If you are recently divorced and have worked out your post divorce holiday schedule with your ex, can you sit back and relax and enjoy the mashed potatoes? Maybe. This post divorce holiday season, consider a few key areas to make sure the holidays are as stress free as they can be for your children. Mainly, these areas of concern involve grandparents, holiday traditions and suggestions for how to divide holiday celebrations.
In this blog post, we discuss post divorce holiday concerns with suggestions and input from our clients. So whether you say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa or Yuletide Greetings, know that you’ve done your best to make the holidays happy and bright for your children. After all, research shows positive childhood memories serve as “anchors” and provide comfort when life takes an unexpected turn. Another bonus? Happy childhood memories help children regulate stress, build concentration, and increase their attention span.
You may be keenly aware of how you and your ex spouse are navigating the post divorce holiday season, but what about your in-laws and your parents are dealing? Flexibility is a really important skill for children to master but acknowledge when their grandparents might not be as amenable to a change of plans. These adaptations are only something to be upset about if we can’t see the value in what is truly important and that is whatever time spent together should be quality time. Does spending less time at your in-laws or your parents home make it any less special? Of course not. Also, being beholden to Christmas eve or Christmas Day can spell disappointment if you’re trying to juggle multiple home visits. Where is the harm in planning a “Christmas visit” on December 27th if it works for everyone’s schedule?
If grandparents are able and willing to travel, offer to host them at your home to minimize the drive time and lessen the need for everyone to prepare a meal and clean and prepare their home. On the other end of the spectrum, if grandparents are loathe to change their holiday plans and insist on having things their way regardless of how it affects the children, it’s time to employ the “We’re sticking with (insert the blank) arrangement this holiday season. If you’d like to see the kids in January, we’d be happy to set up a time then. (See consideration #3) Remember, as a wise and funny person once said, You are not pizza, you can’t please everyone. We add, “Nor should you, especially at the expense of you or your family’s happiness or stress level.”
Keep in mind that a different life warrants different celebrations. Consider that the activities you enjoyed as a family don’t transfer when one party is no longer there. Especially if the reason you began going out and chopping down a tree was because your ex husband always did with his family. Why would you want to keep up a tradition that didn’t even originate with your marriage? What is something you can create with your children to create a new tradition? It doesn’t have to be earth shaking. Ideas include holiday movies and tree decorating. Caroling in your neighborhood or having a white elephant exchange, the possibilities are endless. Even if you decide not to celebrate in a particular way or with a festive dish - it doesn’t mean your children won’t get a dose of nostalgia elsewhere (See grandparents or other spouse)
One popular way is to alternate holidays with your ex spouse so for instance, Christmas Eve is spent with one parent one year and with the other parent the following year. When this has been agreed to, it allows each parent to make plans a year in advance based on this schedule. Alternating holidays means more uninterrupted time and not having to rush from one location to another. The obvious downside to alternating may be most acutely felt by the parent who doesn’t make plans or stay busy when they are without their children.
Another holiday arrangement is splitting holidays. When you split holidays, the child’s holiday time is split between both parents. This way, each parent has the child for a specific number of hours or until a set time. In most cases, one parent takes the child for the first half of the day while the other parent gets the second half. This will work best if you ive relatively close to your ex-spouse and when you have a pretty amicable relationship as there will be more regular exchanges between you two. The downside occurs if you feel rushed as you only have half day to spend with your children but you try to squeeze an entire days activity in half the time.
A third arrangement is fixed holidays. This might happen when spouses practice different religions and their respective religious or cultural celebrations fall on non overlapping days. When these fixed holidays control the schedule, it removes contention and allows for time for each parent to celebrate in a way that doesn’t take away time from their ex spouse.
A fourth arrangement is to double up on the post divorce holiday with two or even four potential Christmases, New Years’s etc. if the children have both grandparents and there’s no way to combine visits. The upside is that the children get to celebrate all the holidays with all the possible family members so long as distance is not an issue. However, perhaps instead of four gifts, it may be less contentious to buy joint gifts so it doesn’t turn into a gifting competition and too many toys taking over each spouse’s home.
A fifth way to divvy up holidays is to celebrate the holidays together as you did pre-divorce. Obviously you’ll want to discuss if significant others will also be included prior to remarriage but this arrangement is the closest reincarnation of pre-divorce life.
