Divorce is hard enough and stressful enough on any given day, adding all the extra weight of the Holidays to it can seem completely unbearable. Just thinking about extended family visits, mandatory Holiday parties and all the cooking and shopping we don't have time, energy, or money for, can suck out the last bit of spirit we have left in us.
This time of the year can get extra complicated and emotionally overwhelming if young children are involved in the divorce. If this is their first year of separated households we need to do everything in our power to provide as much emotional support and guidance as humanly possible. And pray hard for the rest.
The younger the children are the more confusing it is for them to have two sets of hollidays with two homes and two Christmas trees and Santa coming to two places with their gifts. It is important to talk to them about it at their own maturity level, reassuring them that they are loved just as much as before and just because mommy and daddy are not celebrating together, the children will be a big part of both celebrations.
Even if the divorcing parents decide to celebrate together for the sake of the children it is crucial to talk to the kids about it, explaining that they are together only to celebrate this holiday and not because they are getting back together. It is only possible if the parents are mutually cordial with each other and can be in the same room without spite or anymosity. If that is not the case it can be harmful to try to pretend that everything is fine. Holding up a fake charade can do much more damage to the kids than having two separate but real holiday settings.
The other thing to pay extra attention to is how we tell the kids that they will be missed by us on the days not spent together. We want to be sure they feel our love but we don't dump our sadness and tears on them, telling them how miserable we will be without them. It is important to emphasize that we want them to have a good time with the other parent and they are not responsible for our mood and feelings and our lonely nights.
So how do we survive those lonely nights and depressingly quiet Christmas morning without our children? How can we turn it into something nurturing for us without just numbing ourselves into not feeling and mere surviving? Or how do we muster up enough energy and strength to show up at the family get together? How do we cook Christmas dinner, wrap presents, and greet loved ones while holding back tears and escaping into the bathroom to cry?
As always, when it comes to creating and providing our own peace and happiness, the answer is radical self-care. The need for self-care goes up during divorce and it doubles again during the Holidays. Our number one priority should be ourselves. To do everything in our power to forge out some serenity and inner peace in ourselves so it can spill over to the ones around us, including our children, because that is their number one need during this crazy season.
Taking time to do whatever it is that creates that inner peace for us, and doing it over and over throughout the holiday season. Being stingy with our time when it comes to activities that drain us, portioning it out wisely to the neccesary shopping, visiting, cooking, cleaning, but cutting out any attempts of perfectionism, people pleasing, or excess. Setting aside as much for ourselves, for our sanity producing activities, as possible, and even more. Stealing it from anywhere we can. Always remembering that self-care is never selfish, and we can't give anything meaningful unles we actually posess it first.
Those kidless, lonely nights or mornings are perfect opportunities to nurture ourselves with things we love but haven't had time for for ages. Even if we are not in the mood for that book, movie, exercise, or friend, lets do it anyway, lets give ourselves some chance to engage in life as we used to, the way we liked it. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves we can shift our perspective and see the gift of time and space we have gotten. Let's appriciate what they are bringing to us even if the presents are wrapped in tears. We can find true treasures if we open them with gratitude.
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