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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Planning your Holidays...Start thinking about it already!

   You might be the one to make them so!

So here we are at the edge of winter, headed full steam into the big holiday season.  Our Jewish friends are in between some of their biggest holidays, having just come off the High Holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, looking forward to the coming celebration of Hannukah.  For we Christians in America, as well as other Americans, Thanksgiving is an important family holiday, that leads us right into the celebration of Christmas and New Year’s.  And many here in America will be out in a couple of weeks handing out candy and treats as children wander from house to house dressed up in costumes.

I have already had several conversations with individuals making plans for holidays, who are frustrated at the effort it takes.  It always takes time to plan a good holiday celebration.  But when you have to plan it around other families, some of whom have no consideration for anybody else, the experience moves from frustrating to infuriating or, at the least, exasperating.  For the divorced, most especially those who have children, the holidays serve as a reminder that you are divorced and nothing is easy any more.  My way of saying it is that after a divorce, the holidays are never the same again.  Never. 

People who have not experienced divorce, often don’t realize how heart wrenching and difficult they can be.  They also don’t realize that their choices, words  and actions may have dramatic impact on how their divorced friends experience the holidays.  Let me suggest to you that, if you have a friend who is divorced, find a way to include them into some part of your celebrations, especially during the time their children will be at the home of their ex.  If you have resources, you might even want to carefully explore the financial resources of your friend for gifts, and perhaps find a way to help with costs for the holiday meal or offer a gift card that might be used for children’s presents.

It may seem early to discuss these issues, but it is never too early to start thinking ahead about ways to make those days go more smoothly, either for yourself or for your friend.  So how about a few suggestions today?  Later, I’ll offer a top ten tip list for the divorced and their friends, but let me lay the groundwork today.

First, don’t wait till the last minute and expect anybody to be able to accommodate your desires.  Make some plans now…if you are still on a visitation plan…review the schedule now and plan accordingly.  If you have the children on Christmas Eve, check into options for celebrations, such as Communion Services, Living Nativity Displays, Christmas gift exchanges, whatever opportunities are meaningful for you and your family.  Or, if this is your first year of single celebration, research and consider what new traditions you might want to establish.  Even something as simple as cutting a Christmas tree yourself, or join a caroling group can create special memories. 

Secondly, it can’t hurt to touch base with your children, regardless of age, to let them know of your schedule plans.  In the case of younger children, it reminds them well in advance how the schedule works this year.  For adult children, it gives them opportunity to make arrangements in their own work and family schedules.  If your children are all adults, you may be able to consult with them as you develop the plan, or that may become so complicated it may be wiser to simply state the schedule you can establish and invite them to participate as they are able.

If you are in good relationship with your ex, you could touch base with them to hammer out various travel and schedule details now, well in advance.  I even know of some who come together to celebrate with their older children to accommodate their varying schedules.  If not on good terms, perhaps a reminding email would work best.

Most of all, the holiday adjustments divorce creates changes in time you have with family, so it is wise to plan now for those times when will be left alone or at least, without your children around.  There are lots of good causes you could invest time in at local nursing homes, soup kitchens…whatever would help you get outside yourself during that time.

Advance thought now can spare you some emotional pain down the road.

TL:dr  Scheduling holidays and dealing with the resulting emotions can be very difficult for the divorce.  Planning ahead can make a difference.

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