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Managing your first Thanksgiving after a Divorce

The holidays can be the best time of the year for many families. They can be a time for togetherness and memories- where cell phones are put away and old times are shared across generations. The year's stresses are forgotten, if only for a short period. All in all, Thanksgiving and Christmas may be among the only days all year that you can see multiple members of your family all on the same day, in the same place.

On the other hand, if you have recently been through a divorce Thanksgiving can be among the more stressful and unenjoyable times of the year. For one, it is possible that you do not get to be with your child during the holiday, depending on what your Final Decree of divorce has to say about the subject. For another, your family will not look the same in that this will be the first Thanksgiving with your spouse in some time. Combine these factors with financial difficulties and the questioning that families sometimes like to give members who have gone through tough times, and you may feel like it would be best if Thanksgiving were to pass you by altogether.

It does not have to be this way if you have gone through a divorce. I am not prepared to say that a divorce will always be favorable for you, your family, and most importantly, your child. However, I will say that you and your family can prepare for the events of Thanksgiving. Especially if this is your first Turkey Day as a divorced parent, you should think ahead about how to not only get through your first solo Thanksgiving but how to make sure it is a memorable one for your child- in a positive way.

Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, will walk you through some tips on preparing for and successfully managing Thanksgiving as a single, divorced parent. While we understand that your family may have a specific dynamic that sets you apart from most families, we believe the majority of what you read today will apply to you. As long as you approach the holiday with a flexible attitude and patience, we can parent your child and create memories in the upcoming holiday.

  1. . What's that, you say? You don't feel too grateful? After all, you've just been through a difficult divorce that cost you your spouse, time with your child, and money from your pocketbook. If anyone has an excuse to feel ungrateful, it should be you.

Wrong. Each of us has things in our life that we can be grateful for. Simply being alive and standing on our feet each morning with the possibilities that life offers is reason enough to be grateful. Spending the day with your child is another reason to be grateful. I can almost promise you that you have friends in your life who have supported you during your divorce. Ditto for family. If you can take solace in these things and show gratitude on this day, that behavior can influence your child to do the same thing.

While not everything in your life is going perfectly now, there will not be a time when you will be able to say that everything is going perfectly, either. Life is about peaks and valleys. Nobody would argue that you may be going through one of the "valley" points in your life, but perk up if for no other reason than you have an opportunity to present a teachable lesson to your child in the form of how to show gratitude.

Keep things the same- as much as you can.

  1. Everything in your life (and I mean everything) may be different this Thanksgiving compared to last. You may not be hosting this year's meal like you did last year. Your spouse is no longer at home with you and your child. Family members may have had to act as witnesses in a messy divorce trial or, at the very least, have had to "pick sides" in the case. The relationship you have with your child may be changing, which has made you feel uncomfortable and uncertain of how to approach this day.

My advice would be to take whatever traditions your family practices typically and to do your best to recreate those this Thanksgiving. Try to keep a routine similar to the one that your child previously enjoyed- even if it means putting forth a little bit more effort than you would typically show. Again- your child is the person you are doing this for, not you.

Your child wants to be reassured that their family will be ok, that both their parents still love them and that some aspects of their topsy turvy life will not be altered due to the divorce. The holidays are such a particular time for kids that you have a powerful opportunity to create that sense of normalcy right here, right now.

I understand that you likely do not feel your best as the year grows shorter and our days are full of time with family and recollections and memories about your former life.

  1. It's enough to make you feel even worse for what you have been through and to feel pessimistic about the future that appears uncertain.

While you attempt to sort through all of the feelings that you are going through, do not forget that your child is feeling all sorts of new emotions at this time as well. Rather than dismissing those feelings as unimportant or something to suppress, I would argue that it is better to acknowledge those emotions and feelings to show your child how to healthily and effectively manage them.

Part of acknowledging their feelings is not to pave over them with "parent speak" intended to make you feel less guilty about what you and your ex-spouse have gone through. Telling your child that you understand that they feel bad is a good first step. Ignoring the issue or showing your child that things aren't as bad as they may seem may make you feel good but probably won't affect your child.

Your child wants to feel like you are hearing them. The only way to communicate this to your child is to engage with them directly and make sure that they realize that you understand how they feel and will do whatever you can to make this a great holiday.

Work with your ex-spouse on making sure the holidays are a success.

  1. Communicate with your ex-spouse about how your child is doing to see if it is possible to problem-solve with them. If you are a parent of a small child who will spend Thanksgiving with your ex-spouse, be sure to pack all clothes, toys, and other items that will make the holiday a good one for your child. Do not use Thanksgiving as an opportunity to score points against your ex-spouse. Please encourage your child to have a good time and make sure your child knows that you support them.

Questions on handling your first Thanksgiving as a single parent? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

Managing your first Thanksgiving with your child after divorce can be a challenging situation. However, it is a challenge that you should meet head-on. The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, work with families like yours every day, and we would be honored to do the same with you. If you are currently working through a divorce, planning on filing for divorce soon, or have any questions on any area of family law, please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week.

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