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  • Laura L. Van Tassel, Esq.

Is it possible to have a truly thankful Thanksgiving after separation or divorce? I think so!

Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together and give thanks, which is why it’s difficult for separated or divorced parents. A holiday meant to celebrate togetherness — can feel incomplete as one parent celebrates the holiday without their children.

If this is your first thanksgiving without your kids seeing all those fantasy images of Thanksgiving and families splashed on tv and social media, may have you preparing for a pity party. That’s not healthy for anyone.

Remember that children can only be as happy as their least happy parent. Make certain that isn’t you. There are ways to deal with divorce on Thanksgiving, and here are just a few tips and suggestions to help you through:

Don’t Expect Perfect:

Allow for some Thanksgiving “hiccups.” Be patient with your ex. This is new and different for everyone, and patience will go a long way. Don’t get visibly aggravated if your ex is 15 minutes late picking up the kids or bringing them home. Think about it from your kids’ point of view — this is a glimpse of what they will come to expect to experience for years to come, so model your best, most respectful, and mature interactions with your ex in front of your children so they can enjoy their childhood, especially at this time of year.

Positive Self-Talk : Accept that while it can be hard to be without your kids, you can control your reactions to loss by substituting positive self-talk for negative. For instance, rather than telling yourself that life has dealt you a bad hand, you can tell yourself, “I am strong, and I can face any challenges that come my way.”

Nix The Guilt:

Perhaps your Thanksgiving holiday this year will be different from what you might have envisioned. It’s easy to get caught up in guilt, But your kids will see and feel that. Remind your children that just because this Thanksgiving is going to be different— different doesn’t necessarily mean bad or wrong. Tell them they will have fun, even if it is different.

Remind Yourself How Lucky They Are:

Many children are missing a parent absent due to divorce or other reasons. Remember that even though your children are not there, you can be thankful for having them and remind yourself how lucky they are to have two adoring parents that want to spend time with them.

Celebrate On Another Day:

Just because Thanksgiving falls on a specific day doesn’t mean that’s when you have to celebrate; it doesn’t mean you have to give up the holiday. Celebrate on a day you have your kid with you and pretend it’s Thanksgiving. You can still do all your traditions and make your favorite dishes, and you’ll get to spread the holiday cheer out a bit more.

Embrace Freedom:

Even though you may be on your own, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy yourself — you deserve it! Don’t waste the day off feeling sorry for yourself or moping. There’s nothing wrong with being alone and enjoying your time. A little "me" time can do wonders. Think back to who you were before your marriage. That person has experienced so much; here you are, stronger, wiser, and more aware of what you want and do not. Spend time appreciating the person you have become, and make yourself your priority.

Maybe you want to sleep in, watch old Christmas movies, sit in bed and read all day, binge on that TV show you never have time to watch, and eat whatever you want or spend the afternoon preparing for Black Friday shopping.

Show Yourself Some Thanks:

The very definition of Thanksgiving is "giving thanks." Take the time to see what you have to be thankful for. The list is probably longer than you'd expect, and by seeing everything you have in your life, you'll have a better perspective for this holiday and the future. Take part of the day to write down all the things you could never do when you and your ex were together and make plans to do them! It can be a grand adventure, like a trip or a class you always wanted to take, or a business you always wanted to start - the sky's the limit! Be thankful that you have a new life while you work towards what you want and a fresh start.

Managing your first holiday season as a co-parent after divorce can be challenging. However, it is a challenge that you should meet head-on. I hope these tips and suggestions help you through. Take care of yourself, hug your kids when you can, eat too much, do what you want, and take the time to appreciate the good things.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours–enjoy celebrating in your own special way!

Questions on handling your first Holidays as a single parent? Contact Van Tassel Law

At Van Tassel Law, I believe in a kinder approach to life's legal issues. I work with families like yours every day, and I would be honored to do the same with you. If you are currently working through a divorce, planning on filing for divorce soon, or have any questions on any area of family law, please do not hesitate to contact me today for a free consultation at (201) 664-8566


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