Individuals going through a divorce or separation during the holidays can find it difficult to cope with the added stress. This time of year is especially difficult as the holiday season is a day to day reminder of happier times or feelings of loneliness. Just because a family is in transition does not mean the holidays should be dreaded. Planning ahead will drastically reduce the amount of stress and moments of loneliness. The following are 10 tips to cope with divorce or separation during the holidays:
1. Plan Ahead – Planning ahead saves time and money (ex: less attorney fees!), and often prevents stress. Anticipate any problems that may arise and develop Plan B, or C, or D. Families involve many people and rarely does one person get to make all of the decisions. Therefore, if something in your Plan A changes, and it will, you can easily transition to Plan B (or C, or D…). Jotting down your plans in a journal will also help eliminate the stress of trying to remember what Plan B is! Planning ahead does not mean you have to plan every minute of every day, rather planning ahead should be used to set goals, identify objectives (ex: attend a dinner with Uncle Joe and kids), and anticipate scheduling conflicts.
2. Create a Schedule – If a problem can arise, it will arise. Discuss concerns with your spouse, ex, or other parent. Make a best attempt at resolving the issue within the family. If this is not possible, schedule an appointment with a mediator, family law attorney, and/or collaborative divorce attorney, to proactively resolve the issue in a timely manner. In general, Illinois Courts (such as Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, and Will County) do not look favorably at emergency holiday petitions.
3. Take It One Day at a Time – This may be difficult to do, but it helps put issues into perspective. This does not negate the need for planning ahead! If you have planned ahead and developed a flexible schedule, the best way to execute that plan is to focus on one day at a time. Worrying about Friday will only ruin Wednesday.
4. Modify or Create a Holiday Tradition – If you have children, children need stability and, based on their age, some level of predictability. See if an existing tradition can be continued or modified slightly. This will help the children feel comfortable during this time of change. Adding a new tradition can also provide you or your children something new and exciting to look forward to.
5. Communicate with the Children – Let the children know what events are planned, who they will see (ex: extended family & friends), and where they will be (ex:mom’s, dad’s, grandpa’s, etc.). This may be difficult for parents, however children of divorce or separation often express anxiety and stress related to not knowing where and when they will see the other parent.
6. Communicate with Extended Family and Friends – Be proactive and inform other members of your family about holiday plans. This will help reduce the amount of stressful questions you have to field from those outside your immediate family.
7. Question: Is This in the Best Interest of the Children? – Anger and stress can cloud a parent’s judgment. Being upset with the other parent often leads to decisions that unintentionally affect the children. When making a decision or changing plans, stop and ask “Is this in the best interest of the children?” This can help prevent retaliatory decision making.
8. Take Time for Yourself – Recharge, relax, and enjoy a special holiday moment for yourself. Investing in you will benefit all.
9. Find Support – Support comes in many forms: friends, family, and professionals. If you can’t turn to family or friends and feel isolated, lonely, or depressed, please seek positive professional support. It is confidential and will help guide you through your difficult time.
10. Ask and Accept Help – If you need help, ask a trusted friend, family member,or professional. If help is offered, accept it and know that that person cares for you
If you or someone you know needs help in resolving a family issue, developing a holiday plan, determining a holiday schedule, or would like more information, please contact The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C. for additional assistance.