Five tips on handling Christmas post-separation
Christmas is sold to us as a time for families, with children singing carols and toasting marshmallows, whilst their parents look on lovingly wearing fluffy red jumpers and sipping sherry in front of a tree covered in decorations.
In fact, for many people, Christmas has never fitted this chocolate box image. And when you are going through a separation, it can be frightening to think about how you might handle Christmas. Many of my clients are feeling anxious right now about handling Christmas post-separation and how to survive the festive period in one piece.
Always remember that you have a choice.
You can make a conscious choice to make the best of Christmas. You can make a conscious choice to take control of your thoughts and actions and do things differently.
Here are my top 5 tips for handling Christmas post-separation:
Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t
What could you do this Christmas that you couldn’t do before?
I asked a client this very question this morning, and she replied that there could be more presents, more noise and more mess. What have you always wanted to change about your usual Christmas routine? Now is your time!
If you are struggling, ask yourself if there was one good thing about the situation, what would it be? It might be that you no longer have to watch the Queen’s speech or cook sprouts which you hate.
It is easy to concentrate on the things that you will miss – focus instead on the things you can change and the new traditions you might start.
Focus on what you DO want, not what you don’t
What are you most dreading about Christmas? Once you know what the worst part of it is for you, then you can think about ways in which you might be able to overcome that bit.
What would you like instead? On a piece of paper, jot down any ideas that you have, however crazy. Then think about how you might be able to do some of those things. I never thought I would go on holiday over Christmas until in 2013 I went to Morocco.
Model someone who does it well
Do you know other people in your position? Knowing someone who has handled Christmas post-divorce successfully gives an opportunity to ask how they did it. How did they get through it? Are they doing something you can join in with?
Your children will follow your lead
If, like me, your children will be with their other parent this Christmas, shift your focus onto the time you DO have together, rather than on the time you don’t.
If you don’t have your children on Christmas day, you could have an alternative Christmas on another day, with all the trimmings. Ultimately, Christmas Day is just a day, and you can have yours whenever you want.
We have had ours as early as mid-December, and as late as the first weekend after New Year. My children think it’s great, as they get to have Christmas Day twice over.
Get ideas from them about things they’d like to do, traditions they’d like to start. Focus on arranging a few things you will all enjoy.
Your children will take their cue from you. If you are stressed and negative, they will be too. If you are angry and resentful, they are likely to feel conflicted and stressed. When you are upbeat and make plans to do things that you all enjoy in the time you are together, they will do the same. When you frame this new reality positively, they will follow you.
Make plans for your time alone
I understand that it can be overwhelming thinking about the time you may have to be alone over Christmas. Take some time to think about the options you have. Could you spend your time with friends? Friends of mine organised a “waifs and strays” Christmas last year and had a fantastic time.
Perhaps you could volunteer for a local charity? Doing something kind for someone else boosts serotonin levels – the hormone that helps us to feel content and satisfied. Many anti-depressants work by increasing serotonin levels in the body – so why not do something to help others and boost your feel-good levels at the same time?
In the end, ask yourself which you would rather spend time doing – worrying and feeling anxious about Christmas, or planning for how you can reframe your experience into something that makes it better for yourself? In the end, it is up to you which you choose!
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You can read other articles on handling Christmas post-separation here.
This article is part of our Stowe guests series and has been kindly written for this blog by Claire Black, from Claire Black Divorce Coach. You can visit here website here.