Navigating the holidays can be difficult for anyone… but when divorced parents are involved things can get sticky. The question of how to handle this already tricky time with divorced parents keeps coming to me on Snapchat and email, but I thought it warranted a full post. My parents have been divorced for over 10 years, they’re both remarried, and we’re all pros at this point, but it wasn’t always that way…
I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I hope these tips help any of you who are going through this now at any stage!
1. Accept the Change. The first year is tough, I’m not going to lie. You remember the good ole’ days, and want to hang onto that for dear life. The divorce itself is hard enough, but changing up life-long traditions can feel heart wrenching. I promise you, this will pass. It will get better. My advice for the first year is to ditch the idea that anything will be the same. It won’t. Start new traditions as soon as possible, and go through it knowing in your heart that soon, it will feel right.
2. Stick to a Schedule. In my family, we split holidays so that one year we’ll spend Thanksgiving with my mom and her family and Christmas with my dad and his family, and then switch it up every other year. It’s worked really well for us so far, because we don’t have to have a conversation about it every year. It’s set in stone and that’s just the way it is. There’s no negotiating, or putting anyone in the position of making a decision. I know other families who have to go over it every year, which makes it hard for everyone- your parents, you, your grandparents. It’s no good, trust me!
3. Let Go of the Guilt. The first few years of this set up, my sister and I would feel extreme guilt for not being with the other parent at any given time. It was hard, we would cry. I recommend dropping the guilt to be present with whichever parent you’re with. Otherwise you’re not going to enjoy any of the holidays, and who wants that?
4. Start new Traditions. We’ve started new traditions with both sets of parents that I can’t imagine ever living without now! With my dad and his wife, Jennifer, we do a “secret stocking” at Christmas where we all draw names and have $100 to spend on small gifts to fit in the stocking of the person we drew. It’s a silly little tradition, but it’s so fun every year! Every other Thanksgiving, we’ve been welcomed into my mom’s husband Rob’s family for a feast on the beach in Bolinas, California where they’re from. We eat oysters, go for hikes, and sometimes even swim. Both traditions make us all so happy.
5. Take Time for Yourself. Whether your parents are divorced, together, or deceased, it’s important to carve out some time for yourself. I like to always take at least a few hours for myself on each holiday to reflect and relax. It can all be a bit nutty, so I find that taking a bath, meditating, or just reading a book helps me re-calibrate.
I’d love to hear how you handle holidays with divorced parents!