The final way to deal with holidays is to allow the parenting plan to dictate holidays. This can be easier to plan around since you know in advance if your ex spouse has Thursdays through Sundays and if Christmas eve and Christmas Day fall in that window, then you can keep to the parenting plan without any extra discussion.
Selecting any of these arrangements is preferable to turning to your ex spouse each year and saying, “So what should we do about the holidays?” There’s no rule that you have to pick one way and stick with it for eternity either. Flexibility helps them navigate social challenges in their own lives. We’ve all seen adults who are severely deficient in flexible thinking and since this executive function is set by the age of 20, making their behavior nearly impossible to change, our children still have time to learn this important life skill.
The holiday season is full of memories, nostalgia, traditions and this doesn’t change with a divorce decree. Get creative, stay flexible and keep the lines of communication open with all family members who appreciate the magic of the holidays. Consider this blog post as just another piece of advice from a divorce professional reminding you to keep your expectations hopeful, celebrate your own way and remain cordial. Each month, check out our blog for more friendly tips and advice.
A few common objections to seeking out a therapist include,
Let’s face it. Many of us are not self-aware and often our friends and family don’t want to, for good reason, involve themselves in our lives, Not that you were soliciting their advice anyways, but even if you were, how candid or helpful do you think they will be? They may be struggling with problems that you’re unaware of and unable to offer support even if they wanted to.
So you’re the do-it-yourself kind of person and you’ve never met a problem that you didn’t tackle yourself? The human brain is a complicated beast and your happiness is not a weekend warrior kind of project. How well can we really understand everything going on in our brains, especially when we are stressed with a divorce?
Want proof that we’re not as self-aware as we think we are? As stated by Dr. Tasha Eurich in this article, 95 percent of people believe they are self-aware. In reality, only 10 percent to 15 percent actually merit the “self-aware” badge.
Furthermore, how long have you been trying to heal yourself? Are you giving yourself enough time and grace? What steps are you taking to get to a better mental space?
Talking about your thoughts and feelings with a supportive, trained professional has been shown to aid in healing. Having someone who listens and can help you understand why you’re making the choices you’re making and how to adopt new ways of reacting can be instrumental to get you from intention to fruition.
Therapy is not reserved just for those with diagnosed mental conditions. Comparing what is going on in your life with anyone else is an exercise in futility. If something is impeding your ability to live a happy fulfilling life, then it needs to be addressed. We rely on doctors to help us with our physical health so why would we think we can go it alone when it comes to our mental health?
This could stem from a bad experience with therapy, or a loss of trust if you’ve confided in a friend or family member. There is likely shame from a failed marriage and people’s typical response to a divorce announcement reinforces that it is something to feel bad about. Consider, the oft used, “I’m so sorry” or “That must be very difficult” when in reality, continuing in your marriage would have led to an even worse outcome that the filing of divorce.
Even though divorce is common, society has not fully embraced that it is not always an acrimonious battle. Consider how common it is when someone announces that they’re looking to file for divorce and someone responds, “You’ll need a lawyer. I know a great divorce attorney” or the person, similar to their approach with therapy, “I just need to figure some stuff out online or with a book. I can do a DIY divorce.” Of course there are instances where you should hire a divorce attorney or the division of assets is so simple a DIY divorce works, but there are also instances where mediation and therapy would be most beneficial.
The Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado has established relationships with therapists and can make a recommendation for one that may best fit your individual needs. We understand a holistic approach to divorce is one way to “change the way society divorces, one couple at a time.”
When faced with a divorce we look for answers in self help books, friends, family, exercise, mediation, and therapy. Any or all of these methods can be useful but what if you hire a life coach? Is there something stopping you from seeking the help of a life coach after your divorce?
Perhaps it is unclear what a life coach does. Besides that, do you specifically need one? Lastly, maybe you think it’s indulgent to hire a life coach. Let’s address each of these reasons in order.
A life coach is someone with experience who brings enthusiastic support, an objective perspective and insight to help you identify what is holding you back from living your best life. A coach helps you grow by examining your current situation, identifying limiting beliefs and potential challenges and devises a custom plan of action designed to get you where you want to be. Life coaches are not meant to help you overcome mental health challenges as they are not trained therapists. Instead a life coach can help you map out the steps you need to complete to take better control of your life. They are sometimes called mentors or in the case of December’s featured Power Partner, a “life choreographer”
Beyond the available methods listed to help people navigate their divorce and post divorce life, are you a good candidate for a life coach? Sure they can help people, but are you THAT person?
