With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching and Christmas on the horizon, this is often an incredibly challenging time for recently divorced fathers.
Here at DadsDivorce, we’re devoting a lot of content to this subject and offering tips and advice on how to survive this time of year. We’ve already tackled how to cope with holiday loneliness and provided advice on how to use meditation to survive divorce and holiday stress.
In this article, we’ll give some pointers on establishing new traditions as a divorced dad.
Just because this season is different doesn’t mean it can’t be wonderful. Embracing this change is your first step toward a joyous holiday.
“It is entirely possible to begin new traditions with your children and avoid the stress of a bitter holiday season,” said Cordell & Cordell Principal Partner Joe Cordell.
Decorate your house or apartment
Cheer away that gloom you’re feeling by going all out with the holiday decorations. If your kids are with you, this can be especially fun.
Make it an event when you go to buy the tree. You could start a new annual tradition with your kids by letting them each pick out one new ornament every year. This can be a fun way to mark the changes in their lives.
Decorate the outside of your house with lights. If you really want to get into it you could buy one of those oversized inflatable snowmen or Santas.
Invite new friends or family members over
If your kids are spending the holidays with you for the holidays, they’re probably going to be missing their mom. If they’re spending it with their mother, then you’re likely going to battle some loneliness.
Combat those emotions by bringing new loved ones into your holiday traditions. Invite some friends over who you haven’t seen in a while or send an invitation to extended family members for a holiday celebration.
“You can extend the environment and community of people in your lives,” said divorce expert Rosalind Sedacca. “It doesn’t have to be, ‘Gee, we can’t see so and so.’ It can be, ‘Guess what? Now we’re going to be spending Christmas with these new people,’ and make it very exciting.”
Get creative with holiday meal-planning
You don’t have to stick to the status quo either. Sure, gingerbread cookies are great, but here’s your chance to try something completely new for a change.
“If you’ve always wanted to have pizza for dinner on Christmas and didn’t want to go through all that hassle of baking a turkey, have pizza,” said Cordell & Cordell divorce attorney Kimberly McCabe. “I’m sure the kids will love it and they’ll be happy that they created this new family member with you.”
Plan a trip
During your kids’ holiday break, you could add some fun to the week by planning a trip somewhere. Summer vacations are great, but there are some awesome winter destination spots as well.
You also don’t have to plan an enormous getaway. There are more than enough fun day trips you could sprinkle throughout the week to keep things lively.
You could attend a local tree-lighting ceremony or parade, go sledding or just drive around and look at how all the local neighborhoods are decorated.
The point is just staying active.
If away from your kids, stay connected
If you’re spending any part of the holidays away from your children, which is likely, you can still come up with creative ways to stay connected.
Sedacca recommended keeping a journal of holiday activities or a travel log of places you’ve visited and things you’ve done so that you have plenty to catch up on the next time you and your kids are together.
She also suggested sending a daily email or text message with a theme of a common interest you share – it could be anything, the best TV show of the day, the best sports team of the day, etc. It just needs to be a topic you and your kids can bond over that will help you stay in touch.
“The key is to step outside of yourself and focus and do things that are broader than just yourself,” Sedacca said.
Look into getting involved with a local toy or holiday meal drive. Or volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to try to give back.
Check out what some of your local churches or community centers have going on. There is no shortage of ways to give back this time of year.
This is another activity you can do either with the kids or solo. It takes the focus off yourself and your own emotions and places an emphasis on helping others in need.
“It’s very helpful if you’re thinking out of your own box and thinking of others in the community,” Sedacca said. “Then you’re more likely to have a better holiday and you’re sharing the value of what you have with other people who really will benefit.”