Christmas Lifestyle

A divorcee shares her tips for surviving Christmas when you're going through a separation

It is possible to still enjoy a wonderful celebration.

By Anju Regis
Christmas has a way of reminding us just how much we have, as much as it can remind us about what we don't have.
When you are going through a separation, holidays seem to cut a little deeper, and the pain that you are going through seems to be amplified.
But it's absolutely possible for Christmas to be great again!
It's been several years now since my own separation, but I've learned so much about how to survive this challenging time of year.
Here are a few tips I picked up along the way, that may help you get through the Christmas period with a little more ease.
For more advice on divorce and separation, head to The Separation Exchange.
Lindsay Lohan and Dennis Quaid in the classic movie about the fallout from divorce, The Parent Trap. (Image: Supplied)
1. Focus on being child-focused, rather than allowing the urge to win the argument or come out on top, be your focus. Having watched my children go through my separation, I quickly learned that they already go through so much and don't need any extra tension or negativity.
Most would agree that kids should not have to endure the impacts of adult decisions, whenever possible.
So as hard as it can be on the volatile ride that separation maybe taking you on, pausing and asking what is best for the children, and exercising some self restraint in your reactions, will help.
2. Plan ahead WITH your ex
As hard as this can be, this will reduce the potential for conflict or negative emotions you may display to the kids on the actual day.
Planning ahead can also help you prepare the kids emotionally, so that they understand what the plans are well in advance.
Personally, for the first few years, our "Christmas situation" was traumatic. My ex would tear the kids from a huge Christmas party with cousins, to go to a place where there were no kids on Christmas day.
This was traumatic for all of us and a few years in, my ex and I created a more child-focused plan. I used to prepare my kids well in advance that their father would be picking them up at 4pm on Christmas Day. Preparing them did help, however there were still some tears, sadly.
Robin Williams and Sally Field in Mrs Doubtfire, which documents one father's desperate attempt to remain close to his children, even after divorce. (Image: Supplied)
3. Contain the emotions that may overpower you at times as much as you possibly can.
Separating from your partner can be a a very stressful time for you, so restraining your emotions, especially when you have a "challenging" or perhaps "selfish" ex-partner, can be excruciating.
But compromise works both ways, so agreeing to some details your ex may suggest will definitely be a positive way to move forward.
4. Try to embrace the new traditions
Letting go old traditions that you may have celebrated together as a family, creates an opportunity to develop new traditions that your children can enjoy.
Involving friends that maybe in a similar situation to you that are also separated, or joining other families that you have always known, may be comforting to all of you while you figure out how to navigate this new world.
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5. Make plenty of time to chat to your kids!
Keeping in mind that emotions run high during special holidays, your kids may feel anxious due to the unknown that separation can bring.
I always tried to make time to have open conversations with my kids, who were very young during the early days of our separation. Reassuring them and letting them know that they would see both Mummy and Daddy really helped.
Encourage them to write their feelings down in a journal, as well as talking openly to you.
6. Believe that it will get better
Getting through the transition from a nuclear family to a separated family unit can be a rough time for everyone involved.
Each year, making small steps to make Christmas better for you and your kids will soon add up to creating a wonderful new normal for everyone.
You will find a new "separation" groove and life can be better. Shift your mindset and commit to moving forward positively with your ex!
For more divorce tips and resources, visit The Separation Exchange.