by Brette McWhorter Sember
If you share holiday custody with your ex, you may be facing a holiday alone this season without your child. It can be difficult to be separated from your child, but you can get through the holiday with these guidelines:
- Talk to your child. Make sure your child understands where he or she will be spending the holiday. Mark the plans on a calendar so that the schedule is solid in your child’s eyes. Explain to your child that you will miss him or her while he/she is with the other parent on the holiday, but point out that you’re happy that he/she will be having fun and want him/her to have a good time. While it’s important to be honest with your child, it is equally important that you not burden him or her with the responsibility for your happiness. Don’t tell your child that you will be miserable, lonely, in tears or completely depressed while he or she is with the other parent. It’s ok to say you will miss him or her, but follow this statement with reassurances that you’ll be together again soon.
- Make plans with your child. Plan out with your child when you will celebrate the holiday together. It’s not important what you do or when you do it, as long as you plan a way for you and your child to celebrate the holiday together in some way the next time you are together. This will help your child feel confident that both parents are truly a part of his or her life and will give you something to plan for and look forward to.
- Consider holidays together. Some parents find that in the first few years after a divorce, it works best if they spend important holidays together with their child (for example, having the non-custodial parent come over to spend Christmas morning with the custodial parent and child). If you think this option would work for you, try it.
- Touch base. Plan to have some kind of contact with your child on the holiday itself. Call him or her on the phone or even to stop by for a quick hug and kiss on the other parent’s front porch (if you and the other parent agree this will not make your child upset). Making contact with your child on the holiday itself will not only help your child cope, but will help ease your own feelings of loneliness.
- Make plans for yourself. The key to getting through a major holiday without your child is to plan ahead for it. If your family celebrates together for this holiday, get involved in planning the event and look forward to spending the day with them. Plan a get together with friends or spend the day wrapping gifts for your child. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you plan something out.
- Think about what you want. Give some thought to what you really want to get out of this holiday. Are there things you have always wanted to do, but have never been able to? Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to a football game on Thanksgiving Day, perhaps you always dreamed of caroling on Christmas Eve or hoped to host a Kwanzaa feast. Now is your chance to fulfill your holiday wish list.
Filling Alone Time
Even if you’ll be attending a party or hosting some kind of event, there will be some time on the holiday when you will be alone and if you have no plans, the day may loom long and empty before you. Take some time before the day comes around to plan out some things you can do on your own. Look around your community for events celebrating the holiday – church services, community get-togethers, civic events, single parent gatherings and so on. Don’t be afraid to go alone – there are a lot of other parents who are also alone on holidays.
If your day still looks wide open, make a list of things you can do just by yourself. These don’t have to be earth-shattering, spectacular plans. Anything that makes you happy and gives you something to do works. Try some of these suggestions:
– take a long walk alone
– buy a special meal to have alone at home
– cook a special meal for yourself
– go to a movie
– read a good book
– rent videos
– give yourself a home beauty treatment
– buy yourself something you’ve been wanting – wrap it up for yourself to unwrap if you want
– get a big project done around the house, such as painting or wallpapering
– organize your photographs or make scrapbooks
– clean out your closets or basement
– get a big project done for work
– give some time to a local charity
– stay in bed all day
– go away for the day or the weekend to someplace you’ve always wanted to visit
– chat online with other parents who are alone
– create something special to surprise your child with – a mural on his or her wall, a batch of cookies, a fort you built in the backyard and so on
– start a new hobby – start knitting, hit some golf balls, make wreaths, build model airplanes – anything that is new that interests you
The key to remember is that you can get through a holiday alone and that real holidays with your child happen when you make them.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of The Divorce Organizer & Planner (McGraw-Hill), How to Parent With Your Ex: Working Together for Your Child’s Best Interest (Sourcebooks), The Complete Divorce Handbook (Sterling), and No-Fight Divorce: Spend Less Money, Save Time, and Avoid Conflict Using Mediation (McGraw-Hill). Her web site is www.BretteSember.com.