Thanksgiving After DivorceMarybeth Sampsel
During and after a divorce, Thanksgiving can be a difficult hurdle. Especially the first time. A holiday meant to celebrate togetherness and family can be especially hard on children suffering the loss of exactly that stability. During your first Thanksgiving apart, you should expect to feel sad. More importantly, you should expect your children to feel sad. Emotions like sadness, confusion, and even anger are common and should be expected from children and yourself.
Some of my clients have developed different strategies to cope around Thanksgiving. One of my favorite is when the forge ahead and create new traditions. Some volunteer with community outreach programs like soup kitchens. Others visit a different relative for the Thanksgiving dinner. Whatever you do, take some time to imagine a new tradition. Even if you only do it for one year, the change can do everyone good.
Other family members are important too. You might feel like a burden, talking about your feelings and sadness. But, at the risk of being cliche, what are friends for? I’m not suggesting that you spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend in a fog of sadness, but allowing yourself to feel those emotions isn’t a bad thing. If you need a shoulder to cry on, let your friends and family be there for you. Get it out of your system, so that the celebration itself can be about a new beginning.
A new factor that can’t be avoided is scheduling. Odds are, your children will now have two different Thanksgiving dinners to attend. The best results I’ve seen come from families who recognize that Thanksgiving is just a day, it’s the celebration that is important. And that celebration can be repeated on any day. Scheduling Thanksgiving dinner for Friday doesn’t change the holiday, and with some flexibility like that – both parents can have a great holiday with the kids. After all, what’s more important: the day of the week or time with your children?
And whatever you do, don’t bring the kids into any scheduling conflicts with your ex. It’s not their fault. And frankly, there’s no reason they should even know about them. Finding time to sit down for the holiday meal is your responsibility. This is going to be stressful enough with all the changes. Don’t make things worse.
Even in the midst of divorce, there are still reasons to be thankful. That’s the reason for the holiday, and family disruptions or not — remembering that is beneficial for everyone. Take some time, and make a list of things that you are thankful for. It might be hard at first, but ultimately it could bring some perspective that will improve the day for you and your children.