Halloween has come and gone and while we are still reveling in our sugar hangovers it might seem a little early to be thinking about the coming holiday season.
But for men that are going through divorce or have recently finalized their divorce, it is never too early to get holiday help and plan for the coming festivities.
Have A playbook for surviving the Holidays
For the freshly single, the holiday season can feel like a dark cloud looming on the horizon. Parties, family and social obligations can leave a man feeling overwhelmed and awkward.
The idea of facing the inevitable questions about your ex, your Aunt Edna trying to set you up with a nice girl from her knitting club, and the questions about if you’ve started dating again. It is enough to make any man want to hunker down until January.
For divorced men, the holiday season shouldn’t be something that needs to be survived. It should be a time where you can reflect on the things you are grateful for and the new opportunities that lie in store. To help you navigate the coming holidays, we have put together some tactics for making the most of the festivities.
Facing the Family
Before you find yourself face to face with the people that can stress you out, take some time to create a game plan. Identify the players that cause you the most stress and evaluate what offensive plays cause you the most grief.
Your initial defensive strategy should be executed well in advance of the impending holiday encounter. Depending on the offensive line, you might need to deploy some reinforcements and special teams.
If you have a close relationship with the person causing the stressful scenario, you should personally address the situation using specific and direct language. Tell them their behavior makes you uncomfortable and that you would like them to stop. It can be helpful to have an example at the ready, as occasionally family members are oblivious to the fact that their actions might be offensive.
If the culprit is an extended family member, it might be wise to ask someone closer to them to point out the behavior and let them know that it is having a negative impact on you.
For example, pesky aunt Edna and her match making, ask which ever of your parents is her sibling to speak with her well before the family function and let her know that while they understand that her attempts at matchmaking are done in good faith, that they make you uncomfortable.
Respect your Budget
Divorce frequently has an enormous impact on personal finances. It is common for newly divorced men to find themselves on a tight budget for the first time. This can be particularly challenging around the holidays, especially if you have children.
The first holiday season after a divorce, many parents find themselves trying to overcompensate by purchasing extravagant gifts. Unfortunately, these lavish presents can dig parents into a deep financial hole.
If your relationship with your ex-wife is civil, it is best to discuss a gift-giving plan for the kids. Establishing a maximum budget and number of gifts will limit the inclination to “out-gift” the other parent and will keep your bank account in the black.
If your relationship with your ex isn’t amicable, you can still respect your budget. Establishing how much you can comfortably spend on gifts and sticking to that number is important.
Having an age appropriate conversation with you kids to establish realistic expectations for the holidays is helpful and can alleviate some of the gift giving pressure.
Knowing when to say No
The holidays are full of social gatherings, work obligations, parties and celebrations. It is tempting to say yes to every invitation that comes your way, but that can be an equation for burn out. The dissolution of a marriage, and even the first year after the divorce, can be emotionally draining. Being selective about the invitations you accept will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.
Choosing the gatherings and events that will add to your holiday experience —not detract— is important. Pick events where you will be surrounded by supportive and understanding people that respect your boundaries.
Do it for the Kids
Keeping your children at the forefront of your decision-making is essential during the holidays, especially when you have to interact with your ex.
Keeping the peace, especially around Christmas, Hanukah, or any other holiday you observe can go a long way towards creating a positive experience for your kids.
Maintaining your perspective will not only set a good example for your children, it will also help you choose your battles and minimize conflict. While your ex will inevitably do things that will irritate you, look for ways to find common ground.
Making the effort to have a functional relationship with your ex will be important to your kids. It will demonstrate your commitment to them and provide them with a sense of consistency.