Holidays with Divorced Parents

White Stockings

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! 

Stockings c/o / Topiaries / Similar X Benches / Nailhead Table

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  1. Jessie Holmes Springer said:

    I love this post! I am unfortunately going through a divorce myself, and I have been dreading the holidays. Every tradition we had will just be a reminder of what life used to be like, and what I wish it was still like. However, I think it’s so important to have a positive attitude and accept that things may not be the same, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be bad. It can be fun to create new traditions, and we can look at it as an opportunity to make new memories. 🙂

    Thanks so much for posting this! Merty Christmas to you and your family!



    12.7.16 · Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through, Jessie. I know it will get better, and the positive attitude definitely can’t hurt!

      12.7.16 · Reply
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      12.10.18 · Reply
  2. cDs said:

    That secret stocking exchange is adorable. While my parents are still together, it still stings every year when it hits that my little sister won’t be with us. We used to go away for the holidays to be out of our house, but after a few years we just wanted to be together in our own little unit. My parents and I (and now my Kendall!) have recently started a tradition where we do a movie/ sushi night on Christmas day!
    x0x0 Caroline

    12.7.16 · Reply
    • So fun! Love that new tradition. I bet it takes the sting out of losing the old one.

      12.7.16 · Reply
  3. Kiki said:

    This post speaks to me. I am very blessed that my parents are still together, but my husband’s parents divorced a very long time ago too. We’ve been together 5 years now and this is our 6th Christmas together. We are some what of a “pro” at it so I thought I’d share for other readers. (:

    Ours is slightly more difficult since we have a 2 year old. EVERYONE wants to see and spend as much time with her as possible and we are so blessed to have family that genuinely wants to see us. With that being said, 6 Grandparents (my parents and both his parents remarried), and 5 Great Grandparents makes for hectic holidays. It’s a lot, and we typically celebrate 4 Thanksgivings and 3 Christmases. By the end of the holidays we’re tired and almost need another holiday to recover from our busy holiday. It’s easy to think about yourself and how “hard” it is on you. I used to get really frustrated with all our holiday run around, but in the last year, I sort of came to terms with it. None of us are promised time. Family time is so important to me and how lucky am I to get multiple holidays? It’s different for everyone and will take a few years to get on a good schedule, but it’s all so worth it. <3

    12.7.16 · Reply
    • OMG 6 grandparents and 5 great-grandparents!? Wow… that is intense! I love your attitude, and will try to take t hat on myself this year as well. Good luck 🙂

      12.7.16 · Reply
      • Kiki said:

        It’s a blessing and a curse sometimes, and I have to remember when they fight over time with us, it’s because they all love us so much. I can take that. (;

        12.8.16 · Reply
  4. Brenna Kelly said:

    Going on year 3 of holidays with divorced parents. Since it’s still a newer thing and both parents are still somewhat in the bitter and anger stage of moving in it has definitely been challenging. My parents had such an ugly divorce that I haven’t looked forward to the holidays the last three years. I’ve found that since I’m an adult now I’ve almost become like a parent to them during this whole process. Reading this gives me hope that things will smooth over as time goes on and it will get easier though so thank you for sharing such a personal thing!

    12.7.16 · Reply
    • The bitter stage is the worst because you often feel in the middle of them. I’m so sorry you have to deal with that! Keep on doing what you’re doing and make the most of the situation. Best of luck!

      12.7.16 · Reply
  5. Lauren said:

    Sending a hug to all those in this club!

    I’d add the tip “don’t lie.” My siblings and I survived the first couple holidays trying to not share with one parent that we were secretly seeing the other and eventually just found the best path is be honest with everyone even though feelings will get hurt. And yes, take time for yourself to stay sane!

    12.7.16 · Reply
    • YES! Great great point. We did the same thing but so not worth it. Honesty is for sure the best policy here… as always 🙂

      12.7.16 · Reply
  6. Squiderous said:

    How do you balance both you and your husband’s families at the holidays? That’s often our issue, my partner’s parents want to switch off every other year and I’m left in the corner like, hello, I have a family too!

    12.8.16 · Reply
    • Good question! My in-laws actually don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas as muslim immigrants, so we got lucky there. This year, they’re coming to Christmas because I’m hosting. But I know a lot of people struggle with this! Sorry I’m not a bigger help 🙂

      12.8.16 · Reply
      • Squiderous said:

        That would make the holidays easier! No competition for the Muslim or Christian holidays 🙂

        12.8.16 · Reply