How to Handle the Holidays when you are Getting a Divorce

The holidays can be a tough time for many people, and going through a divorce during the holidays can make it even tougher. If you adapt a few strategies, you can make this season a new beginning following your divorce rather than an ending.

Plan ahead: The holidays are a busy and chaotic time, so you cannot assume that old traditions will necessarily be the same this year due to your pending divorce. Think about what you are grateful for and how you want to spend this season of thankfulness and giving. You have plenty of people who care about you, so do not be afraid to reach out for Thanksgiving, Christmas or other holidays plans just because your customary plans may not be available to you due to your pending divorce. If you always spend Christmas dinner with your in-laws, that most likely will not be an option this year. Find someone else to enjoy Christmas dinner with, but be aware that the holidays are a very busy time so adopting new traditions takes advanced planning.

Communication is key: A divorce is a huge transition, so you cannot make any assumptions about how you, your soon-to-be former spouse, or your children will be spending the holidays this year. If you are trying to schedule multiple and separate holidays with both sets of grandparents or other extended family, communicate with your co-parent clearly and directly about plans and with plenty of notice, to help avoid confusion.

Put Your Children First: Divorce is very emotional, and it can be easy to get so caught up in the fighting and stress of litigation, that children sometimes feel lost in the shuffle. Absent unusual circumstances, it is good for children to have quality time with both parents, even during or after a divorce, so when you are making your plans, keep your children at the forefront of your mind.

Practice Self-Care: That old saying about putting your oxygen mask on yourself first applies more than ever during the holidays! The holidays can be a very stressful time in general, and then add that to getting divorced, one of the most stressful life events you can experience, and you have a recipe for poor mental and emotional outcomes during this season. Your self-care strategies are more important than ever if you are getting divorce during the holidays, including avoiding excess alcohol, getting enough sleep, eating nourishing foods, and getting some joyful movement and sunlight every day.

Set Healthy Boundaries: When you are going through a divorce, you may not have the bandwith to do all the things your normally do. You may be experiencing financial difficulty due to splitting your finances and separating households, so you may not be able to purchase as many gifts as in the past. You may feel so stressed and overwhelmed that you can’t host a dinner for 20 people or make cookies for the entire class, and that is OK! Don’t be afraid to say no to obligations and honor your own needs.