Posted October 19, 2023 in Family Law
By O’Cathain Law Group, LLC
It’s officially the spooky season— giant cobwebs festooned on houses, families making weekend visits to the pumpkin patch, and young children answering the question, And what are you going to be for Halloween?, trying to make up their mind. Yes, trick-or-treating is around the corner.
However, if you’re a co-parent who shares custody of your children, or a parent with visitation/parenting rights, it’s not ghosts and goblins you should be focused on right now (frankly, if you’re reading this, that parenting schedule should have already been sorted out) but turkeys and pie and even Santa Claus that should be forefront of mind. Yes, the holidays are coming up quickly!
In a future blog post we’ll specifically address co-parenting issues for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the traditional holiday break most schools offer leading up to New Year’s Eve and Day. In this blog post, however, let’s talk turkey…
Oftentimes of course families have long-standing traditions around the holidays, and Thanksgiving is no different. Where, and with who you gather for the turkey; who brings a favored side dish (your aunt’s green bean casserole or your grandma’s special cookies); and what the schedule for the weekend is, be it the Macy’s Parade or backyard football or Christmas shopping.
Divorce, of course, is the great disrupter of families and traditions; it means that this year, and years to come, will be different. Especially in the beginning it often splits the family in two, and especially on a specific holiday where the big meal is usually the centerpiece. Let’s look at a few ways to handle a divorced Thanksgiving:
- If you have the kiddos this year: If you do have your children with you for Thanksgiving, you may decide to attempt to keep some of the same traditions – baking a pie the night before, or annual watch of a holiday movie that night, to kick off the season – even if some of the faces around the table have changed. You may also find, if you’re on amicable terms with your co-parent, that you can invite them over for a dessert, or a cup of coffee in the morning. Of course, your kids may have questions about why the holiday is being spent apart; best to be honest and reassuring with them, about how Thanksgiving remains Thanksgiving for them. In keeping with the theme of the holiday, you may find a moment to be grateful you are with your children on Thanksgiving.
- If you don’t have your children on Thanksgiving this year: This can be much trickier, especially if it’s your first Thanksgiving separated or divorced. You may find yourself with terrible sadness, or a feeling of not knowing what to do. Make plans now: are you going to see your kids the night before, or the day after? Or even the weekend before—there’s no real reason you can’t cook a big Thanksgiving dinner any day and celebrate on the day that works for your family. If you find yourself missing the crowd that was maybe around your table in prior years, reach out to family and friends and see if there’s anyone you’d like to invite to this make-up Thanksgiving. If you’re going to be flying solo this Thanksgiving, see if there’s a family member or a friend whose table you might be welcomed at (remember to bring a nice host/hostess gift!). If the fourth Thursday’s coming up and you see no options, why not host a Friendsgiving yourself, perhaps even cooking for other people in your community who might be in the same divorced (gravy) boat? (If it seems to be daunting to cook, turn it into a potluck!) If none of these Thanksgiving options seem appealing to you, there’s always the choice to skip the holiday on the day altogether— it could be the perfect time to, say, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or check out the movie you’ve been wanting to see, to treat yourself to some delicious take-out, or to crank up the Christmas carols, stay in your PJ’s and get started on the kids’ lists online.
No matter your potential plans, it’s best to address Thanksgiving the holiday as soon as possible. Reach out to your lawyer, your coparent, your family, your friends, your support team— plan now so that when Thanksgiving does arrive, you’re not caught unprepared.
Holidays take time to readjust to during and after divorce. There’s no right or wrong way to handle Thanksgiving in your fragile state. Whether you celebrate with a place at a big table or with a turkey sandwich and a Hallmark movie on the TV, what works for you works for you— the important part is to remember all the things you’re thankful for, especially this year.