How to Handle the Holidays After Divorce
The first holiday season after a divorce can be the hardest, especially if you and your ex-spouse share children. Divorced parents might have to navigate family changes, handle overwhelming emotions, and deal with a considerable amount of stress. Even if you don’t have children, the holidays can bring difficult emotional issues to the surface which are challenging to face. While every family’s situation is different, there are a few things you can do to take a positive approach to the season — and ensure you and your children are able to enjoy the holidays after divorce.
Here are ten tips for handling the holidays after divorce:
1. Review Your Custody Agreement
As part of a divorce in Missouri, courts will require you to have a parenting plan in place if children are involved. Specifically, this document should outline where the children will spend each holiday and school vacation. Some parents choose to alternate holidays every other year — or they might split the day in half if they live close enough. Other alternatives can include scheduling a holiday twice in one year or assigning fixed holidays. You should review your custody agreement around the holidays to see whether it determines where your children will be spending them.
2. Have Realistic Expectations About the Upcoming Holidays After Divorce
Divorce is a big change and it’s important to have realistic expectations about the holidays. While everyone wants to plan the “perfect” holiday season for themselves and their children, it’s best to keep in mind that things can go wrong and schedule changes may occur. You will need to accept that holidays after divorce won’t be the same as they were before — having realistic expectations can help you better cope with stress and enjoy the season.
3. Be Flexible
For many people, the holidays are about spending time with their loved ones. But the festivities don’t have to take place on just one specific day — the holidays can be celebrated throughout the season. If a scheduling conflict arises, it’s crucial to be flexible with planning to ensure your kids get to spend time with everyone.
4. Be Sure to Put the Kids First
No matter how much contention exists between you and your former spouse, it’s essential to make sure you put your kids first. Holidays shouldn’t be used as a competition and parents should be on the same page when it comes to things like buying gifts. You might also think about taking your children shopping so they can purchase a gift for their other parent. Not only can this be a fun bonding experience, but it can also teach your children about giving and show them that you encourage kindness toward the other parent.
5. Talk with Your Kids About Their Emotions
The holidays can be tough on everyone when parents no longer live together. Your children may be experiencing many different emotions during the first holidays after divorce. Children often feel a sense of loss when their parents part ways and they might be sad, fearful, angry, guilty, or confused. Take the time to talk with your children about how they’re feeling to help ensure they process their emotions in a healthy way.
6. Create New Holiday Traditions
The first holidays after divorce can be a good time to create new traditions with your family. If you can’t recreate the traditions your family used to take part in, you should focus on reinventing them to fit your new lifestyle — or devise a plan to make new memories. Life changes in many ways after divorce and you shouldn’t feel pressure to make the holidays look exactly like they did in the past.
7. Spend Time with Your Support Network
It can be easy to isolate yourself during the first holidays after divorce, especially if you will not be spending them with your children. To help combat the moments of sadness you might be feeling as you adjust to your new life, try not to spend the holidays by yourself. Whether you will be sharing the holiday season with or without your children, reach out to your support network and surround yourself with family and friends to keep your spirits up.
8. Consider Sharing the Holidays Together
Not all divorced couples want to spend the holidays apart. Instead of alternating or splitting up the holidays, you might think about celebrating together if you are amicable with your former spouse. In the right situation, sharing the holidays can have many benefits — children can see both parents on the actual holiday and disputes over equal time can be avoided. Spending the holidays together can also foster future cooperation and provide a sense of emotional security for the children.
9. Take Time Out for Selfcare
Regardless of how busy you are, taking time out for yourself around the holidays can be vital for your well-being. This can be especially important if you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed after divorce. The best way to manage stress and unpleasant feelings during the holiday season is to ensure you take care of yourself — physically, emotionally, and financially. Sometimes keeping your mood elevated can simply mean getting back to the basics and making sure you maintain a healthy diet and get a good night’s sleep.
10. Know That it Gets Easier
Divorce is a life-changing event and it’s important not to be too hard on yourself, especially around the holidays. Although the first few holidays after divorce can be tough for you and your children, know that it gets easier. As time goes on, you will create new traditions and memories as you move forward in your post-divorce life.
Contact an Experienced Kansas City Family Law Attorney
Holidays after divorce can be hard, but by planning in advance, you can reduce conflict and stress. Family law attorney Mark A. Wortman helps clients in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area who are facing divorce and a wide variety of family law matters. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how he can help you, please contact him today online or at (816) 523-6100.
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