Happier Holidays…

Tips to help you enjoy – rather than avoid – the holiday season.

If you’re going through a divorce or separation, you probably haven’t even thought about the upcoming holiday season. But experts stress that it’s important for people who are in transition to develop coping strategies well in advance of the major calendar events. Family-centered holidays – like Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, and Thanksgiving – can heighten and intensify feelings of sadness, inadequacy, and loss. For newly separated and divorced people, the holiday season can really emphasize how much the family unit has changed. The good news is that we all have choices about how and where we spend our holidays; with planning, creativity, and courage, a newly divorced or separated person can cope with – and maybe even enjoy – the holiday season. Here are ten strategies and tips you can use to make your holiday season brighter during and after divorce.

Take a Tip From the Kids

Most adults believe that the holiday season is really only for kids, who enjoy the holidays while adults just suffer through them. This year, try to recapture some of the joy you experienced as a child during the holidays. Go skating or window-shopping with a friend; help the neighborhood kids to make a giant snowman; make a gingerbread house – any activity that brings back fond childhood memories will help your “holiday spirit.”

Make Plans as Early as Possible

Don’t wait until the last minute to decide who gets the kids or to blow the dust off your address book. If you have kids, it’s important to get some sort of communication happening with your former spouse well in advance of the holiday. Once you’ve set the holiday schedule, try to accept that it will be very difficult at first not to have your children on a particular day. Also try to be generous, recognizing that your kids would like to spend time with both of their parents this holiday. Plan ways to avoid falling into a self-defeating mind-set. If your former spouse lives in another city or province, plan in advance to stay in touch with your children. Get technology on your side, and send them an e-mail, leave them a voice-mail, or prepare a special holiday video or audiocassette for them to take with them. And don’t be ruled by the calendar: if your ex will have the kids on December 25, choose another day to celebrate a “Special Christmas” with them.

Reach Out

If you don’t have kids, or if your spouse has them for this holiday, gather up your courage and reach out to your family or friends several weeks in advance and ask to be included in their plans. They may be hesitant to contact you – some people won’t know how to deal with your divorce – but they’ll probably welcome you with open arms if you give them the chance. You should also consider getting together with one or more people from your support group (if you haven’t joined a divorce support group yet, now’s the time) for a cup of coffee, a meal, or a walk. Being with people who understand exactly what you’re going through can be very comforting.

by: Amanda Singer

Amanda Singer with west coast family mediation center

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