How To Manage Thanksgiving Holiday Stress After Divorce

After your divorce, every holiday and event will require some flexibility as you navigate sharing parenting time and creating new traditions. You will experience sadness reflecting on memories of previous holiday traditions you shared. This time of year is stressful for everyone, even for people who aren’t going through a separation or divorce.  However, those feeling of stress and heartache seem to be on steroids for those of us who are. Not only do we have to worry about the holiday stress that comes with family, over-spending, and logistics nightmares, we are going through a complete emotional nightmare that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. 

Therefore, the Thanksgiving holiday is bound to have some challenges for both you and your kids; however, there are some things you can do to help everyone get through – and maybe even enjoy – Thanksgiving after divorce Here are four core strategies that will help you get through Thanksgiving so that you can focus on the important things: healing yourself, getting back to happy, and enjoying all the warmth of Thanksgiving and none of the drama.

Take this year to make new traditions. If you always spent Thanksgiving with your spouse’s family, go visit yours this year. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or having a dinner with your friends. When you’re dealing with divorce, don’t put all your focus on how things were. Think about how things get to be now and take steps to make them that way. If you have always wished that you had more connection or relaxation at the holidays, build that into your time with your kids or without your kids. Divorce can feel out of control to a kid, so including them in creating new traditions for Thanksgiving after divorce is a way to give them license to create their new family life.

Model gratitude.  Thanksgiving is a holiday about being grateful. It might sound impossible to feel grateful for a divorce or the stress of navigating a holiday when you feel sad, angry, hurt, or lonely. I’m not asking you to pretend to be grateful for those things or to fake your feelings. Rather, I’m encouraging you to identify the things in your life that you are grateful to have. It could be close relationships with your kids, your health, or supportive friends and family. Highlighting real gratitude for your children will model positive coping and will remind you that nothing is black and white – there are still good things in your life.

Acknowledge your kids’ feelings. Your kids may feel sad or angry about the divorce, and the holidays may increase those feelings. Instead of trying to spin things positively (“You get two Thanksgiving feasts!”), acknowledge their feelings even if it’s difficult (“You are really sad that we aren’t all together this year” or “You are angry that you won’t see your mom on Thanksgiving”). This will help your kids feel understood – which is the first step for beginning the process of healing and moving forward.

Finally, take care of yourself.  You will likely have times over the holidays when you do not have your children. Plan ahead for how you would like to spend that time. To some, it is ideal to be alone and relaxing, while that might feel lonely to another. There isn’t a right or wrong way; it’s about what is meaningful and enjoyable to you. Reach out to family and friends to stay connected and feel supported.

The holidays are an opportunity for connection and making memories. It can also be a stressful time because of unrealistic expectations. Recognizing that everyone will have reactions to the changes will allow you to support your kids and be gentle with yourself during your first (or second, or third) Thanksgiving after divorce. So, the best way to survive this holiday, and the start of the overwhelming holiday season, is to recognize that you are going through a ton of stuff right now and not to punish yourself for that. Be kind to yourself, focus on the things that truly provide you and your dependents comfort, and do your best to forget the rest.

Now, take a deep breath… you’ve got this!

Sending love, light and joy,

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