Preserving Your Family’s Future

Handling Holiday Family Stress After Divorce

>>> My ex-husband and I were married for 16-years and we have two amazing children.  We recently finalized a very contentious divorce and agreed to share custody of our children.  Not only are we still working through emotions and financial details, but I am very worried about how to handle the holidays with our children. How should I handle it?

First of all, I would take a deep breath and realize that believe it or not, the worst is behind you. I know when you are involved in the process of getting divorced, that the holidays (and all the millions of those details) are not something that most people really think through in-detail. Most people think about dates and times, but the actual execution of these events take a little more planning and most importantly a shift in YOUR expectations. It’s important for you to develop coping strategies well in advance of these major holiday events like Thanksgiving, Passover, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s.  These times can naturally intensify feelings of sadness and loss if you don’t get ahead of them. Even if your family holidays aren’t exactly the same as they have always been, the great news is we all have choices in the type “lens” we look through and especially how we portray these new and meaningful transitions to your children. Here are a couple strategies for enjoying the holidays (rather than dreading them).

- Traditions. Out with the Old and In with the New... For most of us, “traditions” are “traditions” simply because it’s what we have always done. Many times, those things happen because we don’t sit down and think about whether they even still make sense for our families. Transitioning to a divorced family means that you can create new traditions that work for your family. No mater what your traditions were, try to accept that these have come to an end but embrace the opportunity start new ones. Have a friends “my favorite things” gift exchange, plan a kids Christmas cookie decorating contest with Facebook voting, or even schedule a spa day just for you on the day after Christmas. Who knows? These new traditions could be your best memories.

- Accept the Schedule but Keep Sentiment. I know it’s so hard realizing that some years you won’t spend the “actual day” of a particular holiday with your children as you share them with their other parent. While this can be upsetting, I promise that everything has a silver lining. Your kids won’t mind celebrating the holiday on a different “day”. They get to do all the fun things TWICE. If you always watch the Thanksgiving Day parade with them, record it and play it on the weekend you get them back. Make plans to have holiday celebrations in advance. Any day even close to the holiday will be perfect.  Your kids will remember it the same as if you were all together on the actual day.  And remember, when it’s time to send them to their other parent’s home, keep your emotions together and remind them what a great time they will have and that you are going to be just fine.

The most important thing I can tell you is to remember that the holidays tend to fly by. Before you know it, you’ll be making snow cream on a random day in January and making plans for spring break. So, despite the difficulty of your life right now, try not to wish away the holidays. Instead, embrace them for what they are: A time for feeling gratitude, celebrating loved ones, and of course, believing.  

Candi Peeples has earned a reputation as a leader among family law attorneys in Alabama and the U.S.  She brings her experience, focus and passion for excellence to each client she represents.

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