Holidays can be particularly difficult for people who are separated or divorced and for their children. Memories of past holidays will including having moms and dads together, perhaps with their extended families. That may not be possible after the separation.
Increasingly, people who were able to amiably settle their cases find it possible to continue family traditions of celebrating together, including their extended families. That requires acknowledging that even post separation/divorce, you accept that you married or partnered with a good person from a good family. You just cannot live with that person in an intimate relationship, but you can still spend celebrations together.
For families where togetherness is not possible after the decision to divorce/separate has been made, it’s important to plan ahead. Do not wait for Christmas Eve to decide how you are going to spend the holidays. Why?
It is important to grieve the loss of your traditions. Thinking it through in advance, if you did not have a chance to do this when you were working out a settlement, often allows you to consider all the implications of sharing time at the holidays. For separating or divorcing couples who had a holiday schedule imposed by a referee or a judge, the grieving may not have been possible at that time.
Do not try to duplicate your former traditions, if your former spouse/partner and you cannot spend the holidays together. Develop new traditions. Arrange for family get-togethers that you usually participated in. However, prepare the family that the children will only be with you during alternating years. It will not help you to have your family members complaining about the absence of the children. If they do, place a happy smile on your face and assure them that the children are enjoying a celebration with their other parent.
For those holidays when you are without the children, find ways to enjoy yourself. Spend Christmas Day or Eve with relatives or friends. If that is not comfortable for you or possible, consider volunteering to feed the homeless or distribute gifts to the needy. Volunteers are particularly needed during the holidays. Do something that you will enjoy. If spending the day alone appeals to you, by all means, spend the day alone. However, do not complain to the children when you next spend time with them, that you missed them so much during that holiday. The children need a parent who can care for him/herself and appreciate that the children need to spend time with both parents.
Change is difficult. It is particularly hard when there are many traditions attached to a particular event, since we tend to resist changing those traditions. However, after separation or divorce, it is important to open yourself to finding new ways to enjoy the holidays, so that you build happy memories for future holiday celebrations.