While the rest of the world is singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” families of divorce often have a much different tune when the holidays come around.
In fact, navigating the challenges of divorce are somewhat amplified around the end of the year. Feelings of stress, hurt, and frustration often takes root, especially if there are children involved.
But making it to the New Year, although challenging, is possible. In fact, it can even be enjoyable! It just starts with a change in mindset.
Here are 5 ways to handle the holidays in divorced families.
1. Start with a positive mindset
If you have gone through a divorce, especially with children, the holidays can be a challenge. Between coordinating schedules with your former spouse to potentially spending the holidays alone, it can be tough to stay positive. But in order to make it through the holidays, your attitude and mindset have everything to do with how the season turns out.
Easier said than done. But one way to keep your head up is to focus on others, especially those less fortunate than you. I get there are times when you feel like the most unfortunate person around, but you really can survive your divorce and the holidays by being willing to recognize that it could be worse.
Consider volunteering and doing favors for friends and family. When you focus on providing joy to those in need, an amazing thing happens—you forget your troubles and appreciate what you have even more. When the season gets too hard to bear, think of others. Start there.
2. Make a plan
The next step in navigating the holidays is making a game plan.
Although you may not have much else in common with your former spouse, you do have your children. If nothing else, work together to make the holiday season a wonderful experience to them. It may be tough, but not impossible! As long as you and your former spouse are committed to this shared goal, the holidays can be a joyous time for your kids.
One of the ways to have a smooth holiday is to plan ahead. Discuss who gets the kids when and stick to the plan you mutually agree to. As with most things in life, your plan may not go accordingly. Do your best to be patient and flexible when unexpected conflicts arise, but do everything you can to honor and respect your former spouse’s time with the children.
3. Have a consistent routine
Consistency is vitally important in the lives of children. That’s because consistency, or knowing what to expect, to put it another way, provides a sense of security for them. Whereas, inconsistency, or fear of the unknown, causes stress and anxiety. Do your best to keep a consistent routine for your kids, no matter where they are.
In order for this to happen, get in tune with your former spouse on morning, after school, and bedtime routines. Being on the same page is especially important over the holidays when your kid’s routine naturally changes due to school being out. Bedtimes change, screen time privileges are adjusted, sugary treats are more readily available, and sleepovers ensue.
Discuss with your former spouse what will be allowed and when. That way one parent isn’t constantly saying ‘yes’ and the other saying ‘no’. Once you agree on the routine, work to stay true to it.
4. Channel your stress through exercise
As much as you plan and discuss routine, there are bound to be moments of frustration. When you feel yourself becoming stressed or anxious, try your best to minimize those negative emotions with sleep, diet, and exercise.
First, take a look at your sleep hygiene. Are you getting enough sleep? If you are missing out on proper rest, your stress symptoms will be amplified—i.e. you’ll be more irritable and less patient. To keep your stress in check, make sure you have the right performance tools for getting your best sleep—most importantly, your mattress. If your bed is over 10-years old, it could be causing aches and pains that keep you up at night. If that’s the case it might be time for an upgrade. Your sleep is essential to your overall health and well-being, especially during this season.
Next, look at your diet. Did you know there are foods that amplify anxiety symptoms? These foods include caffeine, sugar, and alcohol to name a few. If you are under a lot of stress, try limiting foods that contain these ingredients in your diet. On the contrary, add foods like fatty fish, nuts, eggs, yogurt, and chamomile to your menu which help ease anxiety symptoms.
If all else fails, hit the gym. Due to the release of endorphins during physical activity, exercise is a natural stress reliever. If you are feeling overwhelmed, lace up those sneakers and head to the gym for a sweat sesh.
5. Create new traditions
The holidays are enriched in tradition. But during a season of transition, traditions might be painful or impossible to uphold altogether. We are here to tell you there is nothing wrong with starting new traditions. Decide what traditions you can preserve and the ones you can’t. Keep in mind that creating new traditions with your kids can be one of the best parts of the holiday season!
Lisa is a freelance writer from Raleigh, NC. Having grown up with divorced parents, she is passionate about writing on the topic of the importance of stability in divorced homes.