The holidays can be stressful for anyone but if you are a parent going through the divorce process or have recently divorced, this is a particularly challenging time of the year. Here are some tips to help divorcing parents of young children survive and thrive this festive season:

  1. Plan ahead!  Planning ahead is essential for keeping sane at this time of year. Make a detailed plan with your former spouse so that everyone knows exactly where the children are going to be on each day of the holiday. Be sure to share this information with your extended family as well. If it works out that certain big days do not fall under you custody “turn” then choose another day to celebrate with your kids. Make it special!
  2. Begin new family traditions!  Bake cookies for your neighbors, take the kids ice skating, pile in the car with cups of hot chocolate for a night time drive to look at Christmas lights, teach the kids a new carol song, etc. Do something that you might not have done as a family during the marriage.
  3. Get some perspective.  Remember that the holidays are not about you. Let your kids know that you wish them the very best time at the other parent’s house even if you are worried about how you will cope alone.
  4. Set realistic expectations.  Children are not immune to your stress. Make an effort to avoid investing in outcomes. If your big day with the kids doesn’t turn out perfectly, take time to recognize that your children want to spend meaningful time with you and they don’t mind if the gingerbread house falls apart or the line to get their photo with Santa is a half-mile long.
  5. Practice self care.  If this is the first holiday post-divorce, it is natural for you and the children to experience some sadness. Get the support you need in order to talk these feelings through. Recognize that you might feel more stressed than usual during this time and be sure to get plenty of sleep, water, healthy food and exercise.

Getting through the holidays after divorce can be an emotional time, but if you plan ahead, start some new traditions and take care of your well-being, you can make it a wonderful time of the year for you and the kids.