Divorce changes everything, including how we spend our favorite holidays with our kids and extended families. Especially in the first year post-split, you may worry that disruption to long-held, beloved traditions will cause further pain to your already reeling family. Facing the first Christmas morning in 15 years when you won’t see your kids open their presents? That’s a jagged pill to swallow. Missing your in-laws’ annual family ski trip for the first winter in decades? That smarts.
But the truth is that, especially in divorce when so much is already in flux, we tend to idealize holidays. It’s no wonder these celebrations often become conflictual hot buttons in custody negotiations. Because, now more then ever, we crave “ordinariness and “sameness,” we imbue these (albeit special) days with intense significance. We worry that any break in the old way of doing things will be a slippery slope into chaos (“If we don’t go to midnight mass ‘as a family’ like we always have, we’ll lose our co-parenting good will and our divorce will become acrimonious. That will ruin our kids’ lives!”). In reality, holidays are days. The sun rises, it sets; they come and go pretty quickly. If the first round of winter holidays is lousy, don’t take it as a sign that Hanukkah has permanently shifted from holy miracle to holy hell. Lick your wounds, get on with life. By this time next year you’ll have experienced lots of tough “firsts.” You’ll have come a long way toward adjusting to your new normal. You’ll have more perspective and less worry. You’ll be ready to start reviving and reworking your holiday traditions.
In the meantime, remember: Tradition is continuity, not stasis. Here’s a lovely short article that reminds us why everything will be ok: Because you, not your house or apartment or ski chalet, are your kids’ emotional home. Forever, unalterably. And really, that is all the tradition they need.