There is nothing quite as demoralizing as coming out of a marriage and being newly single at holiday time. It can be quite a shock to your system when all the normal family routines are disrupted. Your old holiday habits don't seem to be quite right. Happiness is very elusive. Instead, you are depressed, lonely...Not quite sure how to work the holiday dinner with the kids-- when they are upset, angry with you and/or want to carve out time with your ex.
Are you doomed to a miserable holiday? The short answer is NO. Even if your family is a battlefield, or you are super stressed-out you can turn Thanksgiving (and Christmas or Hanukkah) into a good holiday experience for yourself. Simply follow my ten step 'holiday emergency' advice:
1. Shock your troublesome ex into being cordial or even likable.
List three things, even small things you truly appreciate about the way your ex usually acts around holiday time. For example, "You always did carve a mean turkey." Work these things into a conversation about family holiday plans. This will tend to shock your ex into being more generous in the holiday planning.
2. Use the therapist's secret.
When you're facing a nosy relative who wants a blow-by-blow about your separation, turn the tables by saying, "Oh, I really can't talk about it right now. How is your sciatica." This saves you from experiencing a lot of holiday stress.
3. Neutralize joy-kill fighting among your kids.
Kids are liable to act up when you are newly single. The solution is to ask them for help. Get all of your kids, even your youngest, into helping to prepare for the holiday. Have them set the table, decorate, slice and dice. This key piece of family relationship advice will engage children's attention, give them something to be proud of and stop any fighting.
4. Set your intention for this holiday.
You can make up your mind to have a happy holiday, no matter what your situation is. Decide something like, "I am now free to choose all the holiday things that I love. I find the joy in this holiday." Remember to use the present tense in making this intention. Then make your intention come to life by creating your own fun when you are with your family. Excuse yourself and go for a walk or make snow angels with the kids.
5. Stop worrying about looking good.
You may feel embarrassed about what has happened with your ex. You may worry that relatives are blaming you. It is impossible to look good to everyone. Yet, we often get into the habit of trying. This is your opportunity to not have a perfect house, perfectly-wrapped presents, a perfect dinner. Your real holiday job is to create fun and joy. Especially for yourself.
6. Create your own personal tradition.
Decide on a new holiday tradition that would make you happy. Perhaps you always wanted to take a road trip to see the fall foliage or the first blanket of snow. Invite any single friends that you live and give yourself this trip.
7. Create Gratitude Gifts
Write down ten things you appreciate about each person who is in your life. Give the list to them as a holiday gift.
8 . Give the gift of quality time.
Give each of your close relatives, friends or children the gift of a long walk-and-talk, a short getaway or a family trip involve giving of yourself--your time and attention, which is the most valuable gift of all. A bonus: when you put your complete attention on someone else, your mood will improve.
9. Do three random acts of kindness every day
During the holiday season practice unselfish acts of giving. Expect nothing in return. You will be delighted with what these acts do for your own mood.
10. Bring spirituality back into the holiday.
Pray, meditate or simply spend time in nature alone or with your loved ones. These practices offer you 'peace on earth' that is the ultimate healing balm.
Being newly single at holiday time is a challenge. A definite challenge. But you can take charge of your mood and handle your family life so that it works for you. Crisis does equal opportunity; opportunity for growth and healing. There are many more strategies for thriving and finding a new love after a divorce.
Wishing you more love,