While TV commercials and retail ads proclaim the holidays as a time for peace and joy (and lots of gifts), many feel that it is the season for family obligations and unpleasant visits with contentious relatives. That feeling of discomfort is compounded for single dads, who many times face awkward gatherings with former in-laws or touchy ex-wives who request or require ‘family time’ with their children. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The holidays don’t have to be loaded with rough patches for single dads, and with a few key tips, you can show your children a happy holiday season.
We are creatures of habit - although during the holidays, we tend to call them “traditions.” As life changes, and as we evolve as individuals trying to learn from our mistakes, sometimes it’s good to change those habits and try to make them into something that fits our new dynamic.
Don’t isolate yourself. One classic reaction to awkward shared custody situations is to simply hide from all the gatherings of family and friends. Don’t do that. Men generally will shut themselves off from people during the holidays because of loneliness, without realizing what they really need is the support of friends. It will help minimize the loneliness.
Don’t drink too much. Holiday toasts, office parties and other celebrations tend to include opportunities to drink, and drink heavily. There is no shame in having a sip of wine for a holiday toast, and then switching to soft drinks. It’s easy to medicate sadness with drugs or alcohol, but it never does anything more than increase those feelings. Alcohol is a depressant, so it’s best not to drink when you’re already susceptible to depression.
Don’t overspend. Some men try to make up for their lack of time with their children by buying extravagant gifts. This is a temporary fix for a deeper emotional issue. It is driven by guilt and shame of not being a good father because they may not reside with the child. Be thoughtful, but don’t go overboard. After all, your time and your love are the gifts that will mean the most in the long-run.
Make peace. Spending time with a former spouse for the sake of your children is one of the most difficult situations the holidays bring. So, don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Make peace with your former spouse, even if it’s just for a couple of days. This is an excellent time for forgiveness and setting aside all the hurtful feelings from the past, and showing your children that caring about others is one of the true marks of being a man.
Be good to yourself. Don’t stop at being nice to everyone else. Treat yourself with kindness. Most single dads are too hard on themselves and attempt to overcompensate for feelings of inadequacy by taking care of others. The holidays are an excellent time to do something nice for yourself to lift your spirits and brighten your day. Mail yourself a holiday card. Take some time to listen to your favorite music. Rent a movie that you enjoy. Treat yourself to your favorite meal. It’s the holidays - celebrate.
Single dads can go through some important transformations during the holidays, if they can take a moment to think before they act, and work to break the habits that have governed past seasons.
It’s time to man up, and do right by your kids and by yourself.
Michael is a self-educated entrepreneur, author, personal coach and radio show host. Taylor has been facilitating workshops and seminars for more than 15 years and has reached thousands through his books, seminars and radio show. For more information on his book, A New Conversation With Men, visit www.coachmichaeltaylor.com.
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