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Surviving the Holiday Season After Divorce

The first holiday season following a divorce can be very difficult.  You may find yourself emotionally weakened by long-term stress and the hectic pace of the holidays, combined with a fresh divorce, can prove to be overwhelming.  For many, the holidays can be an unwelcome reminder of how much life has changed as a result of a divorce.  Holidays with children after a divorce can be worse, even terrifying.  There will be relatives asking about your split, and you may feel as if you are on the defensive. Additionally, you may have to spend the holidays away from your children for the first time in their lives, which can be intensely painful.
Holiday HDR

Here are some tips for making your first holiday season following a divorce easier.
Be Flexible and Realistic
“Perfect” holidays are usually reserved for the end of movies.  Make sure you are flexible and be realistic in your holiday expectations about the holiday season, especially in the first year after your divorce.  It is just as possible to have a great Christmas celebration a couple days before or after December 25th, and you can still have a special Hanukkah even if you don’t get to celebrate all eight nights together.  The special time with your children matters much more than the date you celebrate.
Sort Out Details in Advance
Talk with your ex-spouse about holiday plans well before they occur and nail down the specifics about who gets which days around the winter holidays, including pickup times and locations.  Both parents should discuss their needs, desires and travel plans and try to come up with a solution that works for everyone.  Neither parent should make concrete plans without first discussing them with the other parent.  If the details are not in your custody agreement already, put it all on e-mail or in writing and stick to it.  Do not fight about time or anything else with the children present.
Reassure Kids that Holiday Celebrations Will Continue, but in a Different Way
Children are an essential part of your new holiday traditions, and giving them a voice in the process can help everyone feel more at ease with the situation.  While past traditions may be preferable because they are comfortable, it is a good idea to start some new rituals with your close friends and family.
Take Care of Yourself and Ask for Help from Supportive Family and Friends
Get the proper amount of sleep and exercise, and eat healthy to maximize your energy and coping ability every day.  When you are emotionally hurt, overeating and partying are easy short term medications that create long term problems.  If you feel isolated, lonely, or depressed, rely on a healthy support system of family and friends.  Make sure you clearly communicate your needs.
Put the Kids First
Remember how special holidays felt when you were a child?  Do everything you can to help your kids hang onto that feeling.  Do not make kids feel like sharing the holidays with both parents is a burden.  Even if you are upset that you cannot spend as much time with your kids as you would like, do not pass that guilt onto them. 

One Day at a Time, One Holiday at a Time; One Year at a Time

Just concentrate on one thing at a time, and life will get easier, better, and more pain-free.

The holidays can be a fun and special time for divorced families, as long as the parents can agree to be civil and work together.  The best gift you can give your kids is a celebration full of love and joy.

Legal updates provided by the Orange County and Riverside Law firm of Don Ho, LLP.

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