We've just crossed the threshold of Halloween, and already we're preparing for the many issues that plague so many divorced families anticipating the Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Year's celebrations. This time of year raises so many questions: "Where will I spend Thanksgiving?" "Will the kids want to spend the holidays with me or my (soon-to-be) ex?" "What if I'm all alone?" These questions barely scrape the surface of holiday-time torment. This season, get ahead of the feelings and prepare yourself for the inevitable changes in your life so that you can relax and enjoy the holiday season. The following ten tips offer ideas of how to approach the holidays this year in a way that will help you and your family, not only move forward through the holidays, but also enjoy them! Your divorce is not the end of your life. It's not the end of your family. And it's certainly not the end of experiencing joy and happiness in your holidays.
Tip #1: Don't compete with your ex. If you are a recent divorcee or are in the middle of the divorce process, chances are that money is tight, your living situation is shaky and/or other things in your life are dominating your wallet (like legal expenses and attorneys' fees!) Resist the temptation to compete with your ex, who may be in a different financial position than you, and holiday shop within your budget. Your children and loved ones won't love you more or less based on the gifts you give. If your ex can afford to shower the children with luxury items, smile and show your sincere delight ... no snide comments or snarls!
Tip #2: Keep busy! Worried about being alone? Fill that dance card! Invite friends to come over. Volunteer at your local shelter. Spend time at your favorite charity, animal rescue shelter or visit an elderly care facility, where people appreciate and need you.
Tip #3: Think about your kids, and don't manipulate or guilt them into spending all of their time with you to the exclusion of your ex. If you have children, remember that your focus should be on them. Co-parenting during the holidays can be the most challenging and cause the most stress on you and your children. Do whatever it takes to minimize their exposure to your emotions, and maximize their holiday enjoyment!
Tip #4: Be magnanimous. Be forgiving or act kindly towards your ex. "Kill 'em with kindness," and watch how it disarms a person. You don't have to go overboard, but sometimes a simple gesture goes a long way.
Tip #5: Invent a new tradition! Though your family has gathered for 15 years on a particular day to light candles or open presents, try something new and different this year. Embrace the opportunity to redefine how you celebrate your holidays, and the newness of the experiences you will share together.
Tip #6: Clean house. There's nothing more cathartic than a little spring cleaning in the wintertime! Toss out the old and make room for the new! It's not just a metaphor for relationships ... it's also a great way to prepare yourself for the next phase of your life.
Tip #7: Find acceptance. Maybe you were the one who initiated the divorce, or, maybe you were the one who wanted to salvage your marriage. Regardless of your role, recognize and find acceptance in the situation so that you can move on with your life. You don't have to like it. You don't have to understand it. You can have regrets for your contribution or you can just be angry. Whatever your emotions, remember that until you accept the finality of the marriage, you will be unable to open yourself up to new opportunities. Take the time this holiday season to allow yourself to move on.
Tip #8: Be creative! Resist the urge to spend your way through the holidays! Instead of shopping, get creative and make some of your gifts! There's nothing like a personal touch to show someone how you really feel about them ... and it's a marvelous distraction to keep you busy!
Tip #9: Focus on others. Be thankful for the things and people in your life, and teach your children about giving.
Tip #10: Focus on yourself. Don't lose yourself during the holidays, drowning yourself in what used to be. Enjoy some alone-time, using the peace and quiet to be reflective and preparing for the new year.
Find your happiness this season! You deserve it! Don't drown in sorrow that things are changing. Instead, refocus your energies on all of the wonderful new beginnings that are happening in your life, and recognize that there is a whole world out there for you to explore! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
What holiday issues have you faced and how have you handled them? Please share your thoughts!