7 Tips For Surviving The Holidays as a Divorced Parent
As a follow-up from my last blog-post on “5 Tips For Parenting After A Divorce”, I thought it would be appropriate to do a holiday specific post to help out that newly divorced parent during this time of the year.
Whether you're traveling or staying local, the holidays can be super stressful and chaotic for any parent. But for a family that has been through a divorce, it can be even more stressful as a parent, trying to juggle everyone's emotions, needs, wants and expectations. It’s like your a piece of gum that is being stretched and stretched to test how far it can go. Eventually it gets floppy and it’s no longer good. The worst feeling in the world is to feel like everything you’ve worked so hard to build is coming crashing down at the most opportune time—the holidays. So don’t be stretched out or limp. The key to surviving this is to maintain a level of balance.
I like acronyms; it helps me to remember things instantly in the heat of the moment. And when my first holiday season came around as a newly divorced parent, in the heat of the moment when all the emotions came flooding in, I kept saying to myself BALANCE, Kim. It was that simple!
Let me break down the word balance:
B - Brace yourself. Being without your child for any significant of time, especially during the holidays, is very hard. Accept this new normal and be prepared for the roller coaster of emotions YOU may experience. Start reading an inspirational book, pick back up that hobby, or start a devotional to cleanse your heart form this situation. Just don’t be caught off-guard!
A - Acknowledge your child’s emotions. The whole idea of having to split their time up between both parents will be new for them. Start early by having preparatory conversations with your child to ensure questions are answered and doubts are cancelled out. Remind them that they are loved and you and your ex are going to do everything to ensure they are not negatively impacted by this situation.
L - Leave room for flexibility. When planning out the logistics with the other parent, set emotions aside and try to come to an agreement that’s suitable for both parents. This is not the time to be stuck in your own way on how you like to do things. The meet-up time may change, the location may change, they may need to get the child earlier than scheduled. Whatever it is, don’t allow emotions to drive your decision. Try to be reasonable and understanding as best as you can.
A - Address the other parent with respect when you're communicating with them. Allow your child to see that you're both able to be civil and cordial despite the circumstances. And in the event you are thinking “they won’t see that” or “they won’t hear that”, I am living proof that they will. And, let me add, they will comment on it later on at the most awkward time (like while you’re at church). “Thanks little Johnny, for pointing out that mommy was not being kind to daddy yesterday. Thanks a bunch, kiddo.”
N - New traditions for your new family structure. Setting new traditions can be a great activity for you and your child to do. It gives them something to look forward to that is centered around your new family. My daughter and I started by decorating the tree after Thanksgiving. Prior to that, we typically did it whenever, so this was something new to look forward to for her. We added a new tradition every year after that—kept the spirit going.
C - Control your spending. Don’t allow any guilt to drive you to overspend on your child or out-gift the other parent. Depending on your financial situation and the other parent financial situation, this may become a competition. Stop yourself! You can’t buy their love nor do you want them to relate receiving love to material things. Here’s a suggestion: Have your child make a wish-list and go over that list with the other parent. Agree on what to purchase for the child and present the gifts to the child from both of you.
E - Embrace the new you in this situation. Get to know the new you and embrace it. Plan something fun to do while your child is with the other parent. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in any negative emotions. Join a meetup group, see what concerts or plays are going on, and if you are able to, take a day trip to someplace nearby. Just do something! Sitting around moping will not make the situation any better.
A long time ago when everything bad that could happen was happening all at the same time, my dear friend said “Kim, this will all make for a great story one day.” I said “Really? I can’t see how that would ever be possible.” And look at me now, the fact that I have this platform to share my experiences with you proves her statement to be true. So I am passing on the same advice to you—what you’re going through right now will make for a great story one day, but until you get there, remember BALANCE.