So, you survived Thanksgiving, with relatives and family members, friends and maybe even coworkers. Finding reasons to be thankful during Thanksgiving while going through a divorce or separation can be tough. It’s tough to acclimate to the new holiday schedule, and you’re probably craving more time with your children than ever. The kids are on Winter Break, so the division of custodial time may have shifted once again. Or family and friends are visiting from out of town and you’re worried your children are missing out on precious time spent with people they only get to see once a year.

The Holiday season can be one of joy, but also one of stress and challenges. For a newly separated couple and their children it can be a downright blizzard of misunderstandings and coordination disputes. The Holidays hold deep sentimental values of celebrations past, when things were different, dredging up old memories and giving rise to new qualms, arguments, and sadness.

But never fear, because the Children’s Law Center is bringing you an early present. Today’s Family Friday post focuses on 5 Ways to Maximize Holiday Cheer without Turning into a Total Grinch.

1. ‘Tis the Season to Be Self-Loving

Take a look at one our recent posts about Self-Care and make a point to employ as many of those strategies as possible during the holidays. Including self-care into your routine can make the holiday stresses of balancing parenting time with your ex a little bit easier.

We’re told that parenting is all about giving your absolute most. It’s also common in the culture that the holidays are all about giving too. In reality, one of most effective ways to be your jolliest self is to make sure you’re taken care of as well.

2. Don’t Drink to Be Merry

Celebrations are often associated with alcohol. Drinking wine over dinners, spiked eggnog at parties, and other alcoholic libations are generally condoned as a natural and normal part of celebrating. Unfortunately, chemically, alcohol is a depressant that often leads to mood swings, blurred thinking, and poor judgement. As much as you might want to unwind with a strong drink during the holidays, remember that the negative effects of too much alcohol significantly outweigh the positive.

Sometimes, we turn to alcohol to help us be cheerier and lighter. During the holidays especially, we’re told to be happy and joyful. Expectations of merriness and joy can make it feel that much more overwhelming when we’re going through our first holiday post-separation. Don’t let the pressure of the spirit of cheer push you to change your mood or compensate for sadness by turning to substances. You’ll be merrier and more present when you turn away from alcohol and towards being with those you love.

3. The Present of Presence

This brings us to number three on the list—being present. One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is being present with one another. Being around relatives and friends during the holidays may cause anxiety and stress, but it is also an opportunity to connect deeply with loved ones, some who you may not get to see very often.

Give yourself the gift of being present with people, especially your kids.

It’s likely you’ll be spending less time with your children during the holiday season than you’re used because you’re sharing parenting time with your ex. This is the time to spend more quality time with them than ever before. As you spend this precious time with your children, you’ll start to see that time spent on phones and distracted from those around us is sometimes a function of taking people for granted. It’s difficult to lose out on quantity, but you can gain quality by embracing the time you do have with them fully, deeply, and distraction-free.

4. Let it Go, Let it Go

There’s no snow to sing about in Hawaii, but you can let it go just the same. Allow for mistakes and misunderstandings between you and your ex during this time, as you’re both going through a significant change of holiday traditions. There is so much happening around the end of the year, it can all get to be a bit much if you’re getting caught up in every minute and hour divided between the two of you.

Work on not sweating the small stuff, because the bigger picture is about celebrating and spending time with your children, family, and friends.

5. Don’t be a Spendy Santa

Don’t make gift-giving more extravagant and excessive to compensate for the divorce. Lavish presents will seem forced to kids. If your ex goes all out, don’t let yourself be distraught or swayed into more spending. Going into debt trying to out-gift your ex isn’t worth it. Get creative with presents, make cards with your kids of have them choose a charity and make donations in their name. Think outside the box. Divorce litigation is expensive. Overspending now will only add to the stress after the holidays and create more problems and frustrations for you down the road.

Start the New Year off with genuine presence, kindness, and quality time instead of expensive gifts and grand gestures. Your kids will remember and appreciate your love and support longer than they will any fancy gift or gadget.

Happy Holidays!

We wish you a very Happy Holidays from The Children’s Law Center. We hope you’re able to enjoy the holidays to their fullest during this season of love, gratitude, and joy.

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