Christmas, as we all know, is supposed to be white. But after a divorce, when relations with your ex are still exceedingly un-festive, the holiday period can rapidly turn nasty if you let it. This time of year when you’re ‘supposed’ to be in the bosom of your loving family can be particularly painful post divorce. So here are a few tips on how to stop your Christmas turning from white to blue as a newly single parent.
If you live close enough to your ex, think about spending Christmas Day together, for the kids’ sake. Put your differences to one side, however hard that may be. The children are used to having both parents around, and separation from one of the parents will be difficult for them to compute, especially at times like Christmas.
If Christmas is still probably best done separately (for now at least), consider splitting the festive days between you and turning this to your advantage. Think about having Christmas lunch with Mum, then dinner with Dad, or vice versa. Alternatively, you could split it so that one of you has them on Christmas Day and one on Boxing Day, or one on Christmas Eve, and one on Christmas Day. Try doing it in a way that doesn’t place one Christmas celebration ‘above’ the other, so neither parent feels short-changed in the kids’ eyes, rightly or wrongly.
While it’s important for the children to have a positive outlook and maintain a healthy dialogue with both parents about what all are facing, and they will need a great deal of nurturing and caring, it may sometimes be healthier for all involved to keep the focus on Christmas, the presents/tree/other family members, and not go into much depth over the current situation. Remember to tell them you still love and value your ex, you just don’t live together any more, and give them a framework for understanding this new set-up.
If the distance between you and your ex is both emotional and geographical, and the ‘back together over Christmas’ model can’t work logistically, think about alternating Christmas holidays, so your ex-partner has them over the entire holidays one year, and you do the next. If this is the road you go down, however, then get real: If you’re the one entirely without the kids over the holidays, and especially in the immediate aftermath of your divorce, you’re going to miss them big-time. Plan alternative things to be doing throughout the holidays. Ideally these should provide you with someone you can open up to if and when needed (sibling, best friend, etc.). You may feel more like adult-only than kids about occasions since your own kids are not there with you. Choose what works best for you. After all, you don’t want to ruin everyone else’s Christmas as well as your own. So build lots of stuff in there that means you haven’t got the chance to get too down. Different generations. Friends. Other people’s kids don’t do pity; they’ll usually just want to play or chat, which can be helpful. Big numbers of people you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Move around over the week or so between Christmas and New Year. There’ll be lots of people you want to catch up with, and they with you. Ideally get some other divorcees and single parents in there, to remind yourself this stuff happens to half the country nowadays, and that they’re either a) just as upset as you, b) got divorced and are now over it, or c) know just what you mean if you do want to talk about it. All these effects are good. Arrange to Skype with your kids when they open the presents from you, and when you hang up, fight back the inevitable emotion and try to get back to doing something else immediately. The moment will pass.
Organise something with your kids such as a holiday for after Christmas to give both them and yourself something to be looking forward to. Consider going on holiday with other single parents. After all you don’t want to feel out of place amongst other happy families. Single Parents on Holiday offers a Boxing Day getaway allowing the kids to spend Christmas Day with your ex before embarking on a week-long single parent ski holiday to stunning Tyrol. For more information click here. If you don’t want to wait until the summer, consider taking them skiing or snowboarding in the February half term or, if you don’t like the cold, at sunny Easter. It will create a new happy memory and form or strengthen a special bond between you and your children.
Golden rule: Have a plan and maintain your composure, not just for the kids’ sake, but for your own. Don’t try to trump them by putting on the ‘real’ Christmas. Seeing you relax and enjoy Christmas can be exactly what your children and you need to bring normality back into life, even if not the same normality as before. Christmas after a divorce is tough. You’re only human. But use these tips and it’s actually quite easy to keep it white; just a slightly different kind of white. But that’s far from blue.