3 Steps to Surviving ‘The Season’ When Your Kids Aren’t Home This Year
The holiday season is something we all look forward to, or most of us do, or some of us, or I used to anyway. Going through a divorce was hard enough but what I didn’t see coming was facing the holidays without my children and the shocking effect it would have on me. I mean, why wouldn’t it? Holidays are all about family and half of my family was not with me. This was nothing short of tragic.
But with a little time and distance (and some creative planning) I have learned that every holiday can be better than it ever was before. Seriously! I now look forward to each and every one of them regardless of my custody schedule. How? Happy to tell you! Give me five minutes and I can change the way you look at holidays for the rest of your life.
Grab a piece of paper and something to write with because, and you have to trust me on this, you already have all of the answers in your head. The key is that you need to see them on paper or it won’t work. Ready? Here we go:
1) Take your paper and at the top write your holiday: “Christmas,” for example. Then make three columns underneath. Over the left column write: KEEP. Over the middle column write: HAVE. Over the right column right: NEVER AGAIN! In the KEEP column write your favorite holiday traditions that you share with your children and mean the most to you. Next, in the NEVER AGAIN! column write down everything you are happy to say goodbye to (I don't have to shop for his/her boss anymore! I don't have to cook that favorite dish that takes forever to make, I don’t have to watch football on Christmas Day, or whatever you can’t wait to leave behind!). In the HAVE column write down the traditions or things that will occur whether or not you have your children with you (my sister always comes, I go to church every year, I will still watch football on Christmas Day!).
2) Now, look closely at your three columns because you have already written your plan! KEEP is what you will do when you don’t have your children on a particular holiday and need to celebrate it with them in advance or afterwards (I always prefer in advance if possible). So, if you have half of Christmas, or Christmas Eve, or have your children on December 23, plan to do everything that is meaningful with them that is in your KEEP column during that time. Do you know what will happen? Close your eyes and picture it: you will still have your holiday with your children as you always did. Do you see it? It was right there the whole time. Now, I ask you to turn to the right column and say the following out loud (when your children are not at home of course!) “NEVER AGAIN DO I HAVE TO…” and read down that list as many times as you want until you feel the joy of saying goodbye to those things that were incredibly annoying to you about the holidays when you were married.
3) Lastly, we get to the meat of the matter: What is your holiday going to be like when you are not with your children this year? Turn to your HAVE column now. What? A holiday miracle! You have a list of everything that doesn’t change year-to-year, regardless of where your children are. That looks like a plan for what you can do this year! So what is in your HAVE column? Will family or friends still come? Do you travel to them? One thing I know is that those of us who have gone through a divorce sometimes find our HAVE columns looking a little short. So here are a few suggestions in case you need them: Can you go to a friend’s home and ask to be adopted? Can you spend the day in church or with your community? Would you like to spend the day volunteering in your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter? You can do a little internet research and you will be surprised at how many people need you who are also alone on a holiday.
And do you know what happens when people get together who are alone on a holiday? No one is alone anymore and the future starts looking brighter for everyone involved. Happy Holidays to you, and may you have peace and happiness in 2017 and beyond. (Now, go back and read that NEVER AGAIN! column just for the heck of it!).
Susan Schwartz is a former journalist and IT Specialist who worked for Knight-Ridder Tribune, America Online (before and after the Internet went public!), and multiple AOL Brands. She is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach®, Principal of Living Well Coaching, LLC, and now proudly calls herself a HuffPost Contributor.