The holidays come with a lot of expectations, especially for parents with young children. By the time kids reach middle school or high school, their holiday wishes likely involve technology that they want or parties they hope to attend.
For younger children, all of the holiday magic comes from parental effort. Decorations, meals and music may all play roles. When you already have the stress and emotional trauma of a divorce on your plate, trying to make the holidays special for your children may seem like an insurmountable obstacle.
The right perspective and planning can help make your first holiday season after a divorce or separation a joyful one for everybody.
Make sure the focus is primarily on the children
One of the easiest ways to let the holiday season drag you down is for you to think about how it is different than last year or how you’re the only divorced family member attending the gathering.
Rather than wallowing in your emotions, acknowledge them and try to keep your focus on what makes your kids happy. That second-hand joy you experience as they open the perfect present or snuggle up with Grandma while watching their favorite holiday film can be just as powerful as the joy of receiving the perfect gift yourself.
Communicate openly and frequently with your ex
You obviously want this year to be a holiday season for you and the kids. You have the opportunity to make some changes to your traditions now that you don’t have to factor in your ex’s preferences anymore.
While you make those plans, it’s important that you share at least the basics with your ex. Letting them know where you will travel, when you will celebrate and what gifts you will give the children can help you avoid scheduling or gift-giving overlaps that diminish the holiday experience for the children.
Understand that the holidays don’t have to be perfect to be magical
It can take a lot of effort and money to pull off a perfect holiday gathering, so you need to extend yourself a little of that holiday grace by reducing your own expectations. You can make a holiday that feels magical happen without spending an entire weekend decorating the house or blowing your budget on food and presents.
There will be more time constraints and financial concerns this holiday season because of the divorce, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the holidays. Setting realistic expectations for yourself will allow you to enjoy the outcome of your efforts instead of finding reasons to feel things aren’t good enough. Your children will pick up on your feelings, so finding a way to enjoy the holidays yourself can boost their experience as well.
Adjusting to shared custody after divorce can be difficult, but it does not have to destroy your holidays this year.