Thanksgiving is upon us. Though it’s traditionally full of family, friends, and other 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.
Most custody arrangements split major holidays between the parents. Part of establishing the parenting plan during divorce usually involves hashing this out. Every family is different, so how this shakes out varies a great deal. Sometimes couples split the holidays, like mom gets Christmas, 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, holidays 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. But that first time stings the most.
But you don’t have to wallow in misery and have a pity party. That’s not healthy for anyone. There are ways to deal with divorce on Thanksgiving, and here are just a few tips and suggestions to help you through.
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Celebrate Another Day
Just because Thanksgiving falls on a specific day doesn’t mean that’s when you have to celebrate. Sure, you miss out on watching the parade with your kids, but isn’t it all about spending time with the people who matter most to you? 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.
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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 your time. 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.
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Rally The Troops
There’s no reason you have to be alone on Thanksgiving, even if your children are with you’re your ex. Maybe you know other people in similar situation, who can’t be with family for one reason or another. A “Friends-giving” is an increasingly 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? It can be as simple as having Thanksgiving on another day or going to the movies the night before Turkey Day. Or it can be something grander, like a family trip or annual event. It’s up to you. You have the chance to start a new ritual. It can be fun or practical, but it also gives you the opportunity to create something special with your kids, something unique they don’t get anywhere else.
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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. 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.
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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, eat too much, and watch football. And take the time to appreciate the good things.