parents who live a few miles or a short distance from each other can handle such a schedule a lot easier than parents who live in different states.
Either way, having a set schedule can save hassles, stress and misunderstandings.
Patience brings peace and avoids overreaction
Next to having a schedule, nothing is more important than patience. The holidays are going to be different when you go through a divorce. The children will be adjusting to that difference.
Don't freak out because the kids ask questions or complain.
Don't blame your ex-spouse and ask your ex-spouse to maintain a united front with the kids so neither of you bad mouth the other.
You have to realize that the holidays are not just about you and your enjoyment. Your children are a big part of this and if you want to maximize their "good cheer" then you have to maximize your patience with their adjustment to sharing the holidays separately with your family and that of your ex-spouse. We promise you if you can do this, the holidays will get easier and even more enjoyable with the passing time.
Don't take on too many tasks
It's hard enough going through a divorce; do you also have to host the gathering, do all of the cooking and preparing and take front and center responsibility for every detail? Come on now. You are going through an adjustment period. It's time to ask for help and delegate. Ask your own parents or siblings for help. Don't put too much burden on yourself. You don't have to make it "perfect". You don't have to make to make it anything. This may surprise you but children can "feel" your stress and, since you are probably already a little stressed out over your divorce, piling on won't help.
Keep to a budget
Many people overspend or overextend themselves with holiday shopping when they are married. The overcrowded malls are evidence of that.
Is it really necessary to double down during a divorce? No.
The holidays aren't about presents. Recognize that you are two households now. You have to be money conscious. A divorce can be expensive if you let it be. The same applies to the holidays. When things settle down, your divorce is over and there is more certainty in your life (and finances), then perhaps you can splurge a bit more. For now, it's better to maintain a budget for the holidays while going through a divorce. Believe me, the kids won't care whether you spend $500.00 or $1,000.00 on them. They are much better at living in the moment than you may give them credit for.
Be honest about your emotions
You know what happens when you bottle up those emotions and won't share? You implode…eventually, that is.
Here is something you already know but probably won't admit. The emotions you are going through as a result of the divorce and the holidays are perfectly normal. You would be crazy if you weren't going through those emotions. Being depressed, frustrated or even angry is expected. Internalizing it until you are a time bomb isn't.
Open up. Talk to family. Talk to friends. If you are in counseling, even better. Heck, talk to your divorce lawyer if you just need reassurances that your case is going along smoothly. When you share what you are going through, you release the tension.
You know who else will appreciate that? Your children. They feel that tension from a mile away. For their sake, don't let it ferment.
Can you enjoy the holidays during a divorce?
Absolutely you can. Follow our survival guide: have a visitation schedule, be patient, don't over extend yourself and your budget, and don't let those emotions sit inside and take away your joy and you are on your way to a healthy and happy holiday season.