As a newly divorced or separated parent, deciding how to split up the holiday with your ex can add an extra layer of grief and heartache onto an already traditionally stressful time of year.
It’s a time of year that “should” feel magical and special—but instead it’s all too easy to get caught up in memories of past holidays, and seeing everyone else’s seemingly perfect Instagram moments on social media can just make it worse.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make it easier to navigate the holiday season and make things easier on yourself and your kids.
1) Make the magic happen on your schedule
One of the first things I did with my kids after my divorce was talk with them about how a holiday doesn’t have to happen on a specific day, just because the calendar says so.
What makes a holiday special is spending time with your kids and loved ones—and those experiences don’t have to be dictated by a specific time or date! In fact, creating “off-holiday” celebrations with extended family or friends is common in many families, whether divorce is part of the equation or not.
So if you can’t celebrate the holiday with your kids on the day the calendar says it should be, because of work, your custody schedule, or something else, it’s important to remember that a holiday is really just another day, and it’s the people and our intentions that make it memorable.
2) Decide on a holiday schedule early and how pick ups and drop offs will be handled
If you have a parenting plan, you might already have a schedule in place. And if not, try to prioritize making a schedule early in the month—before you get overwhelmed by thinking about gifts and the needs of other people. Knowing what to expect can go a long way toward making things easier.
Also remember that if you have a split schedule, you don’t have to change it just because your ex requests it. If changing the schedule would allow your kids to spend time with a beloved family member that they might otherwise not see, you may decide that changing the schedule is worth it. But remember to take care of yourself in this process and make sure you are getting the time you are entitled to with your kids.
3) Schedule self-care and engaging activities for yourself
Regardless of how amicable your relationship with your ex is, if you have a split custody schedule there is inevitably going to be some time during the holiday season that you spend without your kids.
Those hours are an excellent time to engage in self-care, spend time on activities that you want to do, or volunteer your time for a cause. Thinking about what you’d like to do ahead of time can be a saving grace. Is there a book or movie you’ve had on your read or watch list for a while? Maybe you schedule a long overdue walk with a girlfriend or other loved one. Or perhaps you spend some time volunteering for a cause you love. I can speak from experience when I say that seeing a smile on someone else’s face as a result of your work can light another smile on your own.
The point of deciding ahead of time on how you will handle the holiday season is to not let yourself drift aimlessly or find yourself stuck on what to do. While there is definitely a time and place for quietness and reflection, the holiday season is often not the best time for that.
Are you newly separated or divorced, and learning how to navigate the holiday season? I’d love to help you be successful in this and in other aspects of your new life. Follow me on Instagram for more tips and information, or reach out to me for one-on-one support through the holiday season.