Surviving the Holidays When You Are Newly Separated or Divorced:
Part II: Thanksgiving
Halloween is over and now your focus turns to Thanksgiving. If you are newly separated or divorced, the thought of changing your Thanksgiving traditions or developing a Thanksgiving custody arrangement can be overwhelming. But it does not have to be. With advanced planning you can resolve issues before they become problems, and rather than dwelling on what used to be, you can focus on creating new traditions.
In her article “Your First Thanksgiving after Your Divorce” Dr. Hecker lists techniques for coping with your first Thanksgiving after divorce. Whether you are newly divorced, just separated, or have been divorced for many years, you may find these tips helpful:
1. Accept your emotions.
2. Don't isolate yourself from others.
3. Make new traditions.
4. Treat your ex with courtesy.
5. Don't put the children in the middle.
6. Give thanks.
If you have children and you do not have an Agreement or Court Order regarding when you will spend time with your children during the Thanksgiving weekend, now is the time to resolve this with your ex-spouse or newly separated spouse. If you are unable to reach a resolution on your own you may want to contact a divorce mediator or divorce attorney for assistance.
There are many different scenarios that can be arranged to make the weekend work for you and your family. For example, one parent might have the children at the beginning of the day for an early Thanksgiving meal and the other parent would have the children late in the day for an evening Thanksgiving meal. Another option is for one parent to celebrate with the children on Thanksgiving Day and for the other parent to celebrate with the children on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
Many newly divorced or separated parents do not have young children; however family gatherings continue after the children turn 18. If both you and your ex-spouse or newly separated spouse are invited to spend Thanksgiving with one of your adult children, it is important to set ground rules. If there are certain topics that will cause stress or tension, agree to avoid those topics. Be respectful of one another and focus on your children and/or grandchildren rather than your former spouse. If you do not think you can cope with celebrating the holiday together, you can suggest that it might be less stressful if you joined the family for leftovers on Friday. Or, you can agree to rotate which parent spends the holiday with your adult child. Click here to read the full article, Tips for Adult Children of Divorce at Thanksgiving.
Creating new traditions is a great way to focus on the future. Some ideas include having family or friends for the meal, going to a parade, having a turkey picnic, volunteering, or doing something else that interests you and your children. Giving thanks at this time in your life might seem impossible, but now is the perfect time to practice gratitude. Helping those that are less fortunate can lift your spirits and might even spark new traditions. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, participating in a turkey trot, or helping prepare a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless, are just a few ways you can get involved. Click here for a list of volunteer opportunities in the DC Metro area.