The holidays can be a really hard time for a lot of people. People estranged from their families, experiencing financial hardship, or navigating life after losing a loved one may find that the holidays are particularly emotional and brutal. This can be especially true if you've recently separated from your partner, or are co-parenting children after a divorce. It may be the first time you're away from your kids for the holidays, or trying to manage the stress of scheduling two holidays. Plus, it can just be sad to be facing it all on your own! But this doesn't mean you can't make these holidays memorable and happy - for yourself, and for your kids. Here are some tips for making your way through the holidays after divorce.
First and foremost, put your children's needs above all else.
It's so important to be on the same page with your co-parent, especially so during the holidays. Some parents will use them as an excuse to overbuy for their kids or out-buy the other parents to one-up them. Discuss the kid's gift lists, and divide them equally. Don't use your children as pawns or try to curry favor with them by spending more or scoring that sweet gift. Agree ahead of time who will buy which gifts, what to do for the holidays, where and when to go on vacation, if one is planned.
Communicate with your ex or co-parent.
Just because you're no longer married or in a relationship together, doesn't mean your parenting relationship also ends. Putting aside differences and presenting a united front when it comes to your kids is the most important thing you can do. The holidays are hectic and busy, and communication is so important to keep things running smoothly and keep everyone happy! Make sure you discuss all plans and schedules together, then communicate them to your kids. If there are changes to your custody arrangement you'd like your co-parent to consider, bring it up before the holidays get underway.
If possible, celebrate the holidays as a family, and also separately.
In an ideal co-parenting relationship, you and your ex may have already agreed to spend the big holidays together, rather than splitting them up. But this isn't always possible, or even a good idea. However, if the two of you can come up with a plan to spend at least part of the day together with your kids (say, breakfast and present opening on Christmas Day or dinner on Christmas Eve) before the kids head off with one parent or another, your kids will appreciate it so very much. If you aren't able to spend even a few hours with your ex without it turning into a fight, then stick to the custody arrangement, and don't fight or argue in front of the kids.
Take the opportunity to start new holiday traditions!
It really hurts to be away from your kids on the holidays. But, as with any other aspect of divorce, it does more harm than good to isolate yourself. Reach out to those in your circle who will support you through this difficult time. If you don't have your kids in Christmas Day, find a friend or family member with whom you can spend the day, or use that time to yourself to do something that makes you feel good, like volunteering at a soup kitchen. When it comes to the times you do have your kids during the holidays, make those times as magical as possible! Maybe Christmas Day used to be the big ta-da in your home, but you only your kids on Christmas Eve this year. Make Christmas Eve your new Christmas Day! You have the chance to turn your old traditions into new ones, ones that are just for you and your kids.
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