TOP TIPS for a Solo Holiday Season After Divorce

The first Christmas and New Year after separation or divorce is tough.

It’s a time that can be stressful for any family. It’s easy to get lost in the craziness of finishing work, shopping, catching up with friends and family, focussing on getting everything done, and forget about the joy and lose connection with what and more importantly WHO is most important.

If you have recently gone through a separation or divorce, this time of the year brings with it a whole new set of changes and challenges to negotiate. It’s likely to be a highly emotional and complicated time for newly divorced families. Yes, it’s going to be different, but it can still be meaningful and joyful.

Below are my TOP TIPS for navigating your first holiday season solo.

1. KEEP IT SIMPLE

Don’t try to fit everyone and everything into the one day. You can’t. And all you will do is stress yourself and your kids. No-one will have a good time, least of all you. Keep the day as simple as you can. Minimise your travel on Christmas Day. If you can, keep the kids in one location and get the adults to move in and out of that space. Keep gifts simple, thoughtful and inexpensive. Bake or make if that’s your thing. Give a “voucher” for your time, offering to cook someone dinner, work in their garden. It is perfectly OK to say “I just couldn’t manage gifts this year so here is a raincheck and I’ll do something with or for you when things settle”. Food – pre-cook, outsource, simplify. One dish and a simple salad is perfect. Fish fingers, chicken nuggets and potato gems would do it too.

 

2. GO GUILT FREE.

It’s not likely that you will  manage to please EVERYONE. Don’t try. Do what is best for you and the kids, taking your ex-partner into consideration. Ditch the guilt. It’s the opportunity to say “no thanks, I can’t manage that”.

 

3. CO-OPERATE WITH YOUR EX-PARTNER for the sake of the kids.

Decide together how Christmas will be this year. Just now, it doesn’t need to be written in stone and how it will be forever more. Create a new normal; a new family tradition. Find a way to be a family at Christmas and New Year, albeit a different one. While not always possible, it’s so powerful for the kids if you can make it work. If you can’t, don’t feel guilty (see also No.2). Have this planned out and clearly communicated with everyone who needs to know (especially the kids) well in advance so everyone knows who will be where, with whom and when.

 

4. FOCUS ON PEOPLE AND CONNECTION NOT “STUFF”.

It’s easy to get caught up in either showering kids with extra gifts to make sure they’re happy or the guilt of not being able to afford as much as previous years. Remember point #1 and keep it simple. Focus on being present, connecting, spending time. Choose gifts for the kids that will foster togetherness. Reach out to friends and family. If your kids are with their other parent, don’t spend Christmas alone or, if you do choose to be alone, have a back up plan for if it suddenly seems too lonely.

 

5. TRADITIONS.

Modify a tradition you had as a family or choose to make a new one, that is for just you and your kids. Go somewhere new to choose the tree. Make or buy a new decoration each to hang on the tree or in the house. Choose a decoration for at the other parent’s home. Volunteer your time on Christmas Eve. Eat ice-cream for breakfast on Christmas morning. Find a new way to share time with your kids. If it feels right, invite your ex-partner to be a part of traditions that you have had as a family – decorating the Christmas tree or watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

 

6. FEELINGS

Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up for you. Sure, you might feel sad but it’s also OK for you to feel happy. And it’s OK for your kids to see you feeling both of those emotions. Don’t feel guilty though, for happiness and joy (see No.2)

 

7. SELF CARE

Take care of your heart, mind, body, soul. Christmas and New Year is busy, and stressful even without the added grief and anxiety around recent separation or divorce. Keep yourself as well as you can. Make healthy choices around food and alcohol, sleep, rest and exercise. Take time out when you need. Engage with others when you need. Get outside. Walk barefoot. Give your body, your heart and your mind what’s needed for you to go gently through the holiday season.

 

8. GIFT GIVING

Teach your kids about giving. Buy a present for your ex-partner for them to give him / her, even if it’s not reciprocated. You may include extended family too - grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Let them help choose and write in or make a card for their Dad or Mum. This is not a time to be punitive, resentful or mean. Your kids are watching and learning. Allow them to GIVE to their other parent; teach them that generosity and kindness are important tools of healing.  Give with an open heart. Buy YOURSELF a gift (see also #7).

 

Lastly, be kind to and gentle with yourself. Create a new story. Merry Christmas.

Sallyanne Hartnell