10 Tips for Handling the Holidays When You Are Divorced

Traditionally holidays are depicted as a special time of the year for families to be together. However, when a divorce or separation occurs, many parents and children find themselves feeling confused, disappointed, conflicted and frustrated. During this time of the year it is important to remember special occasions do not have to be emotionally stressful provided parents are able to put their children’s needs first.

Listed below are some pointers on how to make your celebration season less stressful for you and your kids.

1. Realize that you may need to adjust your expectations.
Try to stay focused on your children’s needs and how your decisions regarding the holidays will directly impact them. Think about what kinds of memories you want them to have this holiday season and what will be most important to them.

2. Keep children informed about plans.
Children need to know where they are going to be for special occasions and with whom. Support your children having contact with the other parent or extended family members during their special time with you.

3. Avoid arguing over where children spend the holiday
Remember what’s most important to children is not who they spend their special day with, but rather that their parents are not fighting about who they will be with for the holidays. While sharing the holiday can be challenging, for the sake of your children, pick your battles carefully and try to minimize tensions.

4. If you are traveling with the children, provide the other parent with information.
It is always a good idea to let the other parent know if you are going to be traveling with the children during the holiday season. Provide the other parent with details of when and where the children will be, as well as, how they can contact them while you are away from home.

5. Help your children make or buy gifts for their other parent.
Children need to experience the joy of giving and it also sends a message to your children that you support their relationship with the other parent.

6. Focus on making different special.
Invite children to help establish new holiday rituals with you. It’s okay to have different ways of celebrating special occasions in each home. You may also want to talk with them about previous traditions and brainstorm with your children ways to combine old and new traditions.

7. Try not to let guilt get the best of you during the holidays.
Often parents feel guilty about how hard divorce can be for kids. Sometimes we may react to that guilt by overindulging our children with gifts during the holidays. Avoid getting into a “gift competition” with your ex or purchasing gifts for your children that you know the other parent wouldn’t approve of or want in their home. When possible, try to coordinate gift choices with the other parent.

8. Give gifts with no strings attached.
Even though it can sometimes be very difficult, allow your children to decide where they will keep their gifts.

9. Try to maintain a sense of humor and stay flexible.
Sometimes plans may need to be altered or revised to accommodate your children’s needs. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When faced with a decision about changing plans it may help to ask yourself what difference will this make one year from now?

10. Use times when you are not with your children in a positive way.
Spending the holidays without your children can be really hard. Make plans with close friends, family members or take time to do something special for yourself.


  1. Sharon on December 25, 2011 at 2:41 AM

    Thanks so much for this information! It really made me feel better! 🙂

    • Christina McGhee on December 25, 2011 at 6:47 AM

      You are very welcome & thanks for checking out the blog. Hope you have a very happy holiday.