First Christmas after separation
We don’t wish to alarm you…. But Christmas is not far away! Although traditionally a time for happiness celebration, for some Christmas can be a time of great stress and sadness – particularly those who may be facing their first Christmas following separation or divorce. The Christmas period is usually a time where families come together, so the prospect of facing the festive season as a newly separated person and possibly not spending the day with children brings with it loneliness and a sense of loss.
If you are newly separated, whilst you may find you still enjoy the season with family and friends, you (and hopefully those around you) should remember that for you, this year will be quite different. Even if you are spending the day with your children, the sense of celebration may be tempered with memories of earlier Christmases and shared traditions.
Christmas can be emotional and stressful at the best of times. People’s expectations, crowded shops, travelling, family pressures and a busy social calendar can add up to a heightened emotions. Add to this a recent separation and it’s no wonder that many say the first Christmas following separation or divorce is the worst.
Our advice is to go easy on yourself. Here’s a few tips to help get you through:
Choose who you spend time with
If even the thought of spending time with certain people causes you stress, then perhaps this year you might like to avoid their company. Seek out the company of those close to your heart – those that may you feel good about yourself and who you look forward to seeing.
Embrace traditions or make new ones
For some, the familiarity of family traditions provides reassurance and comfort. Spending time in familiar settings and sharing traditions can remind you that you are surrounded by people who love and care for you.
Others may feel that these traditions just serve to heighten a sense of loss or bring painful memories to the surface. If that sounds familiar then this year, why not start new traditions? If you’ve traditionally held Christmas at home, then perhaps look at going to a park or a restaurant or even heading away on holiday over Christmas. You might like to ditch the ham and turkey and have a BBQ instead.
Try to be flexible
If you’ve got children, you may need to negotiate with your former partner as to how the kids will spend their Christmas Day. Although this may be an emotional topic – understandably you may both wish to spend a significant part of the day with your children – try to consider things from the kids’ perspective. Spending the day being rushed from one family event to another, packing bags and presents can leave kids tired and fractious.
Some parents may decide to spend the day together for the sake of their children and for those that are able to do this comfortably and respectfully, then this can be a great outcome. Understandably, this is not a situation that will suit all families, particularly in the case of recently or acrimoniously separated couples.
All things in moderation
Even the best of us over indulge at Christmas. Whether it’s late nights, over eating, drinking too much or spending too much money, Christmas can leave us mentally, physically and financially exhausted. If your self esteem as taken a battering during your separation, you don’t want to add guilt due to overindulgence to the emotional load.
Christmas can be a challenging time for newly separated or divorced parents, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for love and celebration during the Christmas season. If you are heading into your first Christmas following separation it is important to understand that this year will be different. Of course there will be sadness, but it is also an opportunity to start new traditions and spend time with family and friends who will support you as you embark on this next stage of your life.
At Umbrella Family Law we often see families who need support to negotiate how children spend their time on special events such as Christmas, birthdays and school holidays. The collaborative law approach seeks to negotiate a resolution that meets the needs and wishes of both parties and their children. Contact us if you need support to negotiate an outcome for your family this Christmas.