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How to Cope with Divorce amid COVID-19 During the Holidays

The holidays following a divorce can be difficult enough, but this year, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing a new set of challenges for recent divorcees. Stay-at-home orders are being established across some states as cases continue to increase by the day, and with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa around the corner, families who have recently gone through a divorce are wondering how it will be possible to cope during this time.

Experts suggest using the holidays to rebuild a sense of family and security. Kids need to know that life will go on and they’re going to be okay. Incorporating the following tips during this holiday season can help you and your former spouse work together and help your children manage the holidays in a healthy way.

According to CNN, the stress of job losses, shared housing, and co-parenting has been heightened by the pandemic, which has parents feeling enormous pressure about the holidays. Professionals are encouraging those who are going through a divorce during this time to seek individual counseling if possible. This can help a person deal with the emotional and psychological trauma a divorce brings and can help you have an amicable relationship with your former spouse in order to better handle parenting situations. If you or your former spouse are still finding it difficult to co-parent during a divorce, another option would be to join parenting classes. With the pandemic at full force, many classes are now being offered online, which can be less stressful for all parties involved.

One of the first things divorced parents should do if not yet established is to figure out the children’s holiday schedule in advance. It should be noted that social distancing and shelter-in-place rules don’t directly affect custody orders, so you and your former spouse should continue following your current custody arrangement unless you and your ex agree to an alternative plan. If you already had a schedule in place, work with your ex to confirm all the details of your parenting plan during the holiday season to prevent any last-minute disagreements. Because of the pandemic, family visits may look a little different this year. In certain cases, it may be a good idea to allow the parent with primary custody to celebrate with the kids this holiday season or consider hosting a virtual holiday video conference. If there’s no court order in place, the best way to solve any issues in relation to the holidays is to initially discuss these with your former spouse.

According to the HuffPost, another way to help you survive the holidays following a divorce is by establishing boundaries with your former spouse. Setting boundaries is always important for maintaining your emotional and mental health, however, it is important to do so this time around due to the pandemic. Create a list of people with whom you feel your children can have contact during the pandemic. If possible, try to talk about your plans for the holidays with your former spouse, including whether you plan to participate in any family gatherings with the children during this time. Setting boundaries can ultimately help alleviate anxiety and make room for enjoying the holiday with peace of mind.

While it may be difficult, it is sometimes necessary to break old holiday traditions to start new ones in this new chapter of your life. Families who are facing the holiday season after divorce will find that some old traditions may need to be adjusted or let go of this year. But although traditions may have to change, parents can put the focus on new traditions that will become sources of joy and connection for the kids. Children will be better able to enjoy the holidays if both parents remain positive about their celebrations and maintain stability throughout the festive months.

Parenting after a divorce can be difficult, let alone during a stay-at-home order due to COVID-19, but it is still possible to cope with the divorce and do what is fair for everyone involved. It is important to put aside your differences with your former spouse to focus on continuing to make the holidays a special time for the children. Aim to work cooperatively, as this will enhance your child’s happiness, stability, and future well-being. The fact that the holidays look a little different this year does not have to be a negative thing. Try keeping the holiday spirit alive for your children and ensure that they are well spent with good company.

by Debra Schoenberg