Take a deep breathe.
Acknowledge that the holidays are coming. For ‘any’ family that raises the stress quotient by no less than 27%. Being divorced adds another 15-20% regardless of the state of the relationship with your ex. Why? Well, there are numerous factors that come into play.
1. School: Depending on where you live, kids may be out the entire week while you may have two days off.
2. Christmas: Long before Thanksgiving the kids begin eyeing that glorious morning. Catalogues start arriving and items are getting circled well in advance of the carving of the t-day bird. Each child’s energy subsequently increases exponentially as their already short attention spans suffer serious drop offs and their ability to listen flies out the window.
3. Finances: Holidays = $$$. Not trying to be a scrooge by any means. It’s just a reality. Between holiday meals, decorations (lights, trees, etc), presents, travel, vacation time, child care needs, aspirin, therapy … it adds up.
4. Family: Look, the truth is, that for most humans the idea of getting together with family brings thoughts of both warm fuzzies AND which alcohol to consume first. It’s just natural. We all have parents and siblings. Bottom line: it’s always fun to parent when you yourself have regressed to the age of seven.
5. Weather: Days are shorter. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s dreary. Kids are inside more (see number 2). I’m depressing myself just thinking about it.
6. There’s a good chance you won’t be with your kids as much as you’d like and will have moments without them that will understandably bum you out.
7. Thanks to brilliant advertising agencies, the perception is that everyone’s head is full of sugarplum fairies during the holidays. The reality is for a lot of people the holidays are one of the most depressing times of the year. For some it’s grieving loved ones lost through the year. For others the holidays bring back painful memories. Regardless, if you’re down I guarantee you you’re not alone.
My advice? Sit back and let it happen. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to control it all or understand why you continually find yourself in the fetal position while your parents attempt to comprehend what divorce means in the twenty-first century. Remember that you’ve done well. Your life may not be perfect, but you’ve overcome a lot to get to this point and have a great deal to celebrate.
If you can’t be with your kids; surround yourself with supportive friends, family, neighbors etc. If you’re single, don’t just sit in the house alone. I promise you there are people in your life who would love nothing more than to open their homes and hearts to you this holiday season. If you and your ex are fortunate enough to be on speaking terms, take advantage of opportunities to be together with the kids. The kids know you’re divorced. They get it. But it does wonders for them to be able to spend a peaceful hour or two with both their mom and dad at the same time and not have to choose.
First and foremost, resolve to live by the creed of “If the kids are happy, I’m happy.” Make it fun for them. Encourage them to enjoy every single moment of it whether they’re with you or their mom. Give them that. It’s a gift they’ll hold with them their entire lives. Always remember, regardless of your situation, you’re creating their memories, right now. You owe it to them to do your best to make their recollections of the holidays something that will always make them smile. In doing so, you’ll likely enjoy them a great deal yourself.