The winter holidays can be stressful for many and it can feel especially overwhelming for families who have recently separated. So, Eva and I put together some tips on how to support your children, co-parent with your ex and still enjoy the holidays!
1. Feeling Pissed-off or Hurt is Normal! But, You Can Still Be Merry!
The best way to manage your stress and actually enjoy the holidays is to acknowledge how you’re feeling at the outset. Sweeping your anxiety, frustration, hurt and other feelings “under the rug” won’t make them go away! In fact, they are more likely to bubble to the surface during the holidays, ruining your good-times. Identifying and accepting of emotions is one of those things that we all should always practice, not just around the holidays but throughout the entire life. Easier said than done, so start with truly giving yourself permission to be upset, angry, hurt, lonely or even relieved!
Once you recognize how you feel, then you can start exploring ways to successfully manage these emotions. Some parents find it helpful to “talk things through” with a friend or take on a new hobby or enroll in a boxing class! Attending support groups or meet-ups also helps in connecting with others who are in the same boat. Trust me, you are not alone and isolating yourself is not going to make things better!
2. Avoid the Need to Compete with Your Ex!
Post-separation/divorce you may be in a different financial position than before and, you may even be in a different financial position than your ex. Contain the urge to compete in buying gifts and loading up your kids with goodies and material items. It’s normal to want to give them everything you can, but you also need to be realistic in terms of your budget and the message you’re sending them!
The best gift you can give your kids is quality time with you! And it doesn’t even cost you money! Plan a movie day in, go tobogganing, build a snowman or arrange for a family snowball fight! These are the things that will mean the most to your children and help them develop positive coping skills in their own lives. Bottom line: your kids won’t remember the things you bought them, but they will always remember the way you made them feel when they were with you!
3. Plan Early and Remain Flexible
Post-separation holiday planning can be extra stressful, especially with blended families in the mix. Approach your ex about scheduling as early as possible so that you’re not scrambling last minute. Flexibility is key to working out a shared holiday schedule; don’t be positional about certain dates or times, rather focus on the children’s needs!
Acknowledge that there are many people in your children’s lives who love them and want to be with them during the holidays – and this is a good thing! Give your children the gift of being with as many loved ones as possible during the holiday, even if you have to sacrifice a little of your time to make it happen.
4. Practice Self-Care When the Children are Away
It can be really tough not having the children around during the holidays, especially if this the first year! The easiest way to get through this times is to practice self-care, that is – do something just for you. What brings you joy? Maybe it’s having alone time with a new book or scheduling time with old friends. Maybe it’s a trip to the mall or the movies. Carving out this time won’t bring the kids back, but it will help you unwind and relax during an otherwise stressful time.
While the tips above offer a good head start to tackle holiday stress, they are in no way exhaustive. The takeaway for readers, however, should be that while holiday stress is normal, you do not have to suffer through it. With some mindfulness and a little planning, both parents and kids can enjoy the holidays alike!
5. Out With the Old, In With the New: Start New Traditions!
Instead of arguing over old traditions, use the separation as an opportunity to start new ones! Your kids will benefit from a peaceful and fun time, not who’s winning Christmas Day. What’s really great about creating new traditions is that you have full control over how you spend the time and saves your kids from being caught in the middle! You win, your kids win and your family wins! Win-Win-Win!