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How should I approach Christmas without my children?

The holidays are a time for family, joy, and togetherness. But what if your family unit looks different this year? If you’re facing Christmas without your children due to separation and divorce, the festive season can feel overwhelming. You might wonder how to navigate the traditions, manage loneliness, and create a meaningful Christmas experience.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! This blog is here to guide you through this challenging time. We’ll explore strategies for approaching Christmas without your children, from self-care tips to alternative ways to celebrate. Let’s turn this potentially difficult experience into a chance for personal growth and rediscover the joy of the season.

How can I let go of how things used to be?

There are many ways to approach Christmas, special days and birthdays as a separated family. Remaining open and flexible will be the key to avoiding it becoming contentious.

The truth is, this will be a negotiation, and it may require you to hold on a little less tightly to past traditions and adjust for the present and future. It is very natural to struggle with change. Letting go can be incredibly challenging, and it’s okay to experience a sense of loss. You may find feelings such as anger, resentment, and injustice arise.

Acknowledging such feelings as valid is essential. However, allowing those feelings to pass and trying not to make decisions from this place is key. There are some things you can try to help you move on.

  • Writing an angry letter and destroying it can be a helpful way to express those feelings and remove some of the intensity.
  • When negotiating Christmas and other special occasions, try to provide yourself with space before responding to any requests.
  • Ask yourself what you are holding on to and why you find it hard to let it go. What particular meaning does this have for you personally? Are you getting stuck on wanting to ‘win’ or not wanting to give ground? What are you telling yourself it means about you if you relinquish?
  • Consider an alternate perspective or reframe things for yourself.

Whatever your circumstances, none of this is easy. These strategies are skills to master. Going through a separation and divorce can give rise to a time of personal development and healing. It forces us to stop and reflect on the past and learn more about ourselves.

How can I feel positive about Christmas without my kids?

The key is to reset expectations around what Christmas looks like. We’re sold an ideal that is, more often than we realise, not the reality for so many people around Christmas time.

To reset expectations, people may need a plan to bolster themselves and be intentional about how they want to spend their time away from their children. One thing to try is journaling about how you want Christmas to look for you.

Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do I want to be around people, and if so, why?
  • What stories am I telling myself about what being alone at Christmas means?
  • What needs have I been neglecting, and how might I use this time to meet them?
  • How might I experience peace, joy & connection at this time?
  • What are some of the traditions I enjoy about Christmas that I can continue to participate in for myself?

Doing this allows you to see the time apart as a gift to appreciate and enjoy. It is all too easy to narrow our focus to see only what we are missing out on and miss all the other wonderful things that we get to experience.

Christmas is more than one day. There is so much to enjoy and share with your children in and around Christmas: end-of-year parties, Christmas carols, Santa visits, shopping for and wrapping the gifts, moving the elf (grrrr), decorating the tree, writing letters to Santa, making plans to visit friends and family in the holidays… the list goes on.

The point is we have a choice: focus on what we are missing out on or rejoice in all the things we have.

How can I manage my emotional health at Christmas?

This isn’t to dismiss the sadness and loss that come with letting go of our dreams of what a family Christmas looks like. Allowing yourself to sit with and acknowledge those feelings is important, and it is okay to spend a little time grieving.

There are some things you can try to help manage your emotional health & wellbeing.

  • Avoid doom scrolling; comparing your situation to other people’s Christmas highlights reel is an exercise in self-punishment and does nothing to serve you.
  • Be honest about how your past Christmases have looked, especially in the last couple of years before separation, and throw away those rose-tinted specs!
  • Don’t focus on the time you’re missing out on – focus on the time you will spend with your children and make that special.
  • If the opinions of family or friends aren’t helpful, don’t be afraid to put boundaries around contact or topics of conversation that aren’t up for discussion.
  • If being alone feels too scary right now, reach out and ask for help.

Speaking to a counsellor or Divorce Coach who can help you understand your experience and guide you forward is an option that may help when difficult experiences like this come up.

Thank you to Kelly Luisa Bagshaw for her contribution to this post. 

The Separation Guide aims to make separation and divorce simpler, more manageable and less stressful. To find out more about how one of our Network Members could support your separation, take our free three-minute Q&A.

The information in our resources is general only. Consider getting in touch with a professional adviser if you need legal, financial or well-being support.