The holidays are a stressful time of year for many. This can be particularly so for newly divorced families trying to find the new normal. But the divorce is done and you are living on your own for the first time since those years after you graduated from college.
While you likely won't have to put in as much family time since your in-law obligations have been scaled back, you should make every effort to ensure you and the kids make all the usual friends and family visits without being too busy. Traditionally, custody agreements use alternating years with the holidays, so be aware that there could be some downtime to fill.
Here are some other helpful tips:
Make a plan and stick with it
Many men have traditionally left holiday planning to their wives. Your divorce agreement will likely have an outline of time spent with each parent during the holidays or alternating years. Double check it to see when exactly your time is and plan accordingly. Don't be late with pick-up or drop-off.
Communicate with the ex
As you plan, run things by your ex so that everyone is on the same page. If its Christmas, it doesn't hurt for the parents to have coordinated plan as far as gift giving for the kids.
The ex may have special family in from out of town that the kids want to see. Agree to work around that if possible, but make sure that you still get your fair share of time. It sets a tone that will hopefully be reciprocated when something comes up for you.
Decorate the house
Decorate if the kids and/or other houseguests will be over. It's best to show a little (or a lot) of holiday spirit. If possible have the kids help decorate - it gets everyone involved and could start a new family tradition.
To cook or not to cook
Don't be lame. Try to cook a meal enjoyable to all that won't send your stress through the roof. If you can't cook, perhaps make arrangements ahead of time for pizzas from a favorite restaurant and reheating them. Plan ahead so you are not trying to sort out a menu on Christmas Eve.
Take care of yourself
You are going to probably feel a little empty if you are flying solo. Keep yourself busy even when you aren't with the kids - travel or see friends and family. Do not sit in an empty house on Thanksgiving eating Chinese takeout in your underwear unless it's your idea of heaven.
There are a number of different web sites and organizations out there specifically for divorced dads. Look here for an extensive local and national list of different groups. These folks will know what you are going through and may have additional tips of what's worked for them. They also can provide a good support system for you.