broken-gingerbread-houseFacing the first holiday season post separation/divorce can be brutal. Nothing feels right — the absence of what-was-and-is-no-more stands out like an elephant in the room. If calm replaces commotion and conflict, you may feel an odd emptiness without the familiar strife. Your motivation to create a family gathering may be at an all-time-low…and yet, something beckons you forward.

Some co-parents can come together and spend time together during the holidays for and with their children; others lose their breath at the thought of trying to be in the same room with a former partner.

Children benefit when we put our own oxygen mask on first. Have a frank conversation with your co-parent about the holidays. Together you two will figure out what’s “do-able” and how best to support your children during this family-oriented time. Once the two of you determine how the holidays will be spent: sharing meals or gift exchanges, overlapping for some well-defined period of time, having tandem visits with the kids to ease the sense of loss, or holding completely separate celebrations, share the plans with your children.

Keep in mind – you two decide FIRST, and then include the children. That way, the children aren’t facing disappointment or rejection if one parent’s plans don’t fit for the other. If extended family and friends will be taking part, ask everyone to support your children in a loving, calm experience of family as new holiday traditions take hold.

If you and your co-parent can’t discuss the holidays, rely on your parenting plan to guide you through, accepting the limitations and structure, while doing your best to make the holiday with your children as peaceful and memorable as possible.

Remember:

  • This is a time for thankfulness and blessing. Children are lucky to have two parents – no bad-mouthing, negativity, or adult conversation in ear shot of kiddos!
  • Hearts will be tender as the grieving process continues like a river underneath celebrating – make space for the occasional tear, upset mood, or need for an extra hug. Someone just might be missing someone important who’s not there.
  • Be thoughtful about alcohol intake so that you can be available to meet the needs of your children – even if you have the impulse to want to drown your own feelings.
  • Consider involving your children in an act of “giving” or service to remind them of how we’re connected to our community – and that others have all kinds of needs – and we’re never alone.

Families in the first few years post separation, often attempt to hold on to some the central holiday traditions for the children. Some choose to launch immediately into building new traditions completely separate from the past. Ultimately, most two-home families find their way into a blend of what was and how we do things now that honor the past while creating a future.

From our house to yours, wishing you a memory-building, peaceful beginning to the holiday season that includes family fun, a good movie, walks to the park, and stories of the past (your children LOVE to hear how things were when YOU were a kid) that nourish and support.

Let the ‘stuffing’ begin! Happy Thanksgiving.