Thanksgiving is a holiday that can be all over the map depending on who you are and where your family situation currently stands. If you’re a divorced parent, it’s significant in part because it marks the start of a holiday season in which parenting time is definitely in focus.
In the Texas Family Code, standard orders include a holiday provision in which one parent gets the children in two blocks of time that include Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day one year, and in a block of time that includes Christmas the following year. For a lot of families, both Thanksgiving and Christmas are quite important family holidays for their own reasons. That means the parenting time schedule — as it’s written — means that each divorced parent will have holidays with the kids and without the kids.
Thanksgiving can be an emotional holiday as a result. In an article on the Woman’s Divorce website, its writers even characterized it as “a heart-wrenching time,” and for those newly divorced, a comparison in which “last year you were still a family,” whereas, “this year that stability has been ripped to shreds and you’re trying to sew the pieces back together.”
We like to emphasize, of course, that you become a different kind of family when you divorce, and you have the ability to create new traditions that help you celebrate the love that you and your children have for each other. That was, in part, part of what that authors offered as well, writing:
Take this year to make new traditions. If you always spent Thanksgiving with your spouse’s family, go visit yours this year. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, or having a dinner with your friends. When you’re dealing with divorce, don’t put all your focus on how things were. Think about how things could be now, and take steps to make them that way.
The authors also offered some good advice about how to deal with emotions you might have in the throes of the holiday season, balancing the support you might need with trying to stay positive and upbeat when you’re beginning to build your new holiday memories. As they put it:
If you need to vent or need a shoulder to cry on, grab a friend or family member that you trust and let it out. Otherwise, do your best to strive for a good holiday atmosphere, free from bitterness. The fact that you’re around supportive friends and family alone should show you that it’s not the end of the world.
Just don’t make Thanksgiving itself your rant day. Try to talk to somebody beforehand and keep the negative thoughts and energy of dealing with divorce away from enjoying the holiday. Otherwise, you’re going to make the holiday itself more rotten for you and bring it down for your friends and family.
Finally, they advise making sure you’re able to be as flexible as possible in working out pickups and dropoffs with your ex. While your decree will dictate a specific time and you might want to build your schedule around that, you also want to communicate to make sure that’s realistic. They note:
It may be hard to arrange transportation and scheduling with your ex, but try to be civil and flexible when you do. Part of dealing with divorce is not letting bitterness color the holiday for you or your children. It’s not going to do anybody any good for you to get angry because your ex couldn’t pick up the kids until 7 p.m. when he was supposed to be there an hour earlier.
The more open your lines of communication are, and the more you’re able to treat each other with civility and respect, the better off you’ll be in both the short run — figuring out what happens for a specific holiday – and the long run of coordinating with your ex on the difficult matter of who gets the kids when.
Both of you certainly would want to spend every holiday with your kids if you could, and in certain types of co-parenting arrangements, you can figure out how to split Thanksgiving or Christmas in a way that makes sense and satisfies everyone. If you can’t do that or aren’t willing to do that, you can still create arrangements that are fair, that serve your kids best, and that allow each parent to have happy holidays with their newly-constituted families.