Planning ahead for more complex family situations during and after divorce is crucial to ensuring a “merry and bright” holiday season.
Divorce is challenging at the best of times, and during the holidays it can be particularly strenuous. This is especially true when children are involved.
Logistical fiascoes, loaded questions from family members, and tension around the dinner table are just a handful of the things you may be dreading. Fortunately, there are some measures that you can take ahead of time to ensure a more peaceful holiday season.
Here are 5 tips to avoid holiday stress and navigate divorce during the holiday season.
#1: Communicate Holiday Plans and Expectations
Tension between you and your ex-spouse (or soon to be ex) is expected in most cases, but it’s important to get on the same page about your holiday plans. Knowing what to expect and establishing a co-parenting strategy for gatherings will make the season more comfortable for you and your children.
This co-parenting plan could include coming up with a game-plan about what topics to avoid, agreeing not to discuss the divorce in front of your children, and putting a hold on any ongoing arguments.
Occasional compromise might be necessary as you navigate the stress of holiday planning, but openly communicating about expectations ahead of time will help you preserve the sacredness of the season, especially for your children.
#2: Figure Out Logistics Well in Advance
Plan out logistics beforehand so that your kids don’t get caught in the crossfire of arguments and poorly planned logistics. Similar to our first tip on how to avoid holiday stress during or after divorce, the logistical plans of family visits, travel, and exchanging your children need to be discussed well in advance. Scrambling over last minute plans or arguing about it while your child waits in limbo creates unnecessary distress.
Co-parenting during the holidays will often result in lots of juggling schedules. Make sure your children know the plan and what to expect, so that they can be more emotionally prepared.
We recommend tools like Our Family Wizard, which helps your family create a co-parenting blueprint. It is one of many such tools available. An online family schedule planner allows you to minimize direct contact with your ex, if that’s your goal. It gives both of you a constant reference for logistics.
#3: Don’t Badmouth Your Former Partner in Front of Your Children
While you may have negative feelings about your former spouse, it’s important not to badmouth them in front of your child.
Venting about the circumstances of your divorce and the trauma and deep emotions that you might be feeling is absolutely valid, and there are appropriate outlets for this such as online support groups, post-divorce counseling, and co-parenting counseling. Your children are simply not this outlet. Even if they share some of your sentiments, your venting will only serve to make them feel sad or bitter during a joyous season, ruining precious childhood memories.
#4: Create New Traditions
When the trauma of a divorce is still fresh, it’s hard to look forward to seasonal gatherings and events with joy, especially when so many holiday memories might feel tainted in the aftermath of your divorce. That’s why it’s important to start creating new traditions that will help you and your children form new memories quickly and avoid holiday stress as much as possible. Be sure to include your children in brainstorming new traditions so they feel included. The creation of new traditions will not only help you, but will help your children to cope during and after the divorce. And if you aren’t a parent, forming traditions with friends and family members can create both a short-term distraction and a long-term source of joy for years to come. This is a time to lean on your community and establish what your new healthy relationship boundaries will be with your ex-spouse.
#5: Make a Game-plan with Your Lawyer
If you’re in the midst of a divorce or just beginning the process, the holidays might seem like a time to put all your plans on pause. However, now is an important time to discuss what your next steps will be the following the holidays with a divorce attorney. In order to avoid holiday stress that could complicate divorce proceedings and to provide you with more peace of mind, making a game-plan with your lawyer will remind you that you still have direction, even if you choose to put divorce plans on hold for the sake of your children (or your own sanity). Major divorce decisions should probably not be made during the holiday season, but you and your lawyer can certainly lay the foundation for your next steps in January. You will also want to keep holiday plans in mind when discussing custody with your lawyer. Custody issues regarding children, or even pet custody agreements for some couples, become increasingly complex during this season.
Stay Grounded and Hopeful
You will commonly hear the phrase during the divorce process that “life doesn’t end after a divorce,” but it’s an especially important reminder during the holidays. You can continue to thrive, make great memories, and experience joyful seasons. Keeping these five tips to avoid holiday stress during divorce in mind will help the transition flow a little smoother, as you establish a new normal for yourself and your family. There’s a lot of hope ahead. If you’re still in the stage of anticipating a divorce, but haven’t begun the process, be sure to go through a preparatory checklist and to speak with your lawyer sooner rather than later. Even if you’re just testing the waters and weighing your options, a smooth-as-possible divorce is better for you AND your children. An experienced lawyer like Kelly J. Capps will be able to advise you on the exact options available to you. To arrange a consultation with Kelly J. Capps of Capps Law Firm, PLLC, please call our Austin office at (512) 338-9800 or Contact Us Here