How to Handle Your First Family Holidays After the Divorce

Uncontested Divorce Mediation

Posted December 19, 2023

The holidays are one of the most difficult time periods for the recently divorced, for a number of reasons. In this time of family-oriented holiday cheer, it’s tough not to feel lingering emotions about the divorce and where your life might be going from here. Know that you are not alone. There are millions of people right now who are not in the “Hallmark” nuclear family situation.

People who go no-contact with their parents, people who just left a relationship, people who have to travel for work during this time of year; many people are “making it on their own” this season. If you are a parent, you will also be facing these feelings while also coordinating with your ex to make a happy holiday with split custody. Split Simple can help with a few thoughtful tips.

Common Christmas Custody Schedules

For parents, the top priority of a post-divorce (or mid-divorce) holiday is the matter of split custody. How can you both spend important Christmas time with your kids without stepping on toes or creating undue stress? It’s a challenge, but it’s also a path forged by millions before you. Here are some of the most common Christmas custody schedules that work.

Christmas Morning to Lunch / Christmas Afternoon to Bedtime

The lunchtime split is a great way for one parent to oversee Christmas morning while the other parent plans fun things to do on Christmas afternoon. This way, the entire day feels special, and children simply experience a different style of fun with each parent. Kids can have their Christmas morning and Holiday Brunch at the usual grandma’s house, but then also go mini-golfing, sledding, or have a movie marathon with their other parent plus a big dinner after the hand-off at lunchtime.

Week Before Christmas / Week After Christmas

Some parents split the two weeks before and after Christmas, with less emphasis on exactly how Christmas day is spent. In these cases, it’s more likely that the kids will get “two Christmases” with two days unwrapping presents from under the tree. Don’t worry; this is something they will come to look forward to and see as a special family tradition where both parents are separately happy to be with them.

Thanksgiving / Christmas

Another common arrangement is to split holiday breaks. One parent takes the children for the complete Thanksgiving holiday break, often with their set of grandparents and family, then the second parent takes the children for the week of Christmas, though they may share time during the larger winter break from school.

Claiming the Weekend Before or After Christmas

Some parents focus on the weekends they have off from work and hold two separate Christmasses on the available weekends before and after Christmas. In this arrangement, one parent would have their holiday with the kids on the weekend before Christmas, and the other would plan their holiday celebration on the day or the weekend after Christmas.

Based on Work Schedule Availability

Lastly, your work schedules may fully define when you can plan holidays, especially if one or even both parents have jobs that work over the holiday. In this case, you can plan your custody split on whatever days each parent has available to spend time with the children, which the children may already be uesd to if these job schedules are familiar.

Handling the Matter of Ex-In-Laws

One of the most irregular challenges of post-divorce holidays is crossing paths with ex-in-laws. The family of your ex may have turned against you or, sometimes even more confusingly, may still love you and want to see you on the holidays like they’re used to. Either situation can be tough for both ex’s, and you might need a game plan to get through.

Be Polite and Friendly During Contact

First and foremost, maintain polite friendliness. Whether it’s a brief “Hello” as you pick up the kids or a shared holiday dinner because you’re still invited and your Denver divorce mediation was friendly, deflect any unwanted questions and stay polite no matter what. This will help keep the peace and minimize divorce-related drama as a whole.

Know Who to Avoid

If one or two of your ex’s family have gone toxic – or perhaps never liked you in the first place – know who to avoid. It may be fine to swing by the grandparents for a coffee and to trade off the kids, but you might need to avoid a specific sibling, aunt, or cousin to keep the peace. Fortunately, you probably already know who this person or these people will be – and who your ex should avoid in return.

Trade The Kids in a Neutral & Fun Location

It may be safer to avoid the in-laws entirely. If so, suggest that you and your ex trade off the kids somewhere fun. For example, take them to the ice rink, indoor play gym, or their favorite restaurant as the hand-off point. The kids can arrive with one parent and leave with the other, while remembering the moment as a fun new holiday tradition where they get to play more.

Only Return To Your Origin Family If You Want To

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If you have often spent the holidays with your ex’s family, it can be tempting to head back to your family of origin for the holidays. But first, stop and think about it. Many people use marriage as a quiet reason to go no-contact with toxic relatives, and post-divorce is not when most people are at the peak of emotional strength or independence.

Maybe your family will be loving, supportive, and insightful on how to rebuild your life. But if you foresee a return to previous toxic interactions, forge ahead carefully. Consider a brief visit with an exit plan, collaborate with your coolest sibling on your return, or call ahead and test the waters before you decide.

Taking Care of Yourself On Your First Holidays Solo

Finally, don’t forget about self-care. Holiday depression and post-divorce depression go hand-in-hand. If you find yourself living in the same sweater for three days, living on hot cocoa and takeout, or watching TV without really watching it, self-intervene. Step in and take care of yourself, even if you feel down this particular season.

Now is a good time to reconnect with friends and supportive family members. You might even join an activity group full of other people who need company this holiday season. If you have kids, throw yourself into building new post-divorce traditions and look forward to your time together.

You might also get together with friends for a “Friendsgiving” or even share a friends Christmas if you know other people who won’t be spending the holiday with family. Try cooking things you’ve never cooked before. Gift yourself with a cool new experience. Most of all, keep yourself healthy and active until the new year brings a new perspective.

Split Simple is a Denver divorce mediation and Family law firm. If you are not yet divorced but are separated during this holiday season, these tips apply to you, as well. If you are looking for a way to achieve a peaceful Denver divorce mediation that will leave both ex’s set up for a good life after the split, that’s what we’re here for. Contact Split Simple today to learn more.

Split Simple

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Denver, CO 80202