One of the most difficult times of the year for divorced families is undoubtedly the Christmas Season.  The first couple of years can be particularly rough. It’s hard to let go of old traditions.  Also, Christmas memories from before the divorce are still raw.  Due to the changes in family dynamics, the holidays become a challenge and a tug of war between households. “Mom and Dad” don’t want to be alone during this time and the children sometimes get caught in the middle.  But all is not lost! With a little thinking ahead and some very easy planning, you can make this holiday season one to remember! 

Here are some simple tips:

REVIEW YOUR PARENTING AGREEMENT AND PLAN ACCORDINGLY.

See if you are alternating the whole holiday or if you are splitting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  If you live close to each other, splitting the holiday is often the best way to go.  This arrangement allows everyone to share some time together and share traditions on the actual day of celebration.  If your children are older, or you live in different cities, you’ll probably have to re-think Christmas scheduling.  It’s important to recognize what is working and what isn’t in your Christmas traditions and make changes as you go. What worked well when the kids were 9 and 10 might not be the ideal arrangement now that they are 16 and 17.  Plan ahead with your ex so that you both know the schedule, where and who the children will be with on each day.

START A NEW TRADITION WITH YOUR KIDS.

Try something you didn’t do as an intact family, something only you and the children will share. Ice skating, volunteering, a weekend retreat, a party-almost anything might work.  We sometimes get so caught up in trying to recreate experiences that are clearly not the same anymore (now that you’re divorced) that they wind up coming off as forced. So why not try something completely different?  Rather than go through the motions doing something that’s not the same anymore, take a leap into the unknown and take a chance on making new and lasting memories.

LET EXTENDED FAMILY KNOW THE SCHEDULE.

By letting your relatives know when the children will be with you, they can plan some or all of their festivities to include you and the children.  There aren’t too many grandparent, aunts or uncles that don’t enjoy seeing their grandkids, nieces and nephews. One side benefit of including the extended family is that, even if you can’t keep the same traditions post-divorce, you can still keep familial bonds strong.  From the children’s perspective, their two closest relatives are no longer a family unit. Spending time around extended family let’s them know that not everything in their family is going to change. And that can be incredibly reassuring to kids.

AVOID EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS.

We all know what ours are.  If going down to the ice-skating rink is going to remind you of the night you met your (now) ex-wife and fell in love, for Pete’s sake don’t go there!  If putting the ornaments on the tree is going to remind you of the antique porcelain ones that her dead grandmother gave to you before she passed, the maybe you can get by with a pre-decorated tree.  Try not to pore through old photos or Christmas cards from years ago.  The season will be hard enough without constantly going down memory lane.

MAKE SURE TO SAVE SOME TIME FOR YOURSELF.

You don’t have to spend every waking moment with the kids.  Maybe they are grown and doing their own thing, or maybe grandpa and grandma want to take them for a day.  Relax, and do something that YOU want to do. Maybe you and your friends go take in a movie or grab drinks and cigar.  Maybe there are some places you can volunteer; the holidays are always difficult for the less fortunate. Maybe sitting in your favorite recliner near the fireplace with an “adult” hot chocolate for a few hours is just what the doctor ordered!  Take that nap, read that book, binge watch that marathon of the A-Team on Netflix – you’ve earned it!

Don’t be afraid to try something new.  It’s always nice to have fond memories, but it’s even nicer to make new ones! With a little forethought and some very easy planning, you can turn this Christmas holiday into a season to remember.