There are many stressors during the holidays, more so when you’re juggling kids and an ex-spouse. How do you manage the two during the holiday season?
The holidays are supposed to be a cheerful time, and maybe they are for you. The season fills your heart with joy and laughter. But maybe you experience the holidays differently. The garlands, gifts, and carols dredge up bittersweet memories that leave you angry or in tears.
Regardless of how you experience the holidays, you can agree on one fact: they’re stressful. Gifts must be bought, and travel plans made. The kids demand cookies for yet another party, and the ex wants to trade weekends. The festivities soon get lost in the stress.
But you can restore the spirit of the holiday season with these seven coping strategies.
They will help you avoid your ex when possible, plan for an inevitable encounter, increase your safety, reduce stress, and introduce new family traditions.
Avoid Your Ex If Possible
You and your ex probably share some favorite restaurants and holiday functions. If nothing else, you have friends in common. Those three areas could easily become places where you run into him (besides picking up or dropping off the kids).
Knowing that, you should figure out if you can avoid those situations, particularly if your divorce is new or you struggle to get along with your ex. You need time to heal, and running into an ex-spouse won’t help with that. But if it’s impossible to avoid seeing him, continue to the next strategy. It can help keep you from falling apart at a holiday party.
Be Prepared For an Encounter With Your Ex
Unfortunately, avoiding your ex-spouse can often be impossible, especially if you have kids together. You know too many of the same people and like too many of the same things. Rather than bewail the fact, plan for the encounter. Choosing how you will act (or react) now prevents responses made in the heat of the moment.
And you know those moments could be heated, especially if you’re in the middle of a custody hearing or argument about how to raise the kids. Extinguish the possibility of conflict by deciding which battles require a confrontation. Then, let go, as best you can, of the other ones. Doing so reduces tension and ensures a good holiday season for you, your ex, and the kids.
Treat Your Ex with Civility
Besides preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for encounters with your ex, consider how to converse with them. You’ll want to be civil if only to ease awkward family situations. But you may wonder what “civil” entails when it involves someone you once knew intimately.
A good guideline is the coworker rule. Treat your ex as you would a work colleague. You might shake hands or incline your head in greeting. You wouldn’t, however, share a hug or a kiss on the cheek. The actions send the wrong signals, if not to your ex-spouse, then to your kids, guests, or relatives.
Secure Your Home
Once you think through how to handle meeting your ex, you should contemplate other things. Specifically, you should revisit the subject of home safety and security since you might find yourself home alone more often when the kids are with your ex. Don’t let it worry or overwhelm you. Manage it by investing in technology that protects your home and your family.
A home security camera, for example, awards not only security but also confidence. The equipment monitors your home all day, every day, ensuring you and your kids stay safe. It also guarantees items remain on the porch. You and your kids, after all, aren’t the only ones anticipating gifts this 2017 holiday season. “Porch pirates” look forward to them too.
Institute New Holiday Traditions With Your Kids
Now that you’ve implemented some strategies for dealing with your ex and home security, you can concern yourself with holiday traditions. Don’t minimize their importance. They foster the love and joy of the season and create memories your kids will never forget.
To institute ones unassociated with prior years, think about traditions you loved as a child. Perhaps you enjoyed looking at Christmas lights, making saltwater taffy, or giving surprise gifts to your neighbors. You could also look at scheduled citywide events and plan your calendar around them. Find the activities that fit your family’s personality and integrate them into present and future holiday seasons.
Take Some Down Time For Yourself
Als, remember to slow down a little. If you’re not careful, the holidays will drive you up the wall so much that you won’t realize it’s 2018 until mid-January. Don’t let that happen. The holidays are a chaotic time, but if you get caught up in that rush, you could approach the burnout zone without realizing it.
Step away from the holiday activities every so often to gauge how you’re doing. You could, for instance, track your mental and emotional well-being in a journal. Also, if you start to feel run-down or overwhelmed, take a break. Do something that pampers you, body and soul, even if it’s a fifteen-minute soak in the bathtub or painting fingernails and toenails with the kids.
Commit to a New Year, New You
Finally, spend some time envisioning the upcoming year. Everyone initiates resolutions on January 1st, but you don’t have to. Think about starting something new, however small, today. It’s one more step toward reclaiming your life.
For you, that step could be journaling every day. Maybe it’s committing to a meal plan so your family enjoys a home-cooked meal once or twice a week. Then again, it might be deciding to try dating again. No matter what “resolution” you choose, it can help alleviate holiday stress and give you hope for the future.
The holidays are stressful, more so when you’re juggling kids and an ex-spouse. How do you manage the two during the holiday season?