Did you know that lawyer’s call January “Divorce Month” because there are more divorce filings than any other month of the year? Many couples choose to wait until after the holidays to file for divorce to try to avoid the stress of splitting during the holidays. But whether you’re waiting to divorce, going through one or just completed one, the holidays can be a complicated and difficult time. Here are some tips about how to deal with divorce during the holidays, no matter what stage you’re in:
The Holidays Before a Divorce
Lower Your Expectations and Don’t Try To Be Too Perfect
If you and your spouse are already fighting, the holidays can add unneeded stress to your lives. In addition, the holidays can make you feel like you need to be a Christmas card perfect family, always smiling and getting along. Be realistic about your situation and understand that you probably won’t be able to totally avoid conflict during the holiday season. Instead, let go of some expectations and traditions and take things one day at a time.
Consider Holidays Apart
You may not be ready to file for divorce, but separating holiday times between spouses may make things a bit easier, depending on your situation. While Texas does not recognize legal separation, you can still choose to live in different places or celebrate the holidays separately.
Think Ahead to Your Divorce Proceedings
If you’re trying to keep the peace in your family, look into a collaborative divorce or mediation, instead of a traditional divorce. These options provide you help in dividing assets and custody, but with a more congenial approach. It can also save you money on legal fees. If you’re a Texas Legal member, your membership covers both a traditional divorce, contested or uncontested, as well as mediation.
Try to Let Go
When conflicts have been building for years, it’s so difficult to let go of anger and resentment. But if you’re committed to remaining together through the holidays, the best strategy might be to make December a “let it go” month. When something happens that normally would cause another fight, decide to take a rain check from your normal reaction and file it away for January. While some things need to be addressed immediately, many other conflicts can be just avoided. In a month’s time, you’ll be on your way to legally managing those conflicts and moving forward. Let your anger wait until after the holidays are over.
Holidays During a Divorce
Make New Plans and Traditions
If you’re in the midst of divorce, the regular holiday traditions might feel too painful or awkward. Why not start creating new ones? Now might be a great time for a vacation. Spend the holidays at a fun hotel, enjoying the breakfast buffet and letting kids swim in the pool. Or come up with some new holiday traditions that you can continue into the future. If your kids are anxious about the holidays, let them help you come up with some new traditions and ideas.
Plan Custody Arrangements
When holidays are a single day, like Christmas, it can be difficult to decide who gets the kids. But remember that the holidays are about being together and celebrating, and that can happen any day you plan. Talk to your extended families ahead of time about moving a Christmas celebration to the 26th or 27th.
Take Care of Yourself and Do Less
Divorce is stressful anytime of year, but the added stress of the holidays can make it too much to handle. This year, cut a few “to dos” from your list and make time for rest and self-care. Maybe every year you make 5 different kinds of Christmas cookies, but perhaps this year, it’s enough to do just one, or even just find a great bakery and enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor! Find family and friends who can help you work through your feelings, or even better, a licensed therapist who can help you find ways to deal with the stress.
The First Holidays Post-Divorce
Don’t Stay Home Alone
When you’re feeling blue, it can be easy to avoid other people. But now is the time to rely on family and friends for support and make plans to spend the holidays together. If you have kids and only have them part time for the holidays, create other fun plans for when the kids are with your spouse. Avoid the temptation to stay home alone and just be sad.
Review Custody Agreements
If your divorce is finalized, make sure to review the custody agreements you set up in your divorce proceedings. Stick to what you agreed to, and if you find your ex isn’t doing so, make a call to your lawyer. Don’t try to make new arrangements or spring changes on your ex at the last minute.
Make a New Years Resolution
After a divorce, a lot of things about your life change. Focus on what you want to change for the new year and start making plans on how you’re going to pursue your goal. Hoping to get in shape? Start researching gyms and nutritionists. Want to get a new hobby? Explore what your community offers. Focusing on building a brighter future can help you avoid dwelling in the past.