Changing Families: Spending the Holidays Alone

If you share holidays with your ex, you may be facing a holiday alone this season without your child. It can be difficult to be separated from your child, but you can get through the holiday with these guidelines:

Talk to your child. Make sure your child understands where he will be spending the holiday. Mark the plans on a calendar so that the schedule is solid in your child’s eyes. Explain to your child that you will miss him, but point out that you’re happy he will be having fun and you want him to have a good time. While it’s important to be honest with your child, it is equally important that you not burden him with the responsibility for your happiness. Don’t tell your child that you will be miserable, lonely, in tears or completely depressed while he is with the other parent. It’s OK to say you will miss him, but follow this statement with reassurances that you’ll be together again soon.

Make plans with your child. Plan out with your child when you will celebrate the holiday together. It’s not important what you do or when you do it, as long as you plan a way for you and your child to celebrate the holiday together in some way the next time you are together. This will help your child feel confident that both parents are truly a part of his life and will give you something to plan for and look forward to.

Consider holidays together. Some parents find that in the first few years after a divorce, it works best if they spend important holidays together with their child (for example, having the non-custodial parent come over to spend Christmas morning with the custodial parent and child). If you think this option would work for you, try it.

Touch base. Plan to have some kind of contact with your child on the holiday itself. Call him on the phone or even to stop by for a quick hug and kiss on the other parent’s front porch (if you and the other parent agree this will not make your child upset). Making contact with your child on the actual holiday not only will help your child cope, but will help ease your own feelings of loneliness.

Make plans for yourself. The key to getting through a major holiday without your child is to plan ahead. If your family celebrates together for this holiday, get involved in planning the event and look forward to spending the day with them. Plan a get together with friends or spend the day wrapping gifts for your child. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you plan something out.

Think about what you want. Give some thought to what you really want to get out of the holiday. Are there things you have always wanted to do, but have never been able to? Maybe you’ve always dreamed of caroling on Christmas Eve or hoped to host a Kwanzaa feast. Now is your chance to fulfill your holiday wish list.

Filling Alone Time
Even if you’ll be attending a party or hosting some kind of event, there will be some time on the holiday when you will be alone and if you have no plans, the day may loom long and empty before you. Take some time before the day comes around to plan out some things you can do on your own. Look around your community for events celebrating the holiday — church services, community get-togethers, civic events, single parent gatherings and so on. Don’t be afraid to go alone — there are a lot of other parents who are also alone on holidays.

If your day still looks wide open, make a list of things you can do just by yourself. These don’t have to be earth-shattering, spectacular plans. Anything that makes you happy and gives you something to do works. Try some of these suggestions:

• take a long walk
• buy a special meal or plan to cook something special for yourself
• go to a movie
• start reading a new book
• rent videos
• give yourself a home beauty treatment
• buy yourself something you’ve been wanting — and be sure wrap it up for yourself!
• get a big project done around the house, such as painting or wallpapering
• organize your photographs or make a scrapbook
• clean out your closets or basement
• volunteer at a local charity
• stay in bed all day reading the newspaper or watching a movie
• go away for the day or the weekend to someplace you’ve always wanted to visit
• chat online with other parents who are alone
• create something special to surprise your child: a mural on his wall, a batch of cookies, a fort you built in the backyard
• start a new hobby: knitting, painting, building model airplanes

The key is remembering you can get through a holiday alone and real holidays with your child happen when you make them.

Brette McWhorter Sember is a former family law attorney and mediator. She is the author of several books on divorce. Find them on her Web site,