Surviving the Holidays Part III: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, and New Years
The Winter holidays; Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali and New Years, can be very difficult, especially if you are newly separated or divorced. The thought of celebrating the holidays may seem impossible and even depressing, especially if your children will not be with you. Your first instinct may be to isolate yourself from friends and family, but you should try to embrace the holidays as best you can. Accept invitations to parties, or plan your own holiday party. If you are feeling overwhelmed, set limits so friends and family know what you are capable of doing during the holiday season.
In his article, Your First Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa since Divorce, Brian Galbraith lists ten things you can do to make your holiday special. Below are the top five, with suggestions on how you can implement them. To read the full article, click here.
1. Ensure your schedule is specific: If you have children and you have not addressed the holidays with your former spouse or soon to be ex-spouse, now is a good time to begin discussing a holidayIf you already have an Agreement or Court Order, you should review the holiday schedule to make sure you know when the children will be with you and if details need to be worked out, resolve them now rather than later when the stress of the holiday season can make negotiating difficult.
2. Don’t fight over which days you have your children: There are many options for holidayFor those who celebrate Christmas, one option is for one parent to have the children for Christmas Eve and the other parent to have the children Christmas Day. Think about when exchanges will take place taking into consideration what will work best for your children. Because Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali are multiple day holidays, parents often celebrate these holidays when they have the children on their regular access days. However, for some, it is important to have the children on a particular night of the holiday. While you may not be able to have, for example, the first night of the holiday every year, you may agree to alternate. Try to treat your ex-spouse the way you would want to be treated, even if the behavior is not reciprocated.
The specific holidays are not the only issue to think about. Most children are off from school between Christmas and New Years. You should consider who will be with the children during Winter Break. If you typically go out of town to visit relatives, or for vacation, you may need to discuss if this is possible now that their time may be divided between both parents. If neither of you have off from work, childcare is an issue you may need to discuss. If you are having difficulty agreeing on a holiday schedule consider meeting with a divorce mediator or a divorce attorney to assist you with negotiating an amicable resolution.
3. Do something special for yourself: Exercise, yoga, and even meditation are great ways to reduce stress and feel good about yourself during the busy holidayInvite some friends over for dinner or suggest you go out to celebrate the season. Catch up on movies you’ve wanted to see or books you’ve been planning to read.
4. Support your children: Do not speak poorly about the time your children spend with their other If you feel you need to vent, call a friend or your therapist.
5. Create new traditions: Recognize that it may not be possible to maintain your past traditions. If you do not have your children on Christmas Day or the first night of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, it is okay to celebrate on anotherYour children will be happy to be with you, regardless of the calendar date, especially if you plan and schedule your festivities so everyone has something to look forward to. Here are a few ideas for creating new traditions:
a. Plan a holiday movie marathon with popcorn and hot
b. Create a CD or I-pod playlist with holiday music.
c. Have dinner and then drive around to see the holiday lights andYou can visit nearby neighborhoods or go to some of the organized light displays in our area.
d. Attend a Holiday show, such as theThere are so many options in our area to suit any budget.
e. Take your children shopping so they can pick out a gift for their otherYou can also purchase supplies and have the children make a gift for their other parent, as well as grandparents, friends, and other family members.
Remember, anything can be a special event if you keep a positive attitude. The best gift you can give your children and yourself is the gift of peace and joy this holiday season.
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.
Surviving the Holidays When You Are Newly Separated or Divorced:
Part I: Halloween
Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season. If you are going through a divorce, or already divorced, the holidays may bring additional anxiety. This three part series will provide some tips on surviving the holiday season.
For the separated or divorced parent, holiday time with your children is shared between you and your ex-spouse or separated spouse. Halloween is a difficult holiday to divide between parents for trick or treating because of the limited length of time of the trick or treating event. If going trick or treating together as a family is not an option, the holiday is likely to be alternated between parents each year, or in many families the holiday is not specifically addressed in an Agreement or Judgment and the children are with whichever parent happens to have the children on that day of the week according to the regular access schedule.
Even if you don’t have your children for trick or treating there are many ways to celebrate and create Halloween traditions with your children in the weeks and days leading up to the actual holiday. New Halloween traditions might include an annual trip to the pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins off the vine, apple picking, and/or hosting a pumpkin carving or decorating party that could be just for you and your kids or include friends and family. Some other things you could do include, making a pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds or other holiday treats from scratch, attending a Fall Festival, having a holiday themed movie night, allowing your kids to select the treats you will hand out to neighborhood kids or anything else that interests you and your children that you can share together and do year after year. For some ideas of events happening in the D.C. area click here.
If you have not addressed Halloween with your ex-spouse or separated spouse, now is a good time to figure out a plan. If you think you will need assistance reaching an amicable resolution, you might want to consult a divorce mediator or divorce attorney so you and your children can enjoy Halloween stress free.