Celebrating Holidays Without Your Kids: Keeping Traditions Alive

The day I had to sit down in the mediator’s office and discuss which holidays I would be able to see my kids was one of the hardest days of my divorce.

I love my children and all our holiday traditions. I couldn’t imagine not seeing them and celebrating with them. Four years later, I’ve managed to get through several holidays, and I feel like we are giving the kids the most normal holiday experience we can while keeping our traditions alive.

Celebrating Holidays Without Your Kids: Keeping Traditions Alive

Every other year, I don’t get to see my kids on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. I use this time to wrap presents, clean, and cook. I want everything to be perfect before they get home at noon on Christmas Day. After opening presents, we have a great dinner. I’m excited they will get to play with their toys longer. In years where I have the kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, I created traditions like letting them open a present on Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve present is always new pajamas, a Christmas movie, and candy. I read them The Night Before Christmas, we watch movies, set out cookies for Santa, and put reindeer food in the yard.

Things aren’t always the same every year and it’s not always easy for us, but we’ve kept these traditions alive throughout the years. You can have your kids help create new traditions or stick to old traditions in a way that works for your family.

I know those first few missed holidays are difficult and it’s never ideal, but here are some ways, to make it through holidays without your kids.

  • Tell yourself they are having a great time. You don’t need to be there for them to have fun and their happiness is your happiness.
  • Use alone time to pamper yourself.
  • Talk to your family. Thanksgiving with extended family is relaxing when I can talk to my cousins without interruptions.
  • Reach out and talk to someone if you are feeling lonely.

Of course, splitting holidays is hard for kids, so here are some ways you can help your children.

  • Let them know ahead of time what the holiday schedule will be like. The uncertainty can cause anxiety. I let my kids know what will happen. They know what Christmas will be like this year because they know when they will be with me.
  • Don’t try to outdo their other parent during the holiday season. I know things won’t always be even at both houses, but don’t intentionally one-up them.
  • They will do fun things that don’t involve you. Because you love them and want them to have a great life, every one of those things they tell you about should excite you too. I know those first few holidays are difficult. It can be hard to hear about things you missed but try to fake that enthusiasm until you get to a place where you feel it. They are telling you because they want you to know about it, any other response and they will just stop telling you things.
  • Let them help create new holiday traditions.
  • The great thing about holidays is, there isn’t just one day we typically celebrate them. At Easter, there are a few weekends with egg hunts. Santa and holiday parties are around all December. Trunk or Treats happened a few weeks before Halloween. Kids can usually experience these with both parents in some capacity. This is another way to help you through the holidays; you don’t have to miss out on celebrating with them.

Most holidays have a special meaning to us and come with great traditions but alternating them to fit your new reality isn’t the end of the world. You can find ways to bring happiness to yourself and your children on holidays.

I’d love to hear more about ideas about how to survive holidays without your children and how to keep traditions alive.


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Kristin is a single, working mother to two (9,4). She has lived in the Cedar Rapids area her entire life, though just outside Cedar Rapids in Atkins. She enjoys the small-town life and the relationships that come with it but enjoys being close to Cedar Rapids for recreation. She is currently working towards a degree from Mount Mercy University. When she is not working or doing homework, she enjoys watching her children play sports, watching Hawkeye Football, reading, writing, and binging Netflix.

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