After a divorce, holidays can be extremely difficult. Painful memories of good times or bad times are common around holidays. As part of your and your children’s healing process, it is vital that you create new traditions and memories.
Focusing on past holiday traditions or events can set you into a negative emotional spiral. You can acknowledge the past for what it was and refocus on the new future with a fresh attitude. Others have done it and so can you. You can value the good times you might have had together and choose to let go. You can choose to move on and create new, fresh, bright loving memories. Hard to do? Yes. Impossible? No.
If you don’t work to create new holiday traditions after a divorce, you will likely get stuck tormenting yourself with thoughts like:
- “We should still be a family today.”
- “He/She should be ashamed of what he/she is doing to us/me.”
- “He/She shouldn’t be able to have the kids on Christmas Eve.”
- “I should be over this by now. It should be easier for me to move on – but it isn’t.”
- “My family and friends will think less of me because the children are not with me on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Easter, 4th of July, etc.”
Tormenting yourself with these kinds of thoughts is not a fun – or healthy – way to spend the holidays. Use the next major holiday in your life as a marker for starting new traditions for yourself and the children. By doing so you create a more positive future for you and your children. You will also be a good role model for your children by showing them how to be resilient after a major life set-back. The following are some ideas to turn to help you create new holiday traditions and turn them into a time of joy.
Write Down What You Want the Holidays to Look Like
Close the door to what was, so you may open the door to a new future. This holiday season and the ones to come can be weeks of great celebration for you if you start planting the seeds in your mind today. First, write down – in great detail – what is that you will do different for the next holiday. You might even ask your kids what they would like to do for the new holiday tradition. Here is an example:
I have the children this year. We will wake up early and go to Service in the Park, outdoors at sunrise.
We will invite our other friends that have young children.
(For many children, the holidays re more enjoyable when they have other children their age to play with. But, if they just want to be with you that’s fine too.)
We will go to brunch at _______ .
(Your children’s favorite place. It may have to be McDonalds.)
After brunch we will visit _______ .
(Your mom, dad, sister, aunt, best friend or anyone that brings joy to you and your children).
We will all go together and buy flowers and perhaps some chocolates as a gift for _________.
(Don’t forget chocolates for the kids too!)
After lunch, we can have more friends over – or- a quiet family movie night.
Get the picture? Plan, Plan, Plan for a better (next) Holiday.
Gratitude & Attitude
Gratitude is a way of living that reminds us of our blessings and it is a powerful antidote to depression and anger. Your children learn from your behavior and will copy your gratitude towards them and others. It may be hard to do but find as many things as possible to be grateful for however small they may be.
- Do you have a loving relationship with your children?
- Do you have your good health?
- Are the children healthy?
- Do you have the income to purchase a few holiday gifts, however small?
- Do you have a roof over your head?
Many people are not so fortunate, and your children can be made aware (gently) that others are not as fortunate as they are. Be grateful for your blessings. Share a smile or kind gesture with other less fortunate. Volunteer at a shelter with the children or at a retirement home. You will be rewarded in ways you never expected – physically, emotionally and spiritually! Also, be kind and gentle towards your ex regardless of what has happened. The children are watching you every moment. Remember, you create your own future. Attitude is everything.
Use Holiday Shopping to your Advantage.
You and your children may need new things and the holiday season is a great time to use gift giving to your advantage. Embrace this season as the new start of wonderful things to come and you’ll have much to celebrate in your future with the children. Many parents start by taking the kids shopping for some new things so they’ll have their own personal ”stash” at both houses.
Let each child make some personal selections of bedding, toiletry and clothing items. Little things like new pajamas, underwear, toothbrush, alarm clock, pillow, sunglasses, towels, shampoo, etc. can make a big difference in helping your children feel more at home in your new home or in your ex’s new home.
Shopping together can help your children feel more positive about the transition process. A few new toys, games, DVD’s etc. in this house and a few things at that house, as well as old familiar ones are important at this time of transition. Doing so will show your children that the future doesn’t have to be scary.
Connect with Others and Be Receptive to Support
Take advantage of the holidays to circulate and re-connect with family and friend you may have not seen in a while. It’s natural to pull back from people when we’re going through dark times but it’s also extremely important to get out and connect with people again. Plan some small gatherings with those you care about and accept a few invitations to get out and meet new people. Avoid people who drag you down the memory lane or pry into your private life. Do not go back in time with loved ones. Tell them that you are healing and focusing on a better tomorrow. Pick yourself up and get back into life. You’ll be surprised by the support systems available to you if you need it. You will find that you are never alone in the post-divorce emotions and challenges you are experiencing.
Be receptive to help and it will come to you. Invite others to give you their opinion on how they survived and what the process was like for them. A good therapist, a good friend, a mentor, a divorce support or church group, or a good book on the topic are just few of the tools you can add to your tool box to help you move forward.
You may need to make a call or reach out for guidance or support during the holidays, when you will likely be more prone to think about the painful past. Put together you tool box BEFORE you need it. Write it down, develop it, implement it.
To learn more about how divorce mediation can help your case, contact any of our Divorce Attorney Mediators or Certified Divorce Financial Analysts at CT Divorce Mediation Centers. Divorce and Family Mediation and Collaborative Law are all we do. We have offices in Madison, New Haven, Cheshire, West Hartford, Glastonbury, West Hartford, and Windsor, CT. To find out more information or to schedule a consultation with our divorce experts, call us at (860) 986-1141.
DISCLAIMER:This publication is not meant to constitute legal, accounting, financial, investment advisory, or other professional advice. If legal, financial, investment advisory or other professional assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person such as CT Divorce Mediation center, should be sought.