Navigating the complexities of divorce is a challenge even in amicable breakups. The holidays can compound stress and anxiety especially when children are involved. Create a season of joy with the intention to break away from the drama of divorce for the sake of your children and your own mental wellness.
Take Control of Your Actions
The holidays are not a time for fighting. Call your own internal truce and refuse to engage in any negativity with your ex. Abolish tit-for-tat. If your ex is not willing to take these steps, you can still choose to keep the peace. Simply do not go there.
Simply Smile at Aggressive Texts and Emails – You cannot control the behavior of your ex, but you can control how you respond. Stop. Breathe. Smile knowing that you are in control of yourself and that you have set your boundary and will not be enmeshed in nasty communications.
Radically Take Care of Yourself – Take on only what you believe you are able to manage and no more. Be prepared to say ‘no’ to invitations that exceed your bandwidth. Choose wisely for yourself to travel or to host. Implement and stick to self-care habits including a good night’s sleep, eating well, and exercise. Fortify your mind with walks, books, and quiet time. My two favorite books are the Bible and The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy.
Give Yourself a Gift – This season don’t forget that really important person in your life – YOU! Head to the salon for a new hairstyle, manicure, or pedicure. Take the day off to have lunch with a friend. On a budget? Snuggle up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, or meet your friend in the park with a brown bag lunch. Do something special for yourself!
Don’t Do it Alone – The holidays are not a time for self-isolation. Avoid falling into that emotional black hole by surrounding yourself with a strong network be it family, friends, school, or church. Lean into a licensed counselor if you are having trouble coping, and do the same for your child.
Create Lasting Holiday Memories
Divorce is hard on children as they grapple with emotions of ‘why’. Focus on relevant celebrations that bring you and your children together.
Decorate the House – Pull out your favorite decorations and throw a festive party with your child. Create new traditions such as baking cookies, threading popcorn garland, or making gingerbread houses. Play holiday music and dance around the house. Ask your child for ideas and include them as part of the planning.
Be Flexible – Your child may want to spend time with the other parent and flexibility is key. Depending on your divorce agreement, you may trade off holidays or share each holiday. Encourage your child every step of the way and forgo any guilt trips. If you do not spend the actual holiday with them, schedule a ‘special celebration’ before or after.
Manage Your Emotions – Don’t give place to negative thoughts and negative self-talk. On purpose, think about good things. Think about the gratitude you have for your children. Think about the gratitude you have for your family and your friends that have become your family. If you need to cry and if you need to feel sorry for yourself, give yourself a time limit. For example, give yourself two weeks to grieve the loss of what was and then mentally move on. Understand it is okay to give yourself time to be hurt, to be angry, and to be disappointed. The emphasis is on time, setting a time and date.
Consider the Whys – Thoughtfully consider why you would badmouth your ex-spouse to your children, and their other parent. Ask yourself why you would engage in the Spanish Inquisition when your children return from your ex or soon-to-be ex-spouse. There is no good reason for interrogating your children after their visit with the other parent. Thoughtfully consider why you would send menacing emails or texts complaining about why the children were tired in the morning because your ex didn’t put them to bed on time. There is no good reason for launching criticism of your ex via email and text.
Keep it Simple – Guilt is the quickest way to get caught up in the more-is-more frenzy. Spouses may compete to see who can buy more gifts or more expensive gifts. Don’t let the materialism of the holidays cause you to forget what the season is about. Set reasonable expectations for gift-giving and focus on quality time with your child.
Children become adults and what stays with them are memories, not things. Use this holiday season to create new memories that carry you and your children forward. Divorce during the holidays does not have to mean that every holiday thereafter will be a time of sorry. You alone have the power to make the choice for how you will approach the holidays.
Let Me Be Your Brave!
Mia Poppe, Esq.
Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC.