The holidays are right around the corner and often can be a very difficult and emotional time if you are going through a divorce or separation, especially if you have children. Managing the many holiday demands including school programs, various events, buying gifts, and helping your children cope with the perceived loss of their family unit, can be overwhelming, onerous, and very emotional. Although it may seem like an insurmountable obstacle, it is possible to enjoy the holidays and create new positive memories for you and your children. Here are some tips for a happier and healthier holiday season amidst your divorce or separation:

H – Have a plan. Think ahead, discuss and create a holiday parenting time schedule with the other parent at the commencement of the proceeding. This will help you avoid any miscommunications or misunderstandings with regard to a holiday schedule and will help reduce the stress of the logistics and any travel plans. It is important to remember to be flexible and open to compromise as long as the plan is fair and in the best interests of your children. If you discuss this at the onset of your divorce or separation and you are unable to agree on a schedule, you may seek the assistance of a parenting time coordinator, counsel, mediator, or judge, hopefully in advance of the holiday. Plans, the knowing when and where, are also highly beneficial for your children and their well-being. Having a plan will inevitably reduce the stress of a new holiday schedule for both you and your children.

O – Occupy your time. Don’t spend the holidays alone. Rather, structure your time wisely. Make plans with people you care about, offer to volunteer in your community, start that home improvement project you have been putting off, do something valuable with your time and help those in need. Don’t focus on what the holidays were like in the past. Instead focus on what can be and fill your time with positive people and events.

L – Lean on friends and family. Often people tend to pull away from family and friends when going through a divorce, especially during the holiday season. Holidays are meant to be shared together so lean on your family and friends for support during this difficult time. Do not be afraid to ask for help and do not go through the holiday season alone. Having the support of your family and friends will help you cope with your divorce or separation especially during the holiday season.

I – Introduce new traditions.  Traditions will inevitably change during a divorce. View this as an opportunity to create new positive memories with your children and loved ones. Do not try to live up to expectations of previous holidays – enjoy making new ones! Allow your children to come up with ideas for celebrating and establishing new traditions that exemplify unity and love. Don’t let your kids see you lamenting in what has changed and not enjoying the holidays; rather, let your children see you embrace and enjoy new holiday traditions. This can be a simple storybook, game, scavenger hunt, movie, baking holiday cookies together, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or your own version of an elf on a shelf. Don’t strive for perfection but rather keep an open mind and embrace whatever your new holiday looks like.

D – Ditch the competition. Divorced or separated parents often have a sense of guilt and attempt to out-do the other parent during the holidays by buying extravagant gifts for their children. This so-called competition between the parents can get rather ugly and ultimately have a negative impact on the children. Children appreciate your time and attention more than “stuff” and you ultimately want what is best for your children so do not try to be the “better” parent; you are wonderful and your children love you just as you are. Do not lose sight of what really matters.

A – Alter your mentality. This can be challenging but try to alter your mentality and cooperate with your ex. Be flexible, realistic and grateful. Try to avoid focusing on what once was or what you have lost; doing so will only leave you with a sense of sadness and deprivation. Rather, focus on all that you have to be grateful for and your action plan to achieve good, new things. If that is your focus, you will find that positive opportunities and people will present themselves. Be grateful for your children, your support system of friends and family and an opportunity to start over. Ultimately, if your children see you happy they will be happy.

Y – Your health matters. An impending divorce may very well cause high levels of stress and during the holidays that often only intensifies. It is important to remember to take care of yourself physically and mentally. Get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy (of course a few of your favorite holiday treats is okay), and get enough support and interactions with the people you care about. Drowning in your sorrows by drinking too much alcohol or overeating/overindulging will inevitably only cause more problems. Create ways to take breaks, whether it is watching your favorite holiday movie, or going for a walk. Be mindful of self-care and preserve your personal wellness. An added benefit? Your children will observe you taking care of yourself and will likely be inspired to do the same.

If you implement these HOLIDAY tips during your divorce or separation you will find it helps reduce the stress and ultimately will help your children cope with a new family dynamic. Wishing each of you a happier and healthier holiday season.

About the Author:

Kristyn Recchia is an associate attorney in Dickinson Wright’s Troy office. Her broad range of services include divorce, complex property settlements, parenting time and grand-parenting time, child and spousal support, business valuation issues, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, change of domicile, custody, personal protection orders, Friend of the Court matters, enforcement and post-judgment matters. She can be reached at 248-205-3240 or krecchia@dickinson-wright.com and you can visit her bio, here.