With the holiday season on the horizon, you may be anxious about what lies ahead over the next several weeks. Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest and other blessings you’ve received throughout the year. If you’re handling a divorce during this time, past traditions may feel in jeopardy. However, there is no reason to stress, there are still reasons to celebrate! To assist you in navigating your first Thanksgiving alone, check out the seven tips below.
Manage Your Health
The first step in preparing for your first Thanksgiving without your spouse is taking care of your mental and emotional wellbeing. Loneliness, anger, and confusion are all normal human emotions. A divorce can make these emotions feel unmanageable. However, it is up to you to manage your health carefully so you can enjoy the blessings of the season. If you are not already working with a licensed therapist, that is a great place to start. Therapists are experts in helping clients understand the connection between feelings, thoughts, and choices. They can teach you useful techniques to help you manage a chaotic mind that seems to be working against you. It is okay to have strong emotions, but you have to be prepared to deal with those feelings in a healthy way. Your emotions can bleed into other areas of your life leading to poor decisions and overall dissatisfaction with your current situation. With so many parts of your life in flux, a therapist will help calm your mind while arming you with tools to live a healthy life.
Make A Plan
Thanksgiving is all about enjoying delicious food and expressing gratitude for life. Just because you are no longer with your partner doesn’t mean you should not find a way to enjoy your holiday. Every family has different Thanksgiving traditions. You may have sincerely enjoyed your family traditions or perhaps this is a reprieve from a tumultuous family environment. Whatever the case, you are now in the driver’s seat. A plan for Thanksgiving can put your mind at ease. Consider working with a wellness coach to help you plot out the perfect holiday. A coach can listen to your desires and help layout a plan to make your Thanksgiving wonderful. Having plans to celebrate the holiday in a new way can put your mind at ease and give you something exciting to look forward to. Whatever your plan entails, it should reflect what is best for you and your children. Don’t be afraid to mix things up, sometimes the best days come from doing something new and unexpected. Shake it up, have fun, and get creative with your Thanksgiving plans. Reference the pointers below to assist you in building the perfect Thanksgiving plan:
- Do something exciting: There are so many ways to give back, improve your health, or celebrate during Thanksgiving. Consider volunteering at a local food drive, participating in a Thanksgiving Day marathon race, traveling to an exciting (and perhaps warmer) destination, or inviting friends over for baking some of your favorite seasonal treats. The possibilities are endless, especially if you choose to abandon norms.
- Focus on celebrating: Thanksgiving is all about gratitude. Take time to think about what activities and things make you the happiest. This is a great time to focus on celebrating the things that bring you the most joy. Build a day that is exciting and celebratory.
- Avoid solitude: Consider reaching out to friends and family to see what they have planned for the holiday. It is best to be surrounded by people that love you this time of year. When considering who you want to engage, think of the people that always make you feel your best.
- Avoid negativity: Regardless of your plan, avoid people, places, and situations that trigger negative emotions. If you know you have a complicated relationship with your parents or siblings, it might be best to not engage them when building your Thanksgiving plan. If you always spent Thanksgiving decorating your Christmas tree as a family, maybe skip that on Thanksgiving this year. With so many possibilities, there is no reason to put your joy at risk.
- Avoid unhealthy vices: Many establishments are closed on Thanksgiving Day and this can limit your possibilities. This is not the time to engage in unsafe or unhealthy vices to cope. Be cognizant of how substances can impact your mood and behavior and avoid unhealthy habits. It might be easy to give in to your vices, but it will only hurt you in the long run.
Coordinate With Your Ex
If you have children, coordinating Thanksgiving with your ex will be paramount in having a successful holiday season. Remember to avoid these common mistakes when co-parenting. These tips will help you interact appropriately with your ex during holiday negotiations regarding the childrens’ schedules. If it is safe and legal to do so, reach out to your ex asking for time to discuss holiday plans for the children. Be cognizant of your custody agreement in the process; if the schedule is already set, there is less gray area to consider. Discuss the plans for the holidays and remember you will need to compromise. Splitting holiday plans with your ex will be a standard practice moving forward. It might be beneficial to consider alternating dates year over year to achieve equal access to your children. You can also consider your plan in conjunction with your ex’s expectations to reach an agreement that serves the best interest of all parties. If you find yourself unable to communicate with your co-parent in a productive manner, consider engaging a parenting coordinator for assistance. Parenting coordinators act as a third-party consultant to help co-parents work together to reach consensus on various topics involving your children.
Include Your Children
Once you have a better understanding of your schedule with your children, consider including them in holiday planning. Perhaps they did not particularly enjoy the traditions you had as a family. Maybe they are sad to see things change. Listen to their feelings and consider working with a family therapist to help them navigate a changing holiday landscape. Think about what is best for your children. If they really want to do something new and exciting, build that into your plan. Kids are creative, perhaps their idea of fun was not sitting around a table of distant family members poking and prodding for life updates. Take their suggestions into consideration and include them in something exciting and new. You might find a brand-new reason to be grateful!
Regardless of how you decide to spend Thanksgiving Day, avoid dwelling on Thanksgivings past. There may have been many wonderful memories from Thanksgivings spent as a family. These memories will always be yours to cherish, but it is not healthy to fixate on how things were. If you are not able to spend Thanksgiving the way you have historically, it is time to reference the Thanksgiving Day plan you created. Keep busy with exciting plans to ensure you are focused on the things that are most important to you.
Build New Traditions
While this may be your first Thanksgiving without your ex, it will not be the last. This is a great time to experiment with new traditions. Reflect, but don’t fixate, on what made past Thanksgivings successful or unbearable. Try to incorporate the positive attributes into your new plan. What activities have you previously really enjoyed? Can you incorporate that into your Thanksgiving Day plan? This is your first year trying something new, so don’t sweat it if you find your plan did not work out. Traditions are built by trying something new and then regularly incorporating that practice into your lifestyle. You might try something off the wall and find it makes for a great day. Be careful to not over-engineer your day. You don’t want to be stressed with a complex master plan, but you do want to have something in place that will help you welcome in the season.
Visit Loved Ones
You might be blessed with a loving extended family or surrounded by a close-knit group of chosen family, whatever the case, find a way to visit the people that make you feel whole. This can be tricky given the elephant in the room. If you want to visit loved ones but are nervous about what conversation topics could come up, discuss this with them before the big day. Your loved one’s care about you and your feelings. It is okay to let them know you’d appreciate avoiding your divorce as a topic of conversation. Let them know about your plan and express your desire to have a fun day focusing on celebrating the most important things in your life. They will understand your desires and respect your boundaries if they care about you.
While your Thanksgiving Day plans are changing, with these tips in mind, you’ll be well prepared to welcome in the holidays with open arms. Create your plan, include your children, and work hard to make the best of your new life. You might surprise yourself with a new set of traditions that will be observed for years to come!