The holiday season can be a deeply challenging time for parents and children during and after a divorce.  For many people, a recent divorce means saying goodbye to the children for the holidays and spending time on your own. The agreements of “odd” years and “even” years now becomes a reality. Coping with the reorganization of your family unit can create stress and complications for parents and children at a time that is meant to be joyful.

Celebrating the holidays in a different way can bring some comfort and hope to parents and children. With planning, new ideas, new expectations, and a commitment to overcome the challenges you face, you and your family can begin to ease into the holidays after a divorce.

5 Ways to Get Through the Holidays After a Divorce

Make New Traditions

When a parent will not be spending time with their children for the holidays, beginning a new tradition to make your time together just before, or just after the holiday, can become equally as special. A simple choice of a new day to celebrate and open presents or a more elaborate plan, such as special ski trip away in the days before or after a holiday, can be something to look forward to in years when you don’t have parenting time on the holiday itself. You and your children could decide on something together and rebuild a new sense of family, and tradition together.

Reassure the Children

Let your children know that even though things will be different from now on, they are still loved by both parents. If you will be without the children for the holidays, do your best to reassure them that you will be okay on your own. For parents that have the kids for the holidays, try to set aside some time for them to reach out to your former spouse by Skype or Facetime to incorporate some connection and create some comfort. Ideally, parents could agree that the children see both parents over the holidays, even if one parent spends the majority of the holiday with the children. Creative agreements about holiday parenting time can be reached in divorce mediation or child custody mediation.

Make New Plans

Make new plans — meaningful and gratifying plans — if you are not sharing time with your children on a holiday. Stay close to other family members or plan to be part of a celebration with your close friends. Reach out for comfort when you need it. Be honest with your friends and family about the difficulty of the holiday and that their love and support would help get you through the holiday season. Telling people what you need can be hard enough, but this is a time when you have permission to do so.

Treat Yourself

Take care of yourself. You are experiencing the stress of the holidays, with a new dimension of stress caused by the changes in your family. Allow yourself to balance the stress with proactively caring for yourself in a way that might bring you some peace and relaxation.

Plan a Co-Parenting Celebration

One of the best gifts you can give your family during collaborative divorce process is how to effectively co-parent after the dust has settled. While the children are still young, try spending an afternoon or evening together on a holiday to open presents and or have some positive activity together. You could meet for a family lunch before exchanging the children. You could have a special gift giving ritual in a neutral place. When parents can put the best interests of the children before all else, many even surprise themselves about what they are capable of accomplishing together during the holidays.