Maintaining peace during the holiday season

22 December 2019

Coping with separation this holiday

The holidays are supposed to be filled with love, family and joy. But they can also be very challenging for couples on the verge of separating and divorce. Many couples with children will avoid separating during the holidays to protect their children. Christmas is supposed to be a festive occasion. Couples don’t want to ruin it for their kids. This is certainly a personal decision that can make a lot of sense, but sometimes just ‘knowing’ this decision can be challenging as you look to survive this busy period of being together … one last time.

B&W image of a mother and father with their young daughter picking our a christmas tree

How to avoid separation over the Christmas holidays

Giving the gift of ‘hanging in there,’ while you are both just ‘hanging on,’ is tough. Managing separation during the holidays and maintaining peace can happen if you follow these important tips:

#1. Be safe

You should make sure there are no concerns around safety, the possibility of domestic violence or intense conflict. If you have these concerns – then you should seek professional help immediately.

#2. Know your limits

Knowing that you are both putting on a false front, then managing and limiting your engagements might be a good idea. Sit down with your spouse and look at all of your obligations and commitments. Managing your schedule this Christmas can be one way of surviving. Maybe this is the year to cut back on some of the extra visits and parties. With everyone putting on a shield to ‘pretend,’ recognize that you may only have so much energy in your shield to face relatives. Give yourselves permission not to attend some events.

#3. To tell or not tell

Should you tell the children? While this is an individual choice for parents to make together, most parents tell us that they will avoid telling their children as they don’t want to spoil Christmas. Their concern is that the kids will forever remember the separation and associate it with the holiday season. It’s ok to postpone telling the kids until the moment is right. Seek professional help from a counsellor or divorce mediator in order to ensure you use the right language when telling the kids. There are quite several books and recommended readings for parents facing separation.

#4. Curtail the urge to overspend

Be creative with gift-giving. Sit down with and take a hard look at your finances. It is tempting to overindulge the kids this Christmas out of a feeling of guilt. But if you are already carrying credit card and line of credit balances, now is not the time to add more debt. Financial changes are on the horizon, so it’s key to keep the spending within affordable limits.

#5. Make time off the gift of ‘presence’

You’re about to spend 4 or 5 days off work - together. Try to plan child-focused activities. Let’s face it - if you know this is going to be the last Christmas together, you can approach that with a sense of dread, or make the most of it with a positive attitude. Giving your children the gift of your time and attention, whether it’s tobogganing, skating or games, is a great way of surviving and have some fun. This time will create some positive, long-lasting memories over the holidays.

#6. Establish your no fight zone

If you’ve already decided to wait until next month, make a pact NOT to talk about it during the holidays. Limbo is the most challenging part of change, and most people want to ease this pain by digging into the research, the planning and the financial calculating of what will happen next. Since you are not going to solve any of these problems during the holidays, avoid talking about the house, the finances, the children’s schedule until the new year. You certainly don’t want your kids to remember this Christmas as the year mom and dad were fighting all the time.

#7. Peace of mind

Preparing is good, we all want certainty about our future. But stressful emotions can cloud our ability to think clearly. And it can get worse by working with the wrong information or hearsay. So here’s a tip to help you manage better. Give yourself an early Christmas present by seeking professional help and guidance from a divorce mediation coach on the pending financial and parenting questions, to help you and your family with a smooth transition through this difficult period.

You can make it

It’s a well-known fact that more separations leading to divorce happen in January than any other month of the year. Since it’s rare that the decision to separate is made on the spur of the moment, this means most couples who are separating and divorcing in the new year are just surviving until the holidays are over. ‘Faking it’ can be difficult, but if you’ve decided it’s best to wait, you can make it through. Knowing in your heart that you did your best for your children is a good spot to be in. And a great place to find peace and joy this season. Peace! PS. If you are trying to survive the holiday without the kids, here is an article that may help you through it.


Colette Fortin is the owner of Fairway Divorce Solutions in the Waterloo-Wellington office.