Starting New Holiday Traditions After Divorce



The holidays ­ that wonderful time from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day ­ the classic celebrations of love, light and family togetherness. In the quick pound of a gavel, "holidays" suddenly take on an ominous, dread countenance. Not only will you miss what was (even if it was a powder keg of family dysfunction), but you have no idea how you can spend those special days now. It all feels like a huge accident waiting to happen.


Avert that accident by exploring some new avenues! If you have children, either young or grown:


Try to achieve a cooperative give-and-take of special days with your ex. If your children are adults, you shouldn't have to talk to him or her directly. Explain to your children that you do want to celebrate with them, but don't want to put them in a stressful position with their other parent. Talk over plans for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or other family occasions. For the children's comfort, be willing to alternate holidays with your ex. The last thing you want is for your children to dread the whole holiday season.


Don't try to exactly recreate the holidays of the past. The absence of the other parent will cast an enormous pall over what can be a lovely new-family time. Try keeping some specific, past activities, but changing others. Eat in the living room instead of the dining room, or have a picnic on the floor in front of the fireplace. Or eat out at a fancy, funky or unusual restaurant.


Look for alternative dates to hold your traditional family gathering. Mom wants to do Thanksgiving at her place? How about Dad starting a traditional chili and games night at his place the night before (or after) Thanksgiving. On Christmas, if Dad is looking forward to the big Christmas Day festivities, Mom could pick Christmas Eve for a family tree trimming and caroling party. You get the idea. Try to be flexible ­ you'll reduce everyone's stress levels.


Make your own plans for those holidays when the kids will be with their other parent. Sitting home alone, wallowing in self-pity would be a major downer, so just don't do it (unless you get iced in, in which case everybody in your region will be doing the same).


If you don't have children or if they will be elsewhere:


Ask around at church or at work and see who else doesn't have plans for That Day. They may be single, divorced or simply have family out of town. Make plans with one or more of them to come to your place for a potluck. That creates a warm, extended family atmosphere, especially if you throw in some singing and game playing. Your new extended family may decide to come together on several holidays a year, bringing their children and/or out-of-town relatives when they're available.


Do you have distant relatives ­ aunts, uncles, cousins ­ whom you rarely see? They might love an invitation to a holiday dinner at your place.


Reach outside yourself and lend a helping hand to others. Sign up to help serve the holiday meal at your local Salvation Army or volunteer to help at a nearby hospital or family shelter. Check with various charities to see what kinds of help they may need. They all have trouble lining up volunteers for holidays, so any time you can contribute will be heartily appreciated! This has a couple of side benefits. First, you won't have time to think about your problems while you're concentrating on others; second, when you get back home in the evening, you'll feel great about having brightened someone else's holiday.


Enjoy all the holidays in warm and loving ways, both old and new!

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