Here are a few signs that a life coach may be able to help you:
1. You are not sure where to begin to get your life back on track.
A life coach can help you get to the starting point where you can begin to map out the steps you need to take.
2. You have a vision of what you would like your life to look like but you are unclear of how to create a plan of action.
A coach can organize and clarify what you have envisioned so you can plot next steps.
3. You need accountability.
A life coach will remind you to stick to your plan and will check in with you often. Your success is their success.
4. You’ve tried the go it alone route and it causes you unnecessary stress and burnout.
A life coach provides that level of support you are not going to get, nor should you expect, from others in your life such as family and friends.
5. You think it’s indulgent to hire a life coach
Wrong! An indulgence is doing something that you enjoy even if it has negative consequences. Common negative consequences include regret or shame. Charging an expensive necklace on your VISA when you don’t have the money to pay it off would be an indulgence. You might be wracked with stress and regret once you realize you won’t be able to afford something that is a need and not a want. Taking care of yourself after a divorce is not an indulgence. By exploring how you can get to a better place mentally you are practicing self-care which will lead to growth, insight and taking steps to recover from the major life change of divorce.
Our December Power Partner, Lora Cheadle is a life choreographer who empowers high achieving women to reveal their smart, sexy, spiritual selves so they can fall in love with their bodies, themselves and their lives, and enjoy everything they’ve worked so hard to create.
Before you hire Lora or any other life coach, get to know them through their blogs, books and events to see if your personalities mesh well. The Divorce Resource Centre has come to know life coaches and other partners who help divorcing couples and will refer our clients to those that have our trust and respect.
The idea of making new friends as an adult can be intimidating in general. The prospect of navigating your post divorce social life can be downright debilitating. In this post, we cover how to talk to your friends, make a clean break from others and gain new friendships.
We get it. You could bcc your mutual friends using email to tell them what's going on and cover a lot of ground. Resist the urge. Divorce is personal so when dealing with your close friends, have the decency to pick up the phone. After all, do you want it to become a reply all nightmare? Same advice for text, it may be simple but text, just like email, can be misinterpreted and unless you and your spouse craft a message together, it is likely to only be one party’s point of view.
Understand that if they are friends with both of you, they may be in unchartered waters and would appreciate some input. Let them know whether it’s ok to invite both of you to social events.
Accept that some of your friends that you met through your ex will pledge their loyalty to them no matter what you say or do. Even if there is dirty laundry and you weren’t the one in the wrong, their mindset is stuck in 1st grade and they won’t switch alliances.
What about friendships made when you were together? If you are able to continue adult discussions, factor friendships into the equation. If you are very close with other married couples, start here. Most often, the division will fall along gender lines. Be aware that even though divorce is not a communicable disease, your divorce may trigger something in still married couples and they may begin to phase you out of their lives. The inner workings of their mind will remain a mystery and you should not concern yourself.
Whether you are on the board of a nonprofit, or seeking a monthly hands on activity, sites like Eventbrite, Facebook events and Volunteer Match pair organizations with volunteers who work alongside like minded peers.
Health and Fitness:
You can even dip your toe into the world of workout buddies online. There are Facebook and Meetup groups for people doing Weight Watchers or 6 or 12 week fitness programs. If you join one of these groups, you can view their Facebook profile before you reach out to meet in person to workout.
Colorado has many recreational co-ed sports leagues like Sports Monster and WASA where you can play soccer, kickball, etc. If you live in a less active area, your local gym or recreation center will have group classes for a similar effect.
If you are a working professional, or better yet a business owner or entrepreneur, attending a networking events or joining an association is a surefire way to expand your professional and personal networks. Avoid networking groups that are completely leads based and select groups that have weekday coffee, evening cocktails and seminar or classroom events, conducive to learning a new program or skill.
In future blogs, we’ll address the post divorce pitfalls you may encounter online and at the holiday dinner table. A mediator ensures clients are equipped to handle their post divorce reality and that includes financial and emotional concerns.