For some families, the holidays are full of stress. While parenting agreements may spell out when children will be with which parent and for how long, they don’t inform how celebrations should occur or what to consider when making new holiday traditions.
The holidays can be magical—even during or after a divorce. For families committed to creating new traditions in their reformulated households, have hope! While it won’t be easy—not much about divorce is easy—it is feasible and worthwhile.
Here are some tips for making new holiday traditions during and after divorce.
Get the Kids Involved
As an integral part of the family, kids should be involved in planning to the extent they are able. Older kids may want to help establish a new tradition, while younger kids can share some of their favorite traditions from the past that can be integrated into your new traditions. Traditions can be as small as reading a particular book every year or as large as a special yearly trip to grandmas. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or toy drive is another way to create some wonderful memories while instilling valuable lessons. What’s important is that you reflect on what will bring the most joy to you and your children that is within the realm of possibility.
Communicate with Your Co-Parent as Necessary
For many, the holiday season is about family. When going through a divorce, discussing the holidays with your soon-to-be-ex is the last thing you may want to do. Same goes for those recently divorced. However, your co-parent will always be part of your children’s family.
Some divorced families continue to celebrate together, especially with younger children. Others may find that discussing gift giving or trip planning before the holidays is helpful for alleviating possible stress down the line. Open communication can help ensure your new traditions aren’t hampered by your former spouse and that both co-parents are able to create the holiday environments they envision within their own homes.
Involve Your Support Network
Extended family members and kind friends can help provide your holidays with just the boost you need. Invite friends and family to celebrate with you or finally accept Cousin Norma’s invite.
Don’t Focus on the Date
You may not have the kids on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holidays together. Some families choose to celebrate on a different day or create an entirely new holiday that is unique to them. For example, if you can’t be together on Thanksgiving, you can still celebrate the spirit of thankfulness on another day by writing about the things in your life that make you grateful. Alternatively, you can host a gingerbread house making contest or Thanksgiving leftover extravaganza. The goal isn’t necessarily to recreate the missed holiday but to craft a new way of being together that is joyful and thoughtful.
Remember Yourself When Making New Holiday Traditions
If the children are with their other parent, it’s ok for you to enjoy your holiday! Plan with friends or family members to get together. There’s no reason you should spend Thanksgiving or Christmas morning alone when the kids are elsewhere. Consider taking a trip or hosting a Friendsgiving event. If you know you’d like to speak to your children during the holiday, communicate with your co-parent and set a time so everyone is clear on expectations.
A divorce can be especially difficult during the holidays. Focusing energy into creating a new holiday tradition can be hard when one is still mourning holidays of years passed. It can also be a huge relief to not have to worry about your former spouse during the holidays and create a tradition that is solely for you and your children. Such a tradition can be a building block for your new life and help show the kids that they are loved and cared for.