Newly Divorced? How to Help Your Family Navigate the Holidays

For most people, the holidays are a welcome and anticipated opportunity to spend time with their families. But what if your family has just recently been ripped apart by a divorce?

“It was pretty much the lowest point in my life.”

Can you identify with those sentiments? Are you dreading the holiday season approaching?

As a newly divorced person, not only are you confronted with the stark reminder of how your life has changed, but you may also have to endure loneliness. The melancholy that comes with  memories of happier times can make it hard to enjoy any extended family gathering, especially if you have relatives that seem to have an uncanny talent for making thoughtless remarks.

The problems exponentially increase when you add children to the mix.  Navigating your way through the rough seas of divorce is tough enough, now you have to help your children maneuver unfamiliar and shallow waters of holidays with one parent missing. How will established traditions change in light of your new circumstances?  

That can be daunting to contemplate at any time, but especially during the holidays. The added stress could easily overwhelm you and cause you to lose your course.

But take heart! There are ways to minimize stress and make it through the season successfully.

Planning Your Course Through the Holidays

Any good navigator knows how important it is to plan a course through tricky waters. And that plan has to be made well in advance – not the moment you get to the trouble spot. To stay in control and on course, you have to be prepared.

In the midst of your divorce proceedings, maybe you haven’t thought much about the holidays. There were a lot of other things that occupied your mind. But now that the seas have calmed to a degree, it’s important to have well thought-out plans and coping strategies in place to handle the holidays before you get in the thick of the season.

Consider a few areas for which to make good preparations:

Your Children

Make your children a priority – Of course, you’re facing difficulties, but so are they. Your divorce should not ruin their memories of good times spent with you. Provide stability and help them focus on what’s the most important – being together.

Communicate about where your children will spend their time – Don’t wait until right before the holidays to make that decision. Talk well in advance with your ex-spouse and involve your children in the decision as well, if they’re old enough.

Don’t compete with your ex – Be gracious and don’t make the holidays a competition. Don’t overspend on anything just to be your children’s “favorite” parent, and don’t buy them things just because you feel guilty that your personal challenges have affected them.

Your Ex-Spouse

Remember the other parent – Just because it’s your turn to spend a holiday with your children doesn’t mean you can’t help them to be mindful that their other parent is alone. Model kindness and respect and perhaps have your children call them or drop by their house. It will make everybody happier and maintain good co-parenting relations.


Deal with feelings of sadness, loss, and failure – The holidays often intensify those emotions. If you miss your children, consider giving them a short call or sending them a warm text or email. Just don’t infringe too much on the other parent’s time with them. Also look for other ways to cope, like spending some time with extended family or old friends, or enjoying a day doing something you always wanted, but never had the opportunity to do.

Above all, keep your mind on course. Don’t allow worrisome thoughts about the approaching season to overwhelm you. If you plan ahead, and stay positive, kind, and cordial, you can help your family navigate the unfamiliar waters of spending the holidays in this new arrangement.