Christmas just isn’t the same after divorce

Breaking up a relationship undeniably brings about many changes. One change that almost everyone has to deal with and oftentimes spend a lot of time arguing about, but not a lot of people talk about how it actually works out, is your first Christmas where you don’t get to spend it with your kids.

I remember it clearly, and it absolutely sucked.

Christmas is a time of joy and excitement; of family and togetherness. You may have had certain traditions – like always going to your Wife’s family’s house on Christmas Eve, letting your kids open one present on Christmas Eve before they go to bed, putting out cookies and milk for Santa, waking up early Christmas morning to see the pure ecstasy in your children’s eyes as they see the wrapped gifts under the tree for the first time. Then suddenly, everything changes.

The first Christmas morning I spent without my kids was a tough one for me. We had decorated the tree, hung the Christmas stockings, and decorated our home. Then at noon on Christmas Eve through noon on Christmas Day, my kids went to spend the night with their Dad. Waking up Christmas morning to an empty house with no Christmas magic was extremely depressing. I remember sitting in my living room, staring at the tree with the presents wrapped beneath it, and feeling the joy of the holidays completely leave me. And then I cried.

However, for anyone who knows me, I’m not one to let a situation keep me down and I’m a firm believer that if you don’t like something you change either your perception or your behavior rather than complain about it or feel victimized by a situation beyond your control.

So, on the years where my kids and I did not celebrate Christmas morning together, we focused on having a second Christmas morning rather than trying to get everything in within one day just because the date was December 25. This way, we still got to do everything together and my kids got the benefit of having two really cool exciting Christmas’s.

But knowing the sadness will likely hit you is important because when you know to expect something, you can proactively take steps to reduce it. Maybe you start changing the way you look at things. Maybe you start a new tradition. Maybe you focus on how you can make YOU happy without being reliant on your kids making you happy.

As with everything, when one door closes, a new door opens. Don’t focus on what you lose – focus on the way you can gain from how you celebrate your holidays. Maybe even focus on what you can give during the time you don’t have your kids with you – there’s nothing like heading down to a local homeless shelter or food pantry and giving to those who are less fortunate than you to make you realize how much you do have.

And, don’t forget about how your kids may be feeling during this time as well and be ready to address things with them. I’m a firm believer that most kids will react as well as their parents adjust – if parents handle a break-up poorly, the kids are going to pick up on it; if parents try to keep things very positive, the kids are generally going to handle things better. If you focus on the benefits of having “two Christmas’s” and say nothing that is going to make your kids feel bad that either you or your ex is going to be “alone” at any point, their sadness about their family no longer being together is going to be reduced. If your kids say anything to you about how they’re feeling, don’t minimize it or pretend it’s not a big deal – be thankful your kids are expressing their feelings.

Empathize with them – tell them you understand how change can sometimes be hard and cause them to feel how they state they are feeling, but that their focus shouldn’t be on what they might see as being lost but rather on the benefit to them.

Perception is everything and getting through tough times sometimes just has to do with looking at things a little differently.
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

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