The first of everything after a divorce or separation can be a challenging time. Perhaps you are worried and nervous about Christmas, especially if it’s your first post-separation.

Claire Macklin, Divorce Coach mentioned, ‘I remember feeling anxious about Christmas the first couple of years after my divorce, especially the first time that our children were spending Christmas with their Dad. However, I didn’t want those worries and fears to define my festive break – I knew I had a choice – to let it get me down or to find new ways to enjoy Christmas’.

Change is always challenging, but the truth is that whatever your new reality, you always have a choice. You can let it control and define you, or you can choose to take back your power and consciously put yourself back in the driving seat.
These techniques might challenge you at first, but I promise they will help you in the long run.

“IT WON’T BE THE SAME AS BEFORE”

Whilst it’s true that Christmas won’t be the same as before, and there may be little you can do to change the situation, you can change your approach and focus. Ask yourself:
• how could I make it better for myself?
• What new traditions might I be able to start? One of my clients changed their Christmas stocking tradition of opening presents on the bed, to opening them over a bucks fizz breakfast – and it’s a tradition that’s stuck.
• Is there anything I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t? Perhaps, like another of my clients, you’ve always wanted to join in the Boxing Day horse ride along the beach, or your cycling club’s annual Christmas ride, but it’s been impossible to do with your children.
By making this Christmas different, you avoid comparing to Christmases past. And you may even create a new tradition that you love.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, ask yourself what you CAN do. Be open to possibilities.

“I AM DREADING SPENDING CHRISTMAS DAY ON MY OWN”

Ask yourself what is it you are most dreading? Is it waking up on your own, or spending the day alone, or something else? Be honest with yourself. Once you know what the worst part of it is for you, then you can think about ways in which you might be able to overcome that bit. Some questions you could ask yourself:

• What would I like instead?
• What would be the best gift I could give to myself this year? On a piece of paper, jot down any ideas that you have, however crazy. Then think about how you might be able to do some of those things.
• Could I help those in need? One of my friends spent Christmas Day one year volunteering with Shelter to help the homeless at Christmas.
• Do you know other people in your position? Knowing someone who has handles Christmas post-divorce successfully gives an opportunity to ask how they did it. How did they get through it? What tips could they give you?
• If there was one good thing about the situation, what would it be?
• What WON’T I miss? It might be that you no longer have to watch the Queen’s speech or cook sprouts which you hate. One of my clients recently told me that she was looking forward to being able to “more mess, more noise, more fun”.
Give yourself the gift of taking power over your time, and focus on what you CAN do.

“MY CHILDREN WON’T BE WITH ME, AND I DON’T KNOW HOW I’LL COPE”

Your children will take their cue from you. If you are down and negative, they will be too. If you are angry and resentful, they are likely to feel conflicted and stressed.
Shift your focus onto the time you DO have together, rather than on the time you don’t. When you are upbeat and make plans to do things that you all enjoy in the time you are together, they will do the same. Get ideas from them about things they’d like to do, traditions they’d like to start. Focus on arranging a few things you will all enjoy.
Ultimately, Christmas Day is just a day, and you can have yours whenever you want. When my children are at their Dad’s for Christmas day, we have a full-on Christmas on a different weekend – turkey, all the trimmings, stockings, gifts, family over, the lot. These days, their question is “when’s our Christmas this year Mum?”.
When you frame this new reality positively, your children will follow your example.

“I FEEL ANGRY THAT MY EX GETS TO SPEND CHRISTMAS WITH THE CHILDREN WHEN I DON’T”

This can be really tough, especially the first time.
Put yourself into your children’s shoes – and I mean really put yourself in them.

Close your eyes and imagine you are them, seeing, hearing and experiencing things from their perspective. This can be challenging, but it’s worth doing.
• How do they feel?
• What do they want?
• What message would they give you?
Most children just want to be able to see both parents, have fun with both of you, and be free to love you both. Put the children’s interests right at the top. No child wants to see their parents arguing over where they will spend Christmas Day. They will remember the arguing, and the feeling of being caught in conflict for a long time – much longer than they will remember whose house they were in on Christmas day.
Take a step back from the emotion, and try to put aside your differences over Christmas. Consider how you usually respond to your ex, and make a conscious decision to respond rather than react. Breathe and slow down your reactions – although you can’t control your ex, their behaviours, their reactions, you can control your own, and take the heat out of the situation.
You have the power to shift your focus away from feeling angry about the time you don’t have, and onto the time you do have, and on making it matter – both for the children and for yourself.

“I WILL HAVE TO SEE MY EX ON CHRISTMAS DAY, AND I’M DREADING IT”

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you imagine and what you remember, and you can prepare for seeing your ex by becoming the Steven Spielberg of your own mind. Use a Mind Movie to prepare for those times when you know you’ll have to see your ex.

Imagine the scene, and run it like a movie in your mind, with you watching it on a big screen. See yourself in the movie. Imagine yourself zipping up a Teflon suit, being composed, saying exactly what you need to say, acting confidently, calmly and exactly as you wish. Rehearse what you want to say out loud.

Now rewind the scene and run it again, asking yourself what you could do to make it even better. Make the colours vivid and bright and make the picture bigger and bigger. Feel yourself in the scene, so that you are no longer watching, and have become part of the movie in your mind. Repeat until you feel in control of the scene, and that you’ve given your very best performance.

Notice how you feel now that you know what you want to say and how you want to feel and act. Now when you meet your ex, your brain will remember your mind movie, and will know what you need to do.

In the end, it takes as much effort and energy to worry and stress about Christmas as it does to plan for how you can turn things around and make it better for yourself. It’s up to you which you choose…

The key is to shift your focus, stop worrying about Christmas Day, and concentrate on what you can do to make the Christmas holiday as good as it possibly can be. It may not be perfect this year, and it may not be exactly as you really want, but you can make the best of it, and make it as free from stress as you can. And you never know, you might create a tradition that you really love!

Best Christmas wishes from 

Claire Macklin, Divorce Coach