10 Ideas for Getting a Handle on Holiday Stress Post-Divorce


10 Ideas for Getting a Handle on Holiday Stress Post-Divorce

The holidays are a tough time for many people in general. Personal loss, family conflict and increased demands can exacerbate feelings of sadness, loneliness, frustration and stress. On top of the usual errand, the holiday to-do list swells with social plans, shopping, cooking, decorating, baking, travel to see family, cleaning and entertaining.

In already stressful family dynamics, tempers can flare. Add divorce —and all the transitions associated with it — to the mix and the holidays become downright overwhelming.

Making the Holidays Work for You and Your Family

Despite the challenges of divorce, there are ways to create an enjoyable holiday season for you and your children. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Have a clearly defined holiday custody schedule in place. Set expectations for children, you and your ex as well. The important goal here is that the children get time with both parents. Do not try to please every extended family member with holiday visits. Look at this as a transitional year with one objective: to have quality time with your children. Focus on making every moment together count.
  • Set realistic financial limits on spending. Divorce often results in restricted finances at first, be practical about holiday spending. Set a budget and stick to it. The last thing you need is increased stress due to over-spending and debt. Remember that meaningful and personal gifts don’t have to cost a lot, so don’t try to buy happiness and love with big purchases. It’s the sentiment that counts! Handwritten notes, homemade gifts and coupons for needed services can be blessings to the recipient. Be creative! Consider foregoing traditional holiday cards this year, create your own online, then print or email them, even better use free e-cards.
  • Emphasize traditions, combining the old with the new. Maintaining holiday traditions that are meaningful to you and your will provide a sense of continuity. Although some of those traditions may cause sorrow and feelings of loss, know that these emotions will ease as each holiday year passes. Instituting new traditions can help create your new sense of individuality. Experimenting with alternative holiday music and attending different events is a good place to start. Using your creativity with decorating, gift giving, and cooking can lead to new, treasured ideas as well.
  • Don’t isolate. When you divorce, your relationship with your in-laws will most likely change. You may need space from your ex and from his/her family members. With free time on your hands, reach out to friends and family of your own to put some holiday themed plans on your calendar. Go to a concert, venture into the city or look for local events that appeal to you.
  • Practice healthy habits. Be moderate with alcohol and food through the holiday season. Maintain an exercise routine even though you have limited time.
  • Plan. Plan. Plan. Flying by the seat of your pants will only lead to misunderstanding and potential increased conflict. Make sure that the custodial schedule, parties and family events and activities are on the calendar for all to see. Make sure you consider your own interests so you can share your joy with others.
  • Learn to say no. Be careful not to over-extend yourself during what is a busy time of the year. Although you may want to volunteer your time and talents, divorce is laden with additional tasks and transitions that require time, energy, and effort. Put a little less on your plate this year, do what you want to do and practice self-care.
  • Try something new. To get out of a rut, consider going away. A change of scenery can do wonders in resetting your mood. Or spend the actual holiday doing something different. If you usually gather at a relative’s home, consider hosting. Any soup kitchen within a few miles will always be able to use an additional pair of hands. Mix it up a little.
  • Be flexible. Especially with your ex-spouse. Remember you’ll be more likely to receive favors when you give them.
  • Practice acceptance and forgiveness. The holidays are more difficult when you are carrying around a heavy suitcase filled with anger and resentment. Even though you may have good reason to be angry, you can control how you treat your ex and not add fuel to the emotional fire.
  • By Deirdre Hally Shaffer, LCSW

    ©Alpha Resource Center


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