Surviving the Holidays after Divorce

By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | December 24, 2014

The holiday season is typically a time of great anticipation and excitement. But for those who are in the early stages of transitioning through divorce, the prospect of facing the holidays without your partner or children may cause some anxiety and sadness. It is okay to accept the difficulty of this time of year and acknowledge your loss. But remember, this difficult time won’t last forever. Below are a few practical tips for divorced parents to help you survive the holiday season:

  • Plan ahead. Discuss the schedule with your child’s other parent and be prepared to be flexible if needed
  • Set Boundaries. Find a way to communicate to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year, and what you aren’t. Don’t let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle
  • Develop new holiday traditions and rituals. Creating new, meaningful traditions can foster joy this season and bring families closer together. Try assembling a model airplane, creating a lego wonderland or assembling a jigsaw puzzle
  • Try something completely different. It may be refreshing to try something completely different that will lift everyone’s spirits and serve as a healthy distraction when difficult emotions arise. Consider going roller-skating, hiking, or having a picnic by the beach
  • Help children obtain a gift for the other parent. This communicates to the child your permission to love the other family which greatly reduces fear and tension
  • Build community. Spending time with others in similar situations can help you feel supported and not alone. Consider a potluck dinner or a family outing at a park
  • Treat yourself. Divorce and separation is not easy. Be sure to take time to treat yourself to a massage, a long hot bath or a yoga class
  • Discover economical ways to celebrate. There are several creative and fun ways to celebrate the season without breaking the bank. Have your children make their own greeting cards and decorations. Give cookies or other hand-made crafts as gifts. You can also exchange “IOU’s” such as walking the dog, cooking a nice dinner, or making a date to exercise or see a show
  • Reclaim gratitude. Following a divorce – or any other type of significant life transition it is easy to focus on what has been lost. This is the time to make an effort to consider the things in your life that you are thankful for. Practices such as writing in a journal or sharing with others your gratitude will help reinforce this kind of thinking

One of the most important things is to be gentle and understanding with yourself and your children during this time of adjustment. Change is not only hard for adults, but for children, too. Children are especially likely to express feelings of hurt, confusion, sadness or fear through anger. Try to remain calm and assist your children in identifying healthy outlets to express themselves such as journaling, exercise, or relaxation.

If you find yourself having a difficult time functioning at home or at work due to difficult emotions that arise consider joining a support group or seeking individual therapy to help you develop coping strategies. Meeting with a therapist can help you resolve past hurt and ease resentment so you can get back to feeling more like you again – and enjoying this special time of year.

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