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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 stresses of the year are forgotten if only for a short period of time. All in all, Thanksgiving and Christmas may be among the only days all year that you are able to 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 as well as 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 is going to always be a positive thing 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 how to prepare for and successfully manage 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 be applicable to you. As long as you approach the holiday with a flexible attitude and some patience we believe that you can parent your child and create memories in the upcoming holiday.

  1. You can show your children how to be grateful for what they have by….being grateful yourself. 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, right?

Wrong. Each of us has things in our life that we can be grateful for. Simply being alive and being able to stand on our feet each morning with the possibilities that life offers is reason enough to be grateful. Being able to spend 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 at this moment, there will not be a time that 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.

  1. Keep things the same- as much as you can. 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 that you have with your child may be changing as well which has led you to feel uncomfortable and uncertain of how to approach this day.

My advice would be to take whatever traditions your family normally practices and to do your best to recreate those this Thanksgiving. Try to keep a routine as similar to the one that your child previously enjoyed- even if it means putting forth a little bit more effort than you would normally show. Again- your child is the person you are doing this for, no you.

Your child wants to be reassured that their family is going to be ok, that both their parents still love him or her and that there are some aspects of their topsy turvy life that will not be altered due to the divorce. The holidays are such a special time for kids that you have a very strong opportunity to create that sense of normalcy right here, right now.

  1. 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. 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 in order to show your child how to healthily and effectively manage them.

Part of acknowledging their feelings is to not pave over them with “parent speak” that 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 are feeling bad is a good first step. Ignoring the issue or trying to show your child that things aren’t as bad as they may seem may make you feel good but probably won’t have that affect on your child.

Your child wants to feel like he or she is being heard by you. The only way to communicate this to your child is to engage with him or her directly and make certain that he or she realizes that you understand how they feel and will do whatever you can to make this a great holiday.

  1. Work with your ex-spouse on making sure the holidays are a success. Communicate with your ex-spouse about how your child is doing to see if there is an opportunity here to problem solve with him or her. If you are a parent of a small child that is going to 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. Encourage your child to have a good time and make sure your child knows that you support him or her.

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 very difficult 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 working through a divorce currently, or 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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