For me, the beginning of autumn means one thing: The holidays are quickly approaching! (My personal favorite…HALLOWEEN!!) And as much fun as the holidays can be, they can also bring on a lot of stress in general, parent or not. Budget, shopping list, parties, decorations, travel….the list goes on. Add kids into the mix, and we have Santa photos, costumes, school parties, baking cookies, to buy or not to buy gifts for teachers, seeing the grandparents, etc. But what about those of us who are navigating the new challenges of co-parenting during the holidays?
Although the holidays can be stressful for any parent, it can be extra stressful for single parents. Although we may miss our children during this time, it is also a great opportunity to start new family traditions of your own. Starting new traditions with your kids this time of year is especially important if you’re divorced. It can be hard to figure out how to do it on your own, so here are a few tips that might help!
Divorce brings major changes into your family life, including how you choose to celebrate the holidays. Most families hold onto some of their old traditions while introducing new ones. However, you go about celebrating the holidays, intentionality is key.
If you’re looking to smooth your transition at holiday time, here are steps you can take with your kids to make the season better for everybody.
1. Arrange for holiday visitation in advance.
Make sure to include a visitation schedule in writing as part of your divorce agreement or parenting plan. You can always make agreed modifications if things change over the years, but this will give you some framework for going forward. Alternating years work best for many people, and it’s an option that should be considered when drafting up these plans, so everyone has clarity on what they’re supposed to do each year!
2. Stay in touch when your kids are away.
Try to let your children have some contact with both parents on important days. Thanks to technology, you can arrange a FaceTime or Zoom call in advance. Video calls are the next best thing to in person.
Keep in mind that depending on the level of conflict between the parents, sometimes no contact can be a healthier and better option FOR THE CHILDREN, but not necessarily the parents. Accepting that can be crucial.
3. Create your own special days.
Take this opportunity to double your fun. If your kids spend this year with their other parent, you can still have your own celebration, just on a different day and in different ways. Remember, it’s the memories that are more important than the days.
One parent may be taking them trick-or-treating this year, but there are always other fun Halloween festivities throughout October. Pumpkin festivals, trunk-or-treats, and carving Jack-O-Lanterns are three ideas.
A favorite Halloween trick I enjoyed doing with my kids was creating a “Ding-Dong-Ditch-Boo-Basket”. Simply fill a black or orange container with candy and treats, and leave it on a neighbor or loved ones’ doorstep. Don’t forget to add an anonymous note. **If you are adventurous, make it a neighborhood game by creating several baskets and encouraging others to pass them on.
“Having two Thanksgiving dinners sucks!”- said nobody. You can make light of the situation and call it “Fakesgiving”. One of my favorite things to do at the dinner table, and especially at Thanksgiving, is to go around the table, as everyone shares the things they are grateful for. It’s proven that the more we focus on what we have, the less we focus on what we don’t have.
CHRISTMAS & HANUKKAH
Luckily, we have more than one day to celebrate these two holidays. Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, there are also eight nights to celebrate the “Festival of Lights”. A few added traditions that could be added to the month of December are:
• Holiday movie marathon
• Baking cookies or hosting a cookie exchange
• Looking at holiday lights
• Instead of fancy attire, opt for wearing ugly sweaters
• Wearing matching holiday-themed PJ’s
• Writing and send letters to Santa
• Adopting an Elf on a Shelf or Mensch on a Bench (BEWARE: These creatures of mischief are a delight one day, but can be frustrating to parents the next. Proceed with great caution!)
4. Coordinate gift giving and spending.
You or your ex-spouse may feel tempted to spend too much to compensate for the disruptions in your children’s lives or to outshine the other parent. DO NOT DO THIS!!!! Try to find common ground on gift giving, so you can stick to your budgets and avoid creating resentments. You may still be able to pool your funds for big-ticket items like bikes and electronics.
Remember, we want to demonstrate to our children that the holidays are not about gifts, but more about sharing time and traditions with those we love.
5. Radiate good cheer.
Put up a positive front for your kids. Reassure them that you’re in control of the situation and are making arrangements for everyone to have a good time. Kids can feed off our anxieties and if they think we are sad, they can sometimes take that on as guilt of their own.
Steps That Ease Your Own Transition… and Create personal Traditions
Being a single parent also means we get less time with our children and new time for ourselves. Instead of feeling sad or lonely during this special time of year, how about creating new traditions for yourself?
1. Budget carefully.
Divorce often creates financial hardship. This can be worsened by the commercial pressures of the holiday season. Be realistic if you need to cut back. There are lots of free and inexpensive indulgences to enjoy, like community concerts or making crafts together.
2. Host a Party
Have a knack for throwing parties? Hosting a costume party, cookie exchange or another holiday party can not only keep you busy and distracted but also invites human connection.
3. Downplay the holidays.
If you feel more comfortable detaching from the seasonal festivities, that may be the best option for you. Practice yoga, watch old movies, read a good book, or go to bed before midnight, if that makes you happier than attending a big New Year’s Eve bash.
4. Hit the road.
If your family situation and finances permit, this may be a great time to travel. Fulfill a long-term wish to visit an exotic destination and absorb new experiences. If you have a new partner, share this time with them and go to a spa or any other destination you choose.
5. Reach out for support.
You may find your experiences easier to manage if you discuss your feelings with a professional counselor or friends. Spiritual and religious traditions may also be a source of strength.
6. Help others.
Helping others makes the holidays more rewarding and creates the best new traditions of all. Try doing some volunteer work. Or just look around to see if you know people who may be spending the day alone and would love to be invited to a potluck at your home.
This time of year is tough for many people, especially those who are going through a divorce or recently left their spouse. If you’re worried about how this holiday will affect your family dynamic- don’t worry! You can ensure that these emotions go away without lasting damage by being gentle with yourself and others while navigating these uncharted waters.
It can be hard to create new holiday traditions after a divorce, but it’s important for your kids. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. If you need help creating a plan that works for your family, contact me here. I offer 1:1 personalized coaching to help parents transition after divorce.
Creating new traditions is an important way to show your kids that even though things have changed, they still have a stable home with both of their parents. What new tradition will you start this year?
I am Jen,
As a dedicated life coach specializing in co-parenting, divorce, and single motherhood, I bring a unique blend of professional expertise and personal experience to my coaching practice. I am deeply committed to helping women not only survive divorce but also thrive as they transition into their roles as single mothers. I provide tailored coaching to assist my clients in developing effective co-parenting strategies, fostering healthy communication, and creating nurturing environments for their children.
I am also the author of the best-selling book “I am Amazing: From Invisible to Invincible”. My self-help memoir offers hope and inspiration for anyone who has felt overwhelmed by life and their struggles with mental health. With raw honesty and vulnerability, I provide an intimate look at my journey from victim to victorious.