7 Ways to Survive the Holidays During a Divorce

Father baking cookies with childrenIf you are in the midst of divorce or recently got divorced, you may be emotionally bruised and fearful this holiday season. It would be reasonable that you’d feel loneliness, self-doubt, self-judgment, and ruefulness about missing out on holiday celebrations with your children and former extended family. Combine the pain of divorce with the one holiday season you are expected to be “joyous” and “merry,” and you’ve got internal angst.

Divorce is life changing no matter what time of year it is. But particularly as days grow shorter, cloudier, and snowier, when families are normally connecting rather than shuffling children from parent to parent, it’s no wonder many people experience feelings of depression, sadness, anger, tension, and isolation

Even if you wanted your divorce and believe it’s the right thing, you may still be moving through the holiday season with an unwanted hangover of negative emotions. A therapist can help you process these emotions and move toward a more peaceful state, but there are things you can do on your own as well. Everyone reacts to divorce differently, and everyone recovers in different ways and at different rates.

To get you through the holiday season, here are some tips that may prove helpful:

  1. Do not make large decisions: The holidays are stressful enough. Now may not be the time to hire a new divorce attorney, go to mediation, ask for more child support, or move out of your custodial home. As necessary as those choices may be, perhaps leaving them until early next year would be best for your stress levels.
  2. Reduce tension with your ex: It might mean biting your tongue or faking a smile, but for the sake of your children and your well-being, try to be pleasant and business-like. Even mustering a “happy holidays” to your ex is a step. Being pleasant goes a long way toward reducing tension, and it’s better for your children.
  3. Self-care: If your self-care routine has been in remission, rekindle it. Take walks, bubble baths, read a book, paint, talk to a friend, or learn a language. Anything that feels like an investment in your mental health is self-care.
  4. If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing: Even if you think your ex was a manipulative, cheating, lying rat, do not allow negative words to exit your mouth, especially within earshot of your children. Not only does negativity breed negativity, it creates internal conflict within your children because they feel caught in the middle. Stop the gossip to your mother and your friends, and give yourself a season of peace by not engaging in criticizing your former partner.
  5. Have some fun: When was the last time you did something fun? It may have been a while. Treat yourself to the gift of laughter, silliness, and goofiness. It’s the perfect present for divorcees and is necessary for healing.
  6. Start a new tradition: If you’ve always wanted to cut down your own tree, bake cookies for a cookie exchange, or volunteer your time, this is the perfect time to start a new tradition. You can experience the holidays in any way you want now.
  7. Connect with your family: One thing that helped me during my divorce was reconnecting with family. Family of origin can provide you with a safe place to be nurtured, to have some fun, and to feel loved. Consider spending more time this season with your parents and siblings, if possible. (If not, close friends often feel like family.) Get to know your nieces and nephews a bit better, or reconnect with cousins you haven’t seen in a while. The support you get back can be just what you needed.

I wish you peace and healing this holiday season.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Sonia

    December 16th, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    I am so glad that even when my ex and I got a divorce we made a pact pretty early on to keep things civil. Look, we figured out that simply because the two of us were not in love with each other anymore did not mean that this would ever change how we felt about the kids or how they felt about us. I may not want him in my life but my kids need that and so we do what we can to maintain friendship for the two of them. For us this has always worked and I suspect that if more divorced parents would make this commitment they would see so much more happiness in their lives.

  • Breeze

    December 16th, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    My parents couldn’t get along when they were married
    so they sure couldn’t get along after their divorce
    this made every single holiday and birthday for us miserable growing up
    be an adult
    and don’t do this to your kids

  • gus

    December 17th, 2015 at 7:35 AM

    Not saying anything at all- probably the best advice but not some that many have an easy time following

  • Kell

    December 17th, 2015 at 11:21 AM

    I think about how many kids young lives have been ruined by the divorce of their parents, not because divorce is some awful thing but mainly because there are adults who have no idea how they should even manage the situation.’The truth is that divorce is hard on any family and I think that we would all agree with that. But if you are mature about it and keep the kids’ best interests in mind then I think that it can be done in a way where there is very little lasting or residual damage done. But the hard part is that most of us are unable or unwilling to do that.

  • Amy

    December 19th, 2015 at 8:00 PM

    I wholeheartedly agree that while divorce is hard on everyone, it is the parents who need to be mature enough to realize that they are the ones who will be the catalyst to make a more positive, or negative, relationship.

    Divorce happens when two people can’t get along, right? So once the separation has happened, parents don’t need to get along anymore on a daily issues, they just have to be civil during transitions of the children.

    Disagreements are bound to come, but why can’t they come via email or text?

    This is what my ex-husband and I do. We literally cannot agree on anything, so we have agreed on one thing: to only communicate in written form. During transition of the children, we will talk to the children, but we never exchange words with each other. For us, it’s just not possible to have civil discourse. So we opt to have no discussion at all.

    The fighting that goes on via texts and emails are not overheard by the children. When I want to vent to my friends and family, I just forward the information, and get their advice/support that way. And in the meantime, although I know I could do better, I try not to talk about him at all. My children don’t need to hear negativity from me: that is not edifying. I want them to know that they can feel comfortable to love and talk about their father in my presence. That way if they ever are forced to choose between their parents, they will more likely choose me. They will learn soon enough who he really is, on their own, anyway.

    I applaud parents who can be civil enough to get along for their children sake, and not make it more difficult for them than it already is.

    And still I bet there is room for improvement… I know there is for me.

  • Amber

    December 21st, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    It is difficult for me to be cordial with my ex husband after how he cheated on me and was abusive toward me and the kids. I don’t even want to have to be around him and I sure won’t let the kids be with him without supervision. He is all the time trying to fight back against that, but you know, he made his own bed so now he has to live with his consequences.

  • Beattie

    December 23rd, 2015 at 5:24 AM

    For a while my ex wife and I were pretty good with all of this but I think that it all went downhill when I got remarried. I don’t know that she is threatened by my wife and her relationship with the kids but there is something going on there. Hurt? Anger ? Anyway it has taken a real toll on our working relationship and I know that the kids have felt it too. I want to make an effort to smooth things over and get us back on at least good working terms again but I just feel like I am hitting a wall with her most of the time. Suggestions?

  • Marion

    December 23rd, 2016 at 2:58 PM

    Are things any better this year? Sorry no one made suggestions last year…. I wondered if exploring (with her) the feelings she may have could reassure her??

  • michelle

    December 25th, 2015 at 8:56 AM

    tHe hOliDaYs can AlwaYs do a NumBer on Us. JuSt chill and EnjoY tHe Season

  • BESS

    December 26th, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    Everyone of my kids has gone through a divorce but we have been very lucky in that I don’t feel like the kids in any of the situations have ever been used as pawns. I think that they all know that the kids general welfare is what they all have to look out for and that have all done a pretty good job at doing that.

  • Andrea

    November 14th, 2019 at 12:37 PM

    All great tips. I for one made sure that new traditions were a part of my first few years after divorce. I looked at is a time to completely start over and find things I loved to do on the holidays!

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