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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Coping With Divorce: When the Kids are With the Other Parent During the Holidays

This time of year can be particularly difficult for people who have experienced the loss of a marriage and must now face the emptiness of celebrating the holidays without their family.

In the case of divorce, everything changes. This time of year brings up memories of holidays past and of our dashed hopes and dreams. Many people idealize holidays and treat them like the entire value of their relationships rest on these days alone.

What can you do to help yourself as you look ahead to facing the holiday season without your children?

  • Practice Acceptance. Remind yourself to live in the truth with balance – be careful not to “horrible-ize” your situation. It’s much easier to accept something that isn’t horrible than things that are.
  • Let Go of Expectations. The best way to live well is to not put expectations on your relationships. Open your hands, unclench your fists, and release your children by letting go of expectations.
  • Live one day at a time. Take each day as it comes, not as you want it to be.
  • Allow yourself to process your feelings. Don’t try to be brave and stoic as you process your feelings. Just allow yourself to have them and let them out. Be honest with how you feel.
  • Do something on a separate day to compensate for the time you lost. This is an empowering choice and will help you realize that you can do something about things which are out of your control. For example, if you can’t be with your children on Christmas day, then plan another day to do something to celebrate the season with them.
  • Don’t idealize holidays. Try to remind yourself that a holiday is just another day on the calendar, and usually a day off from work!  Our relationships are not defined by holidays. Remember that people just tend to over romanticize holidays. Don’t do that to yourself.
  • Focus on being good to yourself.  Have self-compassion. Do something with the day that you enjoy.  If you notice any negative self-talk, eliminate it.

Particularly difficult is facing the reality of being outright rejected and dismissed by your children. During the holidays, everything is compounded – including your feelings of emptiness and loneliness.  Can you relate to the following quotes by D. Ouimet?

“It was particularly devastating to me to realize that I wasn’t missed.” 

“Equally disturbing was understanding that I wanted to be missed.”

Unrequited love is difficult to navigate. If you are not only missing your kids, but being dismissed and “un-missed” by them then you have an even more difficult lesson to learn than those who are merely not able to be with their children during the holidays because of a legal reason.  Here is some sound advice on how to cope with such pain:

  1. Grieve. This is a loss. Process your feelings by allowing yourself to have them. This can be accomplished by seeing a therapist, talking to safe friends, and writing in a journal.
  2. Make amends where possible. Make an effort to amend the relationship by trying to open up communication. Do not grovel or beg, however. A relationship is a two-way street. All you can do is extend the olive branch; you can’t make the other person take it.
  3. Don’t let others define you. If others are rejecting you and causing you to feel “less-than,” make a conscious decision to refuse to let others define you. Never base your self-worth on someone else’s opinion of you.
  4. Develop inner strength. This is necessary to cope with any type of hardships in life. As you face difficulties, you will need to have the ability to depend on yourself in order to triumph over them. Inner strength can be developed by capitalizing on your own personal assets and using them to overcome any weaknesses you may have.
  5. Move on. You have a life to live. Go live it. Do not let other people’s decisions about how they choose to be with you define you or how good your life will be. Learn from your experience and apply the wisdom to the rest of your life.



Al-Anon Family Groups. (n.d.) Just for Today.  Published by: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

Al-Anon Family Groups. (n.d.) The Do’s and Don’ts. Retrieved from:

Morin, A. (2015). 5 Ways Mentally Strong People Deal With Rejection. Retrieved from:

Ouimet, D. (2013). Christmas Feelings When Family Rejects You and the Truth About Love. Retrieved from:

Coping With Divorce: When the Kids are With the Other Parent During the Holidays

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2018). Coping With Divorce: When the Kids are With the Other Parent During the Holidays. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 10, 2020, from