What's that you say? 5 steps to surviving Christmas as a divorced woman? That's impossible! Christmas is often a stressful time for many families. Cooking, shopping managing children's expectations and excitement, all take their toll. How can 5 steps make such a difference? It can be even more challenging when families are separating and you are single woman and perhaps a mother too.
Even if you are a lady who has left.
Your friends might be envious of the fact that you won't have the children in tow everyday and that you'll get to have a lie in. Perhaps other friends are envious because you don't have to spend time with your in-laws. But what if you want to be up early with your children every day and actually, you got on with your in-laws and you're going to miss being part of that extended family this Christmas. What then?
Even for ladies who leave, the first Christmas as a separated or newly divorced woman can be challenging. You might be wondering how you are going to manage financially and emotionally and you feel like you have nowhere to turn. The key is all about being prepared. Being an ostrich isn't going to help you now unless it really is possible for you to avoid the festive season altogether. For some of you, that may well be possible. You might be able to escape the the holiday throngs and parties and relax quietly, getting ready for the New Year. I suspect that for most of you, with family ties, limited holiday entitlement and financial constraints, you'll be staying at home this year. So what can you do to handle it? These 5 steps for surviving your first Christmas as a separated or divorced woman will help you to get through the festive period this year.
1. Work that plan girl!
It may sound obvious, but planning your Christmas can make a world of difference to you and your children. If financially you are in a different place this year, you need to manage your children's expectations, particularly if they are young and still believe in Father Christmas. The end of your relationship doesn't have to mean the end of their belief in the big man. It's about how you frame it with your children. Perhaps there's one item your child longs for more than anything that is within budget?; or perhaps your child really likes opening lots of smaller parcels? Perhaps you can buy them some things they need as well as those they want? Who hasn't had pyjamas and pants for Christmas?
If possible, discuss with the other parent the gifts you will buy for your children. Will you continue to give joint gifts (many parents do), or separate ones? Will your children see the other parent and if so, when? Having these discussions in advance will help the whole family. It's important to remain calm and as relaxed as you can. Consider family mediation if you feel that talking with an impartial third person will be helpful.
The end of your relationship doesn't have to mean the end of their belief in the big man.
2. Remember that your children will have a different Christmas too.
If this is the first Christmas that your children will have been without both of you in the same house, it will be strange for them. They may be sad, angry or withdrawn. Acknowledge with your children that this year will be different, and if you can, make it different in a good way. All families have their traditions, routines and practices they follow each year. See this Christmas as an opportunity to create new ones. Make it fun! It doesn't need to cost any money. If your children are old enough, get them involved and ask them to come up with ideas to make this Christmas different from previous ones.
3. Be a respectful parent
You may not be in a relationship anymore, but you are still a parent. Whatever your personal thoughts about your ex-husband, (unless there are safety issues), that person is father of your children. Your children love him and need to know that it is ok to love him. Your children may feel anxious and worried about their absent father. It's important to acknowledge that with your children and reassure them that he is still there and loves them. Even if Christmas brings to the surface feels of resentment and of being let down by their father, avoid sharing these feelings with your children. It causes stress and encourages your children to have divided loyalties which are unhealthy. If you struggle with this, have you considered Family Mediation? Family Mediation can help you and your husband make decisions about all sorts of issues and it even includes what the arrangement will be for the children over Christmas.
4. Give the gift of time
Probably the greatest gift you can give your children this Christmas is time. Time with you, and time with their other parent and extended family. Grandparents may also be missing from your children's lives this Christmas. How you can make this work depends on your circumstances. It might be you live close by and the children can spend some part of Christmas Day with the other parent. It maybe that you and the other parent are able to be in the house together for part of the time enjoying watching the children opening gifts or playing games.
That might be too soon.
Only you know what you can handle. However, it is important that in some way, your children are able to connect with their father and extended family. If distance is an issue, this could be through Skype or Facetime. Remember that if you have your children completely to yourself this year, unless you and your ex husband agree otherwise, it is likely the children will be with him next year. How would you feel not having any contact with your children? More importantly, how will you children feel not having contact with you?
That's how your children will feel this year if you don't facilitate, or make yourself available for contact.
You have the opportunity to show your children that they have two parents that love them dearly even though they live apart. Take that opportunity if at all possible.... Your children will thank you for it.
5. Be kind to yourself
Whether you have the children on your own, or you'll be without them for the first time this Christmas morning, remember that it is ok to feel a whole range of emotions from sadness to anger, frustration and resentment or happiness and joy depending on your circumstances. It's ok to have fun with your children if you have them, and it's ok to feel upset if you haven't.
Remember. Keep perspective. Christmas comes but once a year....
Christmas is one of the major events in the year for children and it is only a few days. Do what you need to do for you to help you manage those days. See friends, relax and get plenty of sleep. Avoid drinking too much alcohol as this is a depressant and is unlikely to support you in the longer term.
Remember that this Christmas may not be easy, but the way in which you handle it will set expectations for future years.
If you do't have children and you are a single woman this year, what plans can you make to take care of yourself? Are your friends and other family members sending you invites? How do you feel about those? Perhaps you'd like to be alone this year and for you that's a positive step? Don't feel that you have to be with people if you really don't feel like it. It's your Christmas too so it's your choice. Perhaps you've never spent time alone at Christmas and you relish the opportunity. Remember that for you too, Christmas comes but once a year.
Before we know it, it'll be 6:30 a.m. on 4th January 2016. The alarm will be going off and a new working week in a new year will be starting. Divorce is a journey not a destination lovely, you will get through this, I promise.