Step 1: Remember, your children need both parents throughout their lives.
A holiday is just one day so if your children are spending the holiday without you, do not feel forgotten. You have the remainder of the year to foster a beautiful relationship with them and to make a lasting impact upon them.
You may be angry or frustrated at your separated or divorced situation. You may also be angry at your ex, but attempt to put these feelings aside for the holidays because your children are innocent in all of this and they should not be privy to any chaos that occurs.
It is very likely that your children love both parents. But, at the very least, they are entitled to the opportunity to love both parents. A good holiday for them is to have fun regardless of who they are with during the holidays. This places your children’s best interests first, as difficult as the situation may feel for you.
Step 2: Remember, the first holiday after your separation/divorce is also very difficult for your children.
It is likely that your children are feeling confused and anxious about their first holiday without one parent. This may be compounded by the feeling that they cannot express their worries because they are afraid that vocalizing it would upset a parent.
A good way to ease your children’s anxiety is to keep open lines of communication during the holiday with phone calls and text messaging. We have so many ways to interact now “face-to-face” without having to actually be in each other’s company (such as Skype or Facetime). Perhaps, you and your ex can pre-arrange a video chat during the day.
As long as a child feels loved by both parents, they will feel comforted.
Step 3: Accept that your ex will feel sad at some point too.
You are probably feeling a ton of emotions! It is overwhelming, to say the least. Take a step back, breathe, and acknowledge that your ex will feel (or possibly already has felt) this way as well.
Attachment causes the pain you feel when you think about not having your children during the holidays. But, your attachment to your children will last long after they fly the nest, so in a way, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is just a first, like many other firsts to come.
Accept this time as a way to learn more about yourself and your bond with your children.
Step 4: Distract yourself with family and friends.
Let’s face it – the holidays are a time when we are grateful for family, friends, and life itself. If possible, try to spend the time you have without your children with other family members and friends. Laugh, eat, enjoy and celebrate life.
Your children are with your ex momentarily; avoid considering it a loss. They will be back home at some point with lots of stories and excitement! And, then you can share your exciting time with them and create a bonding experience.
Avoid showing your discomfort about the situation to your children. Children will always find a way to blame themselves even when they are not at fault. They want to see Mom and Dad happy, excited, strong and independent.
Children learn what they live.
Step 5: Look forward to celebrating the holiday with them in your own way.
Most of the time, holidays are split between parents. This is not a permanent leave of absence. You will see them again!
Whether it’s dinner with family, opening up presents or just some quiet time with them alone, look forward to that time when it comes. Be present when the moment arrives. This will distract you from your feelings of sadness. Look forward to the joy of seeing them again and the joy they will feel when they see you again – after all, the holidays are about joy, peace, and love!
Focus on being an example for your children. What they learn during this time is very important because they will likely have a family of their own one day. Give them the tools to make happy memories despite familial discord. Love yourself, love them, love your ex for being a parent to your children, if nothing else. As always, we know this because love begins with you….