The holidays are here. While most of us enjoy the joy of the season, for those going through or recently having gone through a divorce it can be a freighting challenge. If you are a single adult, you will manage as you have all the trials this far. It may be hard, but life has handed you disappointments, pain, and trials before and you are still standing. This season will be no different because a the divorce. You will still be standing when the calendar page turns to reveal 2021. However, if you are a newly (or soon to be) divorced parent, it will be more difficult.
Is there a right way?
Yes. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle this major change for yourself and your children. In fact, there are many right ways, and wrong ways. The way that works for you and allows you and your family to function and grow is the right way for you. It is up to you to find that way.
Focus on this or that?
Here is the first hurdle. This is the first time you are going to Christmas as a family of three or Hanukkah in your new house. You want it to be great. You want to give your kids the happiest holiday in the history of holidays. How do you do that? Let’s take a look at some options. But first, you need to stop and consider a few things.
- Consider the children’s ages. If they are under 10 or so, they will adapt to a different holiday menu, tree, or tradition easily. Why? Because they have not been around to know what a tradition is. They probably will still ask for “daddy” or “mommy” Just as they will not just on Christmas but as they will most nights. Have a plan (Facetalk or Skype) and do not make a big deal of it. If they are older than that, they know what they want. Ask them. Consider what you want and come up with a compromise.
- Have a lot of events planned that you could afford and a calendar that goes right through the new year. Call this your escape plan. This is for when the plan you had exploded leaving the three of you in tears and you wanting to shove a candy cane up someone’s nose, you have a plan B.
- Do not spend more than you can afford. You cannot depend on anyone helping you out. Yes, the expense is for the kids, but a lot of ex-spouses are jerks.
Now let’s talk about the focus of the holiday. Of course, you want the focus of the holiday to be your children. Or do you? Most parents believe they do. They work their fingers to the bone making Christmas cookies, homemade ornaments, taking the kids to the parades, light-shows, and decorating. If the children are young enough, they don’t get it. Of course, they love lights until something else gets their attention. (Like trying to make them sit on a fat man in a red suit who is yelling, HO HO HO.) In a very little while, Christmas becomes their new normal when they are under two years old.
When the children are a bit older, they love every minute of it. They get tired and if it goes on too long they really want to watch regular TV and eat anything that doesn’t have peppermint in it. But you are being rewarded by this extreme Christmasing. You are taking up the slack. You are giving everything you’ve got to your kids. You are the awe of your girlfriends, co-workers, family, and friends. When you and your children are invited to a Christmas party (and you are invited to every Christmas party) it ends with you surrounded by women dabbing their eyes with tissue telling you how wonderful you are. Your self-esteem is on full, you return home and live another day in Winter Wonderland.
When your children are pre-teens, they are old enough to tell you what they want to do and what they want to do. If you show them the respect to let that happen, then your children really are your focus. That doesn’t mean you can’t put up a tree even if they don’t want to help or you have to miss the Dirty Santa swap at Aunt Charlotte’s house. But, allow them to enjoy what they enjoy. If not, be prepared to be exposed.
At this age, your children will probably tell you some things that you may not know and probably won’t want to hear. You are using them and Christmas to draw attention to yourself. You want the title of Super-Mom. You need the Dumped Mom of the Decade award. You love to wear your little red dress and say, “I just do it for my children.” This is the Christmas your kids call on that.
You Will Be Fine. Don’t let divorce ruin your Christmas
The main thing you need to remember is, you can do this. You have already done the hard part. You brought the children into the world. You have done what it takes to provide a stable and happy home. This year is just one year of many. You will do some things right and some things you will choose not to do again. Just remind everyone in your life that the adults have to be adults and let the kids be kids. If you can pull that off, everything else is easy.