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Holiday Divorce Advice: 10 Tips For Weathering The Holidays Post-Split

Holiday Divorce

First Posted: 11/09/11 03:45 AM ET Updated: 11/09/11 07:03 PM ET

The holidays conjure warm, fuzzy images of roasted Thanksgiving turkeys, adults toasting eggnog and children unwrapping presents. But what happens when divorce turns these traditions upside down?

We asked 10 experts for their advice on how to handle the holidays post-split. Click through what they had to say about everything from adapting and creating new traditions to preparing yourself emotionally, and add your own tips in the comments.

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  • Create New Traditions

    "Every Christmas my girls and I selected the day we would celebrate Christmas. We planned new traditions together while they kept the Christmas Day routine at their dad's. The scale of Christmas became more child-oriented and child-focused -- less focused on adult-themed celebration. The kids (not the adults) decorated the tree. Adults were not allowed to move around the ornaments and 'fix' things. By creating a uniquely new experience, we did not interrupt their customary holiday rituals." --<a href="" target="_hplink">Claire N. Barnes</a>, executive director of <a href="" target="_hplink">Kids' Turn</a>

  • Keep The Family Intact

    "Forget the holiday hype and the pressure to create the "perfect" holiday -- whether with decorations, gifts or gatherings -- and find more meaningful ways to be together as a family while remaining true to the spirit of the holiday. If you're on good enough terms with your former spouse (and if you have kids, you should be!), invite him/her to come over for brunch or a gift exchange or for whatever tradition you shared as an intact family; it's a way to acknowledge and honor the family that was and most likely still remains a huge part of your children's memories." --<a href="" target="_hplink">Vicki Larson</a>, columnist for <a href="" target="_hplink">Mommy Tracked: Managing the Chaos of Modern Motherhood</a>

  • Don't Be Afraid To Be Alone

    "Recognize there are worse ways to spend the holidays than by yourself. I once tried Thanksgiving with a group of single strangers who rented a beach house for the weekend. What had seemed a creative escape from the usual traditions turned out to be a holiday filled with faux cheer. Maybe not a nightmare, but close. I never minded holidays alone after that." --<a href="" target="_hplink">John Douglas Marshall</a>, author of <a href="" target="_hplink">Reconciliation Road: A Family Odyssey</a>

  • Prepare Yourself For A Strong Emotional Response

    "Even if you do not think about your divorce in your day-to-day life, holidays are a unique time of the year. Do yourself a favor and remind yourself: I am human; I will probably feel sad; and I am ready!" --<a href="" target="_hplink">Mark Banschick, MD</a>, author of <a href="" target="_hplink">The Intelligent Divorce book series</a>

  • Plan In Advance

    "I think it is imperative that everything is worked out far in advance. Working out where the children are going is not only good for the kids, it's good for everyone." --<a href="" target="_hplink">Eric Villency</a>, principal of <a href="" target="_hplink">Villency Design Group</a>

  • Be Flexible

    "If you don't have the kids on Thanksgiving or Christmas days themselves, celebrate on another day. Do it up! Flexibility is the key to successful co-parenting. Also, establish new traditions. Do something different, while maintaining some of the familiar ones. Emphasize gratitude for what you have. Being in the spirit is the most important holiday element. It radiates out to those around you and makes you feel good too." --<a href="" target="_hplink">Micki McWade</a>, author of <a href="" target="_hplink">Getting Up, Getting Over, Getting On: A Twelve Step Guide to Divorce Recovery</a>

  • Look Ahead

    "This year I was asked to speak to a Canadian organization on the Friday after Thanksgiving in Scottsdale, AZ. It was my ex's year to have our adult children, so I accepted the gig and called one of my best friends who lives in Scottsdale. The result? I'll be having Thanksgiving dinner with her and her husband this year. And a welcome relief from the Minnesota winter!" --<a href="" target="_hplink">Christine K. Clifford</a>, author of <a href="" target="_hplink">The Clue Phone's Ringing...It's for You! Healing Humor for Women Divorcing</a>

  • Do Something Different

    "Holidays can be challenging for divorced individuals because they often trigger memories of when you were married to your ex, when your marriage was good, and your "family" was intact. If you are close to your family of origin, and there is support there, you can definitely spend time with them, but be sure to tell them how you are feeling and what you need from them. If you are not close to your family and feel that a holiday visit will make you feel "unsafe" or jeopardize your mental health or your healing progression, maybe it's best not to attend. Several years ago a client decided that she would feel out of place at her family's Christmas celebration. She was the only one who was divorced and childless, and she wasn't getting the type of support that she needed. So she bravely explained to her family that she was sitting Christmas out. She booked a vacation at a yoga retreat and spent Christmas day on a long hike with brand new friends that she made while there." --<a href="" target="_hplink">Rachel A. Sussman</a>, author of <a href="" target="_hplink">The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman's Guide to Healing from a Breakup or Divorce</a>

  • Take Great Photographs

    "Show off your new family by sending out holiday cards with a post-divorce photo of you and your kids. This is a great way to show everyone that you may have lost the ex and some property, but you haven't lost your smile." --<a href="" target="_hplink">Edra J. Pollin</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">family law attorney</a>

  • Fill The Kid Void

    "Accept that after divorce, holidays are part-time with your kids, and part-time with your friends. Fill the kid void with your side of the family or friends, but don't lay any blame or loneliness on your children."--<a href="" target="_hplink">Laurie Puhn</a>, author of <a href="" target="_hplink">Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In</a>


Filed by Roselle Chen  |