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In most businesses work slows down during the holidays, but as a therapist it has continued to be busy.  Many people are going through divorce or separation.  This may be your first or even your second year apart.  There may also be children involved which can complicate matters more.  For some people, there may be a small or no support system living nearby.  Here are a few tips that have helped my clients to cope.

1.  If you have children where you are still disagreeing as to who gets whom during the holidays,  STOP!  These are BOTH YOUR CHILDREN and they will get caught in your own anger, vengeance, retaliation, fear and needs.  What’s the answer?  Both of you have to be FLEXIBLE and COMPROMISE.  Sit back and think what is best for the CHILDREN, NOT YOU.  I also tell clients what is this year may change next year, and yes, even if it’s written through the courts and stamped on a document, things can change.

2.  If children are involved and they are older, they may have a say where they want to be.  The child or adolescent may have a preference due to their own feelings toward one parent or another.  Try not to Personalize and make their feelings yours.  Listen to them and remember they are going through their own major changes and fears.

3.  Stay in touch with family and friends.  If not in person then via Facetime or Facebook.  Having people around you  who love you can be the biggest help of all.

4.  Start your own traditions.  Maybe you are living in a new place.  If so, have a gathering of your own and there will be a theme.  Something you have not done in the past.  One of my clients moved into a townhouse and had an open house on one of the holidays to get to know the neighbors and invite friends.  She called it “A nibble and a sweet”.  She served appetizers and bought and made chocolates that were FANTASTIC (she brought me a sample).  Each person also went home with a goody bag filled with cookies and chocolates.

5.  If entertaining is not your thing.  Accept an invitation, if invited to someones house.  Many of my clients decline invitations because they are not in the spirit or may not know anyone at the party.  Some, on the other hand, know a lot of people that were mutual friends with the person who is no longer with you,  Better yet, he or she may be there.  I am not saying to put yourself in an uncomfortable position.  I am just saying you may want to think about it.  Weigh out the pros and cons.  Don’t automatically say NO.

6.  If you’re feeling guilty you are not with your children or blame yourself for the situation, let it go.  Guilt is a learned behavior.  It is not a diagnosis or a chemical imbalance.  We learn it from our family of origin.  So, maybe it’s time to let go of those feelings that are no longer needed or desired.

7.  Keep yourself healthy.  Stress can lower our immune systems and open up ourselves to colds, upper respiratory infections, stomach problems and a whole myriad of other physical and psychological symptoms.

8.  Treasure the time you may have  to spend with your children, make the best of it.  It may not be exactly on Hanukkah or Christmas but it’s the not the day that  is important.  It is the the time you spend with them.

9.  Don’t fight over the children as if they were a tug of war.  They will feel it and so will you.

10.  Let go of the past and what “should have been.”  Look toward new adventures and a new life for yourself as a single person.

Happy Holidays!

Lori Sarvis, LCSW

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