When I was eleven, I knew it was the last Christmas that I’d spend with my parents in the same house together. As a child, wanting everything to feel happy, I let my parents know ahead of time that if there were any arguments, I would spend Christmas alone in my bedroom. They tried to hold it together, being silent most of the evening, but a “look” between them had me running for the stairs to my room, taking a couple of presents with me. Before I made it, they convinced me to return to the living room to join the “family.”
This “family” had changed though, and everything I had known about us, both during the holidays, and in everyday life was different. Who would I spend Christmas with next year? Would they both attend my volleyball games or band concerts? Would I miss out on time with friends because I was with my dad in another city?
Anger, sadness, and loneliness found their way into many of our traditions, because I remembered how it used to be when our family celebrated together. Now, on Christmas Eve, instead of going to the church my family normally attended, I would go to a different denomination, or not go at all. The timing of opening presents changed too, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on whose house we were at, and which extended family we would see. With so many changes, it all felt confusing.
As a child, I was caught in a whirlwind of emotions, but looking back as an adult, I can see that despite their differences, my parents loved me and tried to make positive memories, even in the hardest times. It is possible.
Here are a few ways that families can thrive during the holiday season:
- Make A Plan With Your Kids
Discuss with your kids ahead of time what the holidays will look like. Communicate as little, or as much as age appropriate. Let them know early who they are spending the day with, and when they will get to spend time with the other parent. Make the most of your time by creating a plan together. List all the ways that make the holidays special, and how you will be intentional about making those memories. Allow flexibility for when emotions strike, both your own and your kids. Write it down and communicate.
- Keep Some Traditions
The holidays will look different this year, and that’s okay. Ask your kids what traditions they would like to keep. According to DivorceCare for Kids creator Linda Ranson Jacobs, “Children find security in routines.” You may not be able to keep all of your traditions, but choose a few that are possible.
You may want to also think of new traditions that work with your situation. Maybe you’ve hung outdoor lights every year, or gone to the same events, but this year you’re not seeing how those things will be possible. Now is the time to reevaluate and discover what traditions will work for your family. It’s the little things and your attitude that they will remember, so don’t go overboard trying to make something happen that just doesn’t work anymore.
- It’s Not About You
Above all, remember that Christmas is about the birth of Christ and his coming to save us from sin and suffering. This perspective check throughout the holidays will take the focus off of your feelings and bring you back to the meaning of why we celebrate. This can be an emotionally draining season, so be intentional about taking time to pray, and reflect on all the good God has done, even in the hard times. It will lighten your burden, and you and your kids will have a much brighter holiday season. Your efforts might not look perfect in your eyes, but you are perfect in his eyes and that is enough.
- Develop a plan that will help you create a joyful holiday season. Consider attending Surviving The Holidays: DivorceCare, being held on November 12 at the Mount Pleasant Campus.
- Join a small group to find support from others who are in your situation, or have walked through divorce. From single moms’ to men’s groups, there is a place for everyone.
- Seacoast also offers Griefshare, a course designed to help you find peace after the loss of someone close. A Surviving the Holidays: Griefshare class will be held on November 10 at the Mount Pleasant Campus to bring you encouragement and peace during the holidays.