One of the most challenging times of the year after your divorce might be the alone time when your children are visiting their other parent, and you somehow have to figure out how to survive the holidays alone. For many reasons, the first year after your divorce is difficult, and sharing your children with your ex-spouse can make you feel lonely, jealous, or even resentful.
While shared parenting provides children the opportunity to spend time with both of their parents and can enhance a child’s feeling of being loved and a sense of security, holiday time presents unique challenges. Another situation that impacts divorced families is when one or both parents live in different states, and their children rotate holidays with them.
Let’s face it, it’s a challenge for parents to create new traditions and devise a plan to survive the holidays. For the recently divorced parent, the holidays can be an emotional, stressful, and perhaps lonely time of year – especially if they don’t have new traditions and support systems.
Divorced Parents Share Their Experiences During the Holidays
Caitlyn, 45, a single mom, said, “My home felt so empty, you could hear a pin drop after my two kids went to their dads on Christmas morning. Even though we share parenting and have a plan, it still hurts. My family lives 600 miles away, and most of my friends are married. Since my kids were at my house on Christmas Eve, I couldn’t travel even if I felt like it.”
Many divorced parents who share custody with their ex-partner or don’t have visitation with their kids experience loneliness and an intense sense of loss around the holiday season. However, there are ways you can cope with these feelings and get through them with a sense of integrity and solace.
Knowing that you did the right thing by encouraging your children to spend time with their other parents (and you wished them well) can help you survive the holiday season.
Jake, 48, a newly divorced father of two teenagers, said, “Sure, I miss my boys, but it’s also important for them to spend time with their mom, and we rotate holidays. So, I invited a friend over, and we had dinner, which helped pass the time. My kids also called me after they ate dinner to say hello.”
Here are 6 Ways to Survive the Holidays When You’re Alone
Don’t Allow Yourself to Dwell on the Negative and Play the Victim Role
Accept that while it can be hard to be without your kids around the holidays, it will be less painful over time. Further, you can reframe your negative thoughts by substituting positive self-talk. For instance, rather than telling yourself that life has dealt you a bad hand, you can tell yourself, “I am going to see my kids in a few days (or weeks), and I can talk to them on the phone.”
Come Up With a Plan
Enlisting support from family and/or friends when possible is a good idea. Plan to host a small dinner or movie night. You might find that many of your friends are compassionate and may even feel similar feelings over the holidays. Plan a zoom call if it’s impossible to see friends or family in person.
Reach Out to Others
For instance, volunteer at a soup kitchen or visit a friend or a family member you haven’t seen in a long time. Or consider cooking a special meal to serve your kids when you see them (even if you have to freeze it).
Remember to Use Humor
Laughter is one of the best ways to change a negative mood to a positive one. Take time out of every day to de-stress by doing things you all enjoy – listen to music, work on a puzzle, or participate in other fun activities.
Try Something New
Make a list of activities you’re interested in but have never done. Go for a long walk, visit a museum, light a fire in your fireplace, or try a new holiday recipe. Novelty can add spice to our lives.
Create New Holiday Memories With Your Children
Your children probably have tender feelings to deal with during the holiday season. Do your best not to put them in the middle by making them a messenger between their parents or asking them too many questions about their time with their other parents. Be sure never to bad-mouth their other parent. Focus on having fun with your kids whenever you spend time with them, even if it’s not as much time as you would like.
Being divorced around the holidays may bring up unresolved feelings about your breakup. You might find yourself second-guessing yourself and feeling blue over the holidays if you’re separated from your children, even for a short period. The world as you have come to know and experience it is suddenly turned upside down. That’s why it’s essential to focus on positive things and let go of the negative thoughts that keep you from enjoying life.
Being creative and building new traditions and memories of the holidays that will endure the test of time will help you and your kids cope. The holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of stress overload. Don’t forget to communicate with your children creatively, such as through zoom or text. Remember to focus on what is most important – sustaining a positive relationship with your children.