The holidays are upon us once more! For most people, this festive season is a time of family, joy, and celebration. However, when you’re going through a divorce or celebrating your first holiday after a separation, you may have a very different experience, and it can often be difficult to stay positive.
Even if you’ve always been a holiday season enthusiast, divorce can put a damper on almost any experience. After all, it’s hard to truly embrace the spirit when your mind is filled with things like spousal maintenance agreements and visitation rights.
Dealing with divorce during the holidays isn’t easy, but it can be done. The following advice will help to make sure that you get through the season with as little heartache as possible:
Be Patient with Yourself
During the holidays, the flood of feel-good movies, family-portrait Christmas cards, and the like can make you feel intense pressure to be part of the perfect family. Unfortunately, when you’re in the middle of a separation or getting used to life after divorce, it’s difficult to fit in with those old-fashioned expectations of what the holidays should look like.
Holding yourself to unreasonable standards during this time will only make it harder to cope. No one who cares for you expects you to plaster a smile on your face through the season and ignore what’s going on around you. The people who love you will understand that you’re grieving some significant losses, and they’ll give you the patience, grace, and space you need. In turn, remember to be patient with yourself, too.
Accept the tears, the pain, and the feelings of anger that may emerge during the holidays and recognize that all of your feelings are completely normal.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
A divorce or separation can make you feel as though your life is falling apart. When this happens, it’s tempting to shut yourself in and avoid the other people in your life. Perhaps you’re worried about people seeing you when you’re not your best, or you’re concerned about being a burden to your family. This is an understandable worry, but the worst thing you can do during a time of pain is to force yourself to be alone with your thoughts.
Both during and after a divorce, spending the holidays with family and friends reminds you that you haven’t lost everything that matters to you. Make plans with the people you love most and allow them to form the crucial support network you need during this complicated time.
Plan Visitation Schedules
Keeping things in perspective during this season is important. You need to be realistic with yourself and summon the emotional clarity to step back and put your children first. Arguments about who should have the kids during Christmas or New Year’s will only make the experience stressful for everyone involved. The most productive thing you can do for your kids is attempt to share the joy evenly between you and your ex. Collaborate together to create a visitation schedule that you can both live with.
Your kids are always going to remember the time they spend with each parent during this season. They need you now, perhaps more than ever before, to show them that their lives aren’t falling apart as a result of the divorce. Children crave consistency during a divorce, and it’s important to show them that they can still experience the magic of the holidays. What’s more, nothing is better for the soul than sharing laughter and excitement with your kids.
Know Your Triggers
You have to do what feels right for you when it comes to managing your stress during the holidays. For some people, taking care of themselves means cutting some of the “to-do’s” from their list of festive prep work so that they have more time to spend on themselves. For others, it’s a process of finding the triggers that make them feel their worst and avoiding them at all costs.
Make a note of anything that makes you feel depressed, overwhelmed, or hopeless. Sometimes the smallest thing, like a certain TV ad, can unexpectedly flip the switch on your emotions. If you know what’s going to cause you the most suffering during the holiday season, you can take steps to avoid it. For instance, change the channel when the ad that upsets you comes on. If you can’t avoid exposure to your triggers, try imagining a scenario that makes you feel at peace, like watching your kids unwrap their presents or sitting by the ocean.
Start New Traditions
Many families have a set of traditions that they follow every year during the holidays. You may always watch a particular movie on Christmas Eve, make a certain dish, or go caroling around the neighborhood. You don’t have to force yourself to continue those traditions during or after a divorce. Pushing yourself to re-live those experiences may be unnecessarily painful and impede healing.
Give yourself a break and consider developing some new traditions that are all about your new life and what you need. For example, if your ex will have the kids over a certain holiday, you could consider taking a vacation where you can relax, unwind, and take your mind off what’s going on at home. If you’re limited on cash, make some free or inexpensive plans with your friends, like ice skating, walking outside, or taking in a movie.
Handling divorce at any time of the year is never easy, and the pressure of the holidays can compound the stress even more. The important thing to remember is that you need to look after yourself. For many fathers, the first step in self-care is contacting a lawyer that can help you understand your rights and protect your best interests during a separation. Call Father’s Rights today to ensure you have the support you need.