How to Survive Your First Holiday After Divorce

By Main Line Family Law Center


Going through a divorce is difficult enough, but getting through your first holiday after a split can make the process much more challenging. Thinking about the holidays post-divorce can be confusing and overwhelming, especially since this time of year can bring back deep emotions and memories. Although it can be tough to get through your first holiday season alone, there are still ways to make it enjoyable. Here are a few ways to cope. 

Plan Ahead

The holidays are a hectic time of year already, but if you have to share custody of your children, it’s best to communicate with your ex as soon as possible to determine the best plan of action. 

Not planning ahead can lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety, and hurt feelings between you and your ex which is the last thing you need. 

When discussing the holidays, create a balanced schedule for your children and discuss how you’ll split up the time. Do you want to split each day in half? Spend them together as a family?

Divide the holidays between you two? No matter what you choose, setting up a concrete schedule for your kids can create a sense of normalcy and consistency as they deal with the divorce.

As always, try to put your children first when planning and do what’s best for them rather than yourself or your ex. However, try to be fair and split the time equally if that’s the route you choose. For instance, if you have the kids for Christmas, then your ex should get them for New Year’s.

You should also discuss what presents each of you are buying so there’s no overlap or confusion for your kids. Being on the same page with your ex will make the holidays much more manageable. 

Surround Yourself With Loved Ones

The holidays are all about being around loved ones, so make sure to nurture these connections especially as you’re dealing with your divorce. Although you might feel depressed or angry, try not to isolate yourself or push people away.

Having a strong support system while you’re coping with divorce and navigating your first holiday alone is essential for staying sane and upbeat during a difficult time. 

If you live far away from family, it might be worth visiting them for the holidays so you’re surrounded by love and encouragement. Seeing family members or friends will ensure you’re fully supported emotionally during this time and will hopefully make your holidays more cheerful and enjoyable.

Especially if your children are with your ex, you should make sure you’re surrounded by people you love to help with sadness and loneliness. A strong support system can help get your mind off of your ex and also help you with any holiday-related tasks. 

However, if you can’t make a trip to visit family, try to get out of the house for some social interaction instead of staying home alone. Spend time with friends or video chat family to maintain a strong connection. You can also join a divorce support group and connect with people online who can relate to your situation – this is a helpful resource and a great outlet to vent about your feelings to people who understand what you’re going through. 

Organize Your Finances

It’s no secret that holiday spending is expensive, especially when you have to buy for your children, friends, and family members. Coming right off of a divorce and dealing with a single income for presents, decorations, and other holiday expenses can be difficult to manage. However, there are ways to effectively organize your finances, even by yourself. 

To better manage your money, create a budget for holiday spending so you stay within your means. Be realistic about what you can afford to spend on gifts, and give yourself a spending limit on presents, decorations, and other expenses to keep yourself in check.

If you can’t afford gifts for everyone on your list, consider doing Secret Santa or White Elephant exchanges so you only have to buy for one person. You can also coordinate with your ex to buy presents for your children so not all of the cost is up to you. 

However, if you need extra money for gifts or need to pay off credit card debt from holiday shopping, leveraging your home equity may be a smart option. This type of loan has a lower interest rate than a personal loan or credit card, and gives you the money in one lump sum so you can immediately start tackling high-interest debt, holiday shopping, and other post-divorce expenses.

Keep in mind that your home acts as collateral, so be sure to create an organized repayment plan. 

Focus on Self Care

Even though it’s the season of giving, it’s also important to take care of yourself during the holidays, especially after a divorce. Although the holidays can be hectic, make time for yourself and allow yourself to heal. Try to treat yourself to something special and do something fun.

This could be having a night out with friends, relaxing at home, or even going on a solo travel trip. Especially if your kids are with your ex, try to think optimistically and use this time alone for self care. 

To avoid feeling burnt out from a busy holiday schedule, try to spend your time doing things that are most rewarding. Prioritize yourself and your time so you aren’t too overwhelmed with events and social interaction. Although it’s easy to think you need to do everything during the holidays, set healthy boundaries and don't let people guilt you into doing things you aren’t comfortable with.

Make sure to focus on your own mental health and wellbeing, and do things that will make you happy and fulfilled. This could include holiday-themed activities to get you in a festive mood or normal activities you enjoy. However you decide to practice self care, make it count and take this time to focus on the positive. 

Getting through your first holiday after a divorce is tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this beautiful time of year. Focus on yourself and your children and use this time as an opportunity to create new traditions and memories.

As long as you find a strong support system and plan ahead with your ex, you’ll be set to have a cheery and stress-free holiday season. 

Topics: Mindful Divorcing Parent, Your Wellbeing