It is Christmas Eve and you are already dreading all of the traveling you are going to do from one family member's house to the other. As a young adult, you are independent to do whatever you want in your daily life. But when it comes down the holiday, it is your job to make it to all of the family parties. Whether your parents recently got divorced or they have been divorced since you have been in diapers, this list is for you.
1. Set a Plan:
The best way to feel prepared for anything is to create a plan that is doable and realistic. If you have 4 houses to go to this Christmas holiday then you want to map out where you will go when. Also, think about the traditions you care about most. If your mom throws the best Christmas Eve dinner that has presents involved then you might want to celebrate Christmas Eve there. If your stepmom makes the most scrumptious Christmas breakfast then I would say head there early morning! You should also take in account the distance from one house to the other and what makes sense in your travel plans so you are minimizing your travel time. You'd rather enjoy watching a classic Christmas movie than being stuck in traffic. If you are in counseling, this might be something to discuss in your therapy session to figure out what will work best.
2. Bring an equally good gift for every family member.
You might have that one step-parent who you do not necessarily love to buy gifts for. You should still arrive with a gift for that step-parent. The last thing you want to do during the holidays is create drama between your separated parents comparing who got what. It should all be equally thoughtful and within the same price range. Buying for men is always tricky so I do not have gift ideas for ya on that one!
3. Make some time for yourself
You may be traveling from family to family with a partner, your kids, or just yourself. It it stressful in itself just the traveling part. Plan out a time for yourself to relax and do something you enjoy. An example is to escape to your childhood room and continue reading your favorite book. Or listen to your favorite podcast while you are traveling.
4. Remind yourself that you are a strong, independent, young adult.
As a young adult, you are independent and intelligent. But whenever you go back into your childhood home or spend time with your parents, you feel like a kid again. The first step is to notice your change in thinking and behavior. Why are you feeling this way? Is it just because you are around your parents? Then you want to remind yourself that you are no longer a child. Remember that you deserve to be treated as such. You may need to gently remind your parents of this if you find they are treating you like a child.
5. Stick to your routine as best as you can
The holidays are a time to indulge. We indulge in food, drinks, being lazy, and not caring about our daily stressors. It is great to take time off from work, school, and your usual stressors. But you also don't want to become so out of sync with yourself. For example, if you are used to exercising daily then you might find yourself feeling pretty crappy during the holiday break if you completely stop working out. It might be a good idea to go for a walk, hike, or do some yoga along with a family member.
6. Back away from the fighting
It is easy for you to get in the middle of your parents arguing. You have a few options here. You can either leave the room until things cool down. Or you can (calmly) reflect that even after their divorce, your parents continue to fight. Whatever you do, do not get in the middle and try to mediate arguing parents.
7. Relax and enjoy!
This one is simple. Once you have gone through the first 6 step, you can feel mentally prepared to jump into the Christmas holiday with your divorced parents. Use this time off from work or school to recharge your batteries so that you feel less stressed in the new year.
If you continue to feel stressed after the holidays, feel free to reach out to me and we can talk more about different ways you can relieve that stress.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Courtney Glashow, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Jersey City, New Jersey. She specializes in adolescent issues and young adult counseling. For more information about Courtney's work click here.
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