Let’s face it, the holidays are stressful under the best of circumstances. But for a divorced parent, or someone going through a custody dispute, the holidays can be a grueling experience. The good news is that there are proven strategies that can help make the holidays bearable and . . . (dare I say?) . . . even fun. Here is my Top Ten List for getting through the holidays:
1. Plan in Advance
Going into the holiday season with your parenting plans up in the air can be a source of stress not only for parents, but for the children, too. Solidifying your schedules well in advance – and letting your children know what to expect – will allow parents and children to relax and look forward to their time together. Planning in advance is the best way to avoid conflict, misunderstandings, and arguments.
Last-minute shopping is a also recipe for stress. Slogging through traffic, searching in vain for parking spaces, and jostling masses of shoppers in malls and stores is not my idea of enjoying the “holiday spirit.” Avoid desperation shopping. Shop early.
2. Be Flexible
During the holidays, things can change on a moment’s notice. A child gets sick. Family comes into town unexpectedly. The other parent calls and wants the kids for a special, but unscheduled, activity. All of these things are sure to make the Stress-O-Meter rise. Learn to go with the flow, when possible. Doing so will make for a more relaxed you. You might find that being flexible, or even spontaneous, is fun.
3. Keep It About The Kids
Divorced parents sometimes become so embroiled in their own problems that they can forget that the holidays are about the children. Remind yourself every day that the children are your top priority. They deserve a fun holiday, one that they will always remember – and you have the power to make it happen. So, keep the children out of the middle of your adult holiday disputes. Make an effort to communicate and compromise with the other parent. Never badmouth the other parent in front of the children. Let your kids look forward to their time with both parents. Remember: It’s all about the children.
4. Enjoy Alone-Time
The thought of spending time alone over the holidays can be frightening and depressing. You may have never dreamed that you would be separated from your children during the holiday season. But you will survive. You might even find your time alone to be a nice break from the normal holiday chaos. Look for ways to relax and enjoy yourself. Staying home with a good book can be refreshing. Hiking in the mountains, walking, riding a bicycle, or going to the gym may renew your spirit. Attending a party, or meeting a friend for dinner or a movie, could be fun and exciting. You will learn to relish your alone-time. And the kids will be back before you know it.
5. Connect with Friends
The holidays are a great time to connect with friends. Plan a holiday party and invite your friends; or accept an invitation to another’s party. Get together with a friend to go shopping. Or simply pick up the phone and call a friend. Friends are a blessing. They are a source of enjoyment and support. Just what you need to help you get through the holidays. Connecting with a friend can help you to re-connect with the real you.
6. Make New Family Traditions
During the holidays, we tend to spend a lot of time trying to give our children the same wonderful experiences that we had when we were young. Often, this is difficult or impossible. For a divorced parent (or any parent, for that matter) trying to re-create the “holidays of old” only leads to stress and disappointment. So, what the heck! Try something new! Make your own unique family tradition. Take a ride around the neighborhood at midnight, looking for Santa. Let the kids make Christmas dinner (hot dogs and pizza? Sure, why not!). Use your imagination. Be creative. Give the kids their own loving memory that they will always cherish.
I recently read that the average person gains 7 to 12 pounds during the holiday season. Don’t be a couch potato. Take some time out of every busy day to exercise. Not only will it keep you in shape, but exercising will kick in the endorphins and give you a sense of well-being that will last throughout the entire day.
8. Avoid Toxic People
The holiday season can be stressful and depressing enough on its own. Spending time with people who put you down – or bring you down – will only make it worse. So, to the extent possible, make an effort to avoid (or reduce the time you spend with) toxic people.
9. Stay Positive; And If You Need Counseling, Get It
Self-talk is sometimes the enemy of happiness. Listen to the things you say to yourself. Pay attention to the messages you send to yourself. You might find that that the data you are inputting into your internal computer (your brain) is undermining your own well-being. So, eliminate the negative. Try focusing on the positive. When you catch yourself lapsing into negative thinking, stop, delete the negative message, and insert a positive statement. For instance, if you hear your internal voice saying: “I’ll never get my Christmas shopping done!”– delete that statement and insert a new message: “I’ll get as much done as I can today, and if I’m not finished, I’ll try again tomorrow.” Putting a positive spin on things is a simple and easy way to maintain a good frame of mind.
If you are sad or depressed and just can’t shake the feeling, then get counseling. A good therapist can help you work through the fear, anxiety, and conflicted feelings, so that you can get back to being confident and in control.
10. Cut Yourself Some Slack
If you are separated or divorced and trying to make it through the holidays, there’s a pretty good chance that you will be struggling with your emotions. Why? Because you’re human. Just like the rest of us. What you’re feeling is perfectly natural. So, don’t try to be a super-hero. Cut yourself some slack. The holidays are tough . . . and you’re human. You will get through this, and things will get better.
Gary Frank, has been a courtroom litigator in the Family Law arena for over thirty years, and is a strong and committed advocate for his clients. In addition to being a litigation attorney, Mr. Frank has acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tem in the Maricopa County Superior Court. This has given him an understanding of the inner-workings of the court, and a unique perspective that most attorneys lack. He has also acted, for many years, as a professional mediator of Family Law disputes. We handle a full range of Family Law matters, including divorce, custody, spousal and child support, division of property and assets, modification and enforcement actions, as well paternity/maternity cases, grandparent or non-parent custody and visitation actions, and relocation/move-away cases. If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, please do not hesitate to give our office a call today at 602-383-3610; or feel free to contact us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com; or by email at [email protected] We look forward to hearing from you.