Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Though it’s traditionally full of family, friends, and loved ones, this time of year is often tough for newly divorced dads. You may feel alone, especially if you don’t have your kids for the holiday. But there are ways to cope and survive what can be a difficult time.
Many custody arrangements split major holidays between the parents. Part of establishing the parenting plan during divorce usually involves hashing this out. Every family is set up differently, so how this shakes out varies a great deal.
Sometimes couples split the major holidays. For example, mom gets Christmas while dad takes Thanksgiving. Another common strategy is to alternate years. You get Thanksgiving next year, but this year the kids spend it with your ex.
However the situation unfolds, holiday celebrations feel like they’re missing a major ingredient without your kids around.
Feelings of sadness and depression may set in. Especially for newly divorced dads. Over time, you’ll probably come to terms with the situation, get used to it, and figure out ways to deal. And that first time stings the most.
But you don’t have to wallow in misery and have a pity party. That’s not healthy or fun for anyone. There are ways to deal with Thanksgiving post-divorce, and here are just a few tips and suggestions to help you through.
Celebrate Thanksgiving Another Way
Just because Thanksgiving falls on a specific day doesn’t mean that’s when you have to celebrate. You don’t even have to see your kids in person. Set up a Zoom or Facetime celebration if you can’t see them face-to-face.
And there’s no law against eating turkey on a day before or after the holiday proper—trust us, we’re lawyers, we looked into it. Your kids might even love having a second Thanksgiving. Who doesn’t love to double up on stuffing?
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Do Something Fun, Alone
Even though you may be on your own, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy yourself. Don’t waste the day off feeling sorry for yourself or moping. There’s nothing wrong with being alone and enjoying that time by yourself.
You can go to the movies, watch Thanksgiving Day football games at a sports bar, and eat whatever you want. You can always volunteer somewhere and take your mind off of your problems for a while and do some good for your community.
Rally The Troops
There’s no reason you have to be alone on Thanksgiving, even if your children spend the holiday with your ex. Maybe you know other people in similar situations, who can’t be with family for one reason or another. A “Friendsgiving” is always a popular option.
You’re probably not the only one looking for some comradery on the holiday. And if you make it a potluck, you don’t even have to do all the cooking and cleaning yourself. Win-win.
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Start New Thanksgiving Traditions
You may have to pack up an old tradition and put it away. But what better time to start a new one? Or at least plan for something.
Get with your kids and talk about what you want to do when this is all over. It can be a big, grand adventure, like a trip, or something small, like a movie date. Talk about what you want to do next Thanksgiving and maybe create a new family holiday ritual.
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Talk to Your Kids
Whatever you ultimately decide to do, the most important thing is to talk to your kids. You’re going through a tough, tumultuous time. But so are they. Your life changed dramatically. So did theirs.
Remind them how much they mean to you and how much you care about them. It’s vital to take steps to ensure they’re comfortable, secure, and understand the new situation. Whatever that looks like.
Do what you can to make sure they have a happy, fun Thanksgiving. In general, after divorce, open lines of communication with your kids are key, but it’s especially critical on holidays and other major events. Remember, this isn’t only about you.
These are just a few tips and suggestions to help newly divorced dads through Thanksgiving. It can be tough, but remember, it’s a holiday designed for giving thanks and being grateful for what you do have, not what you don’t.
You may not feel like dwelling on the positive, but it’s better than the alternative. Take care of yourself, hug your kids when you can, eat too much, and watch football. And take the time to appreciate the good things.
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