The holidays can be a hard time for anyone, but especially for those going through or recently divorced. It’s a double whammy when you have kids involved, as their favorite traditions with the whole family suddenly look a whole lot different. So, how can you enjoy the holidays?

There are ways you can fill the void of holidays past and create new, joyful memories and traditions. Here are some of the things you can do to lift your spirits this season and help bring happiness and peace to your loved ones.

Be patient and kind

The most important thing you should do is practice kindness — with yourself and others. It’s OK to feel sadness and a sense of loss. It will take time to fully heal from all the pain associated with your divorce. Allow yourself moments of grief, anger, disappointment… your feelings are valid. But they are also temporary. 

Plan ahead

As much as you can, structure your time and be prepared. Send in your RSVPs as soon as possible so you can plan around your obligations. Book the flight or hotel in advance. Decide who has the kids when, down to the hour. Set expectations ahead of time so everyone is clear on what you want. Whenever possible, have a Plan B because something will inevitably change, like the weather, an illness, or a burned side dish. And Plan C is that you should try to then go with the flow — if everything falls apart, will it matter a week from now?

Give to those less fortunate

Even if your schedule is packed to the brim, finding even a small way to help someone else can do wonders for your mood. Look for volunteer opportunities in your area. Donate to a charity you support. Do a random act of kindness for a stranger… no act of giving is too small. Even smiling at someone who looks down can change their entire day for the better.

Avoid triggers

It’s OK to say no to the things, places and events that feel too much to bear. If pleasing others comes at the expense of your physical and/or mental health, is it worth it? (The answer is no.) 

Set boundaries

If you can’t totally avoid triggers, set some self-care boundaries. If you still have to attend something you’d rather not, or see someone who makes your blood boil, line up a practical excuse to cut it short or ask to bring someone along who will help ground you and keep your mood up.

Keep your favorite traditions — with a twist

Don’t let go of the traditions you love just because people or things are missing. Just do them with your own personal twist. Maybe you used to all decorate cookies together on Christmas Eve. If it still feels fun, do it. If it doesn’t, move the tradition to a new day or time. Or, just bite the heads off of all the gingerbread people!

Create new traditions

Is there something you always wanted to do, like visiting the skating rink or baking gingerbread, but maybe your ex was a party pooper or simply had no interest? Do it now. Look for brand new (or new to you) events in your area that you can check out. Deck out the house differently this year. Get a real tree instead of the artificial one you have. Enjoy a cup of cocoa every morning in bed. Go drive around and play I Spy with the neighborhood light displays.

Set aside time for reflection

While obsessing over anything isn’t healthy, taking some time to think about the past year can be productive. Identify areas you want to grow and expand. Allow yourself to grieve what you’ve lost. Try to learn from the past so you can set yourself up for success in the future.

Treat yourself to a gift

You would have bought your spouse at least one gift, and received in return, right? So get yourself a gift or two, wrap them up, and open them whenever you want a pick-me-up. 

Related: 6 Holiday Survival TipsSingle Mom’s Thanksgiving

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