If you are in the middle of a divorce or recently survived the storm facing the holidays may make you seem a little blue. It might be the first time you have not had your children on Thanksgiving. You might find it hard to sing “Joy to the World“. Maybe those Christmas tunes you always love make your heart ache. So what do you do, climb back into bed and wait for January? Of course not. While it may be difficult now the holidays can still be a time of joy. Here is a short list of things to do and think about that might help you get through the holidays and maybe even start to enjoy them.
1. Start new traditions. Yes, you and your spouse might have always gone to his parents on Thanksgiving day or maybe as a couple you celebrated Christmas Eve by staying up late with eggnog and setting out the Santa gifts. While you can’t do these exact things anymore you can start new traditions that will eventually feel as old and familiar as these do.
2. It’s OK to cry. There I said it. You might need a private moment to let the tears go and it is ok. No one said divorce is easy. Don’t be too hard on yourself during the holidays. It’s ok to take a break from all the hubbub and sit out a few events. Just don’t crawl in bed and stay there until spring. You might miss out on some moments of joy.
3. Take joy in the moment. Joy is different from happiness I think in that you create it yourself. People may on occasion make you happy. You make your own joy. Enjoy the small moments: watching your children singing songs, laugh when they can’t seem to tear the wrapping paper off the gift, breathe in the delicious smells of home cooking….
4. Keep the kids out of the fight. Children feel most secure when they know that parents place their welfare, both emotional and physical, at the top of their list of priorities (Karen,1994). Remember this is the different for them, too. Be generous with your ex spouse. Share holiday time with the children.
5. Be flexible. This may be the hardest of all the things in the list and it also might be the most important. Remember Christmas doesn’t have to be celebrated on Christmas day. Remember your children may want to hold onto the old traditions that they are comfortable with. It’s ok to do a little bit of both. Be flexible about who you include in your holiday celebrations. If you’ve always had the in-laws for dinner there is no rule that says they can’t come this year.
Remember the most important part of the holidays is spending time with family. This time of year is not about dates or stuff but about getting to share with the ones we love.