If you’re recently divorced, the holidays will likely look a lot different moving forward. The changes are especially difficult if you have children. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, rest assured that there are things you can do to make it easier—and even enjoyable—both for you and your kids. Start by understanding your custody arrangement. Are you and your ex-spouse splitting holidays or alternating years? Once you know the plan, you can start to prepare and make the best of it. Here’s how:
- Communicate openly and honestly with your kids. This is a difficult time for everybody involved, and the healing won’t happen overnight. Check in with your kids regularly to see how they’re feeling about the upcoming festivities. It’s better for them to feel understood rather than overlooked, even if it’s hard for you to hear about the hurt and anger they may be feeling. Listen to them and validate their feelings, but also remind them that you care deeply about them and you want them to enjoy their Thanksgiving—even when they’re away from you.
- Embrace old and new traditions. Thanksgiving may officially take place on the fourth Thursday of November, but we all know the season extends far beyond a single day. Hold on to the traditions that are meaningful to you and your kids, such as roasting a turkey (even if it’s not on Thanksgiving Day), watching a football game, or shopping on Black Friday.
At the same time, be open and flexible to establishing new traditions. If your kids can’t be with you on Thanksgiving Day, be intentional about how you spend the day. Maybe you’re fine with just relaxing, or maybe you’ll celebrate with extended family. If you’re worried that it might be a particularly hard and lonely day, make plans. Create your own fun by going out to a movie, getting together with friends, or volunteering at a local food bank.
- Plan something to look forward to after the holidays. This can be a powerful tool to help you navigate the holiday season, especially during those times when your kids are away or you’re feeling down. Diving into the planning details for a special event or trip can help reduce stress and boost your mood. It will also give you and your kids another opportunity to bond as you plan and enjoy the time together.
This Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful for what you have rather than dwelling on what you don’t have. This may require you to be very intentional about maintaining a positive attitude. Not only will it improve your mood, but it’s also a great way to model gratitude during a time when your kids may be struggling with the new family arrangement.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.