How To Have A Merry Christmas When You’re No Longer Married

Christmas Dinner

Christmas DinnerNothing brings out the winter blues like a divorce – whether you’ve only been separated a few months or it’s been a few decades already. If you don’t have any children, you may suffer from loneliness. If you do have little ones, you will assuredly suffer from guilt. Even if you’re on relatively good terms, you still won’t feel good facing your ex’s new squeeze. Traditions are sacred and it’s the breaking of these bonds that really rips us up inside. As complicated as things get, it’s important to remember that new traditions can be created to put the “happy” back into this holiday season.

Scenario: You’re going to be alone this holiday season.

Solution: Get away for the holiday. Plan ahead. Don’t sit home alone and bum out. Don’t try to be the third wheel at your happily married friend’s house or the tag-along at your sibling’s family Christmas. This will only make you reflect even more on what you’re lacking. Fly to the Canary Islands or take a cruise to the Bahamas and swim on Christmas Day. If you’re really crunched for cash, try hosting a holiday party for other single friends and have everyone bring a dish so you’re not stressing. Another option is to plan a self-indulgent “me” day: visit the spa for a massage, rent your favorite movies, and eat your favorite foods. Or you may find Christmas joy by working with a charity for the holidays and giving of yourself.

Scenario: You’re amiable, it’s been a few years, you have kids, and you can be cordial.

Solution: If you can call a cease-fire for the holidays, it’s less stressful for the kids. If you don’t make a big deal of it, then the kids won’t have any reason to feel unnerved about it. Plan to buy gifts together, as you used to, which will avoid competition over who bought more gifts or better gifts. Yet, also be careful about choosing this option. You don’t want it to become painful for the adults and confusing for the kids who wonder if a reconciliation is in the works.

Scenario: You’re not big fans of each other or the sight of your ex churns your stomach.

Solution: The best agreement when you don’t get along with your ex or with your replacement is to alternate holidays. One year, the kids will be with you on Christmas and your ex on New Years. The following year, vice versa. Don’t stress on your off-year. Just enjoy the extra week of shopping (including the Boxing Day sales!) and spend time with your new love’s family or refer to the aforementioned “You’re Going To Be Alone” scenario. Another type of split is to do Christmas Eve at one house and Christmas Day at the other – or have a big Christmas morning / breakfast at one house and Christmas evening / dinner at the other.

Scenario: You’re the new step-parent.

Solution: Proceed with caution. You can’t out-do your step-children’s biological mother or father, so don’t even try. Instead of competing with the roast their parent cooked to perfection for many years, incorporate some new dishes in with the old to put your own touch on the holiday. Let the kids decorate their tree as usual and perhaps ask if you can add a few sentimental ornaments. Treat each kid equally and don’t try to guess what the kids want. If you can’t get them to give you a list, opt for gift cards. Don’t sign it “Mom” or “Dad.” Don’t be afraid to bring a few new traditions, but understand what traditions mean most to your new family and keep those customs sacred too.

Scenario: You’ve recently blended with another family with different traditions.

Solution: One woman moved in with her new husband, his three sons, two dogs, and her boyfriend’s mother who lived in an attached suite. To make matters even more complicated, his family celebrated Hanukkah and she celebrates Christmas. They decorated the house with half Christmas and half Hanukkah decorations and shared their favorite dishes and aspects of the holiday, making sure to explain why certain traditions are celebrated. It’s important when blending families that your biological children and step-children get equal gifts at equal values. If money is tight, you may consider doing a “Secret Santa” type of gift swap, doing small gift cards, or baking the kids’ favorite treats.

Scenario: You have the kids, but you’re fearful they’re going to long for holidays past.

Solution: Your family’s Christmas will never be the same. The more you try to make it seem the same, the worse it will be for everyone. Some families find it works better to create totally new traditions. Maybe you’ll do pizza or Chinese food for Christmas dinner. Perhaps you’ll do some charity work as a family. Maybe you’ll make crafts together. Hike in the woods to find your Christmas tree or spend time baking and decorating the house together. After all, it is a Christmas season, not just one day. By removing some of the emphasis off Christmas Day itself, you’ll feel more at ease and so will the kids. Maybe you can even spend the week running up to Christmas exchanging a gift a day, like Hanukkah customs. Forge new traditions to create fresh memories and ask the children to be involved in the brainstorming session. Find out what traditions are most sacred to them and what things they’d consider changing. New traditions are also a great way to incorporate step-families.

Article: Jennn Fusion
Twitter: @jennnfusion

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