We are past the gateway to the holiday season and well on our way into the hustle and bustle that makes up Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have so much to look forward to:
Wonderful food smells from the kitchen
Baking cookies with the kids
Family crowded around the table
Shopping at the busy malls
Coordinating visiting schedules with your ex-spouse and their family
Constant changes in plans
Trying to keep the holiday merry while dealing with all the difficulties
So what can you do to make things a bit easier for yourself and your family?
1) Make plans in advance and stick to them. It would be wonderful if you could talk with your ex-spouse well in advance of the holiday season, when emotions donít run quite so high, and decide when and where the holiday visiting will take place. Some couples have a set schedule where mom gets the kids on Thanksgiving and dad on the day after, alternating each year. (Hey, mom, this means you get to hit the after-Thanksgiving Day sales unencumbered every other year!) Keep in mind that there is no perfect solution. Sharing the kids is give-and-take situation; and you are going to have to give in order to be able to take.
2) Make arrangements to drop off children or have children picked up by ex-family members with whom you are comfortable. If it is a difficult for you to see your ex-husband, perhaps your mother-in-law wonít mind picking up the kids OR perhaps your ex wonít mind picking them up from your motherís house. Whatever it takes for the children to have the least amount of stress possible.
3) Do not short-change yourself in the process of trying to keep everyone happy. You are not obligated to make special arrangements for different members of your ex-in-laws. For the first three Christmases after the divorce, my brother-in-law tried to insist that I split the kids holiday time three ways: with me, with their father, and with his family. Their father wanted them on Christmas Eve, their uncle wanted them for Christmas lunch, and that left me withÖa few hours Christmas morning and Christmas evening when they were tired and cranky. Sorry; not happening. Simply explain that you are not willing to give up your holiday with your daughters and that these family members will have to make arrangements to see the children when they are visiting the ex-spouse. Children only have to be shared two ways - father and mother. The related family members should deal with the respective parent to arrange visitation. I referred myself back to suggestion #1 and came up with an alternating schedule that involved me, my ex, and my children. End of discussion.
4) Remind yourself that regardless of what has happened in the past, you have a cornucopia of blessing for which to be thankful. You have your children, you have family members, friends,Öand the list goes on. With the economy as it is today, if you have a job, you are blessed. If you have your health, you are blessed. A roof over your head and food on the tableÖblessed. Donít take the little things for granted. They are way too important to dismiss as trivial. Make it a habit to find something every single day for which you are thankful.
5) Whatever the situation with you and your ex, do NOT allow the children to be used against each other. They didnít ask for a broken family; they arenít to blame for the issues; and they shouldnít have to deal with the aggravations. They have experienced enough pain as it is. Make the holidays as stress-free as possible for them. It isnít their job to make things easier between the two of you, nor are they intelligence agents. Just let them be kids spending some time with their parents.
6) Finally, make sure to take some time to de-stress yourself. Thatís right. This is a very stressful season. Before you find yourself glaring at your co-workers, snapping at your kids, or elbowing the shopper next to you over the last pink sweater, make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Eat properly and regularly, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself some relaxation time at least every other day. I know, seems impossible, doesnít it? But I promise you that you will enjoy the holidays more if you simply leave some things undone and take care of yourself. You donít have to make the gingerbread house yourself; if you must have one, get it from the bakery. After the time and aggravation you put into it, the one you made costs just as much as the ready-made one.
So dig out the hockey masks and knee pads, assume the position, and get yourself ready to deal with the dreaded holiday spirits! But this year, resolve to consider yourself, too.