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Many divorced parents start to get depressed while thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also, Seasonal Affective Disorder can contribute to a parent’s sadness. It’s good to concentrate on making the holidays joyous for the children, learning to let go and relax, and if necessary seeking medical help.
Divorce depression appears to hit people the hardest around the holidays. Well, some divorced parents don’t get to see their children at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, which can make November and December some of the hardest times of the year. Along with that, people who live in northern climates sometimes have to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) too.
Yet, while sadness and loneliness are common after a divorce, any ongoing, unusual depression or feeling of hopelessness may, in fact, be clinical depression. Fortunately, clinical depression can be treated with the help of a physician or therapist.
Coping with holiday depression and having a broken family is just plain tough for everyone, and almost all divorced people have difficulties with this time of the year, though the level of sadness is different for everyone. Here are some steps to help divorced dads and moms get through the holiday season.
Help the Children
Try to keep things in perspective. Adults are the ones who married and divorced, and it’s not fair that innocent and impressionable children should suffer from the mistakes of their parents. Also, divorced parents may very well be happier themselves if they concentrate more on their children’s happiness and less on their own.
Tips for Holidays:
- If the children are with the ex for one of the holidays, encourage the kids to have a good time while they are with the other parent.
- Christmas is not a competition. Do not compete with the ex over who can give the most presents.
- Do not keep the children from seeing their other parent.
- Allow the children to love both of their parents and be sure that the kids understand this. One way is to help a child make a present for his or her other parent.
- Be flexible. The best present for children of divorced parents is for the parents to get along and adjust agreements to fit their children’s needs.
- Let go of expectations and relax.
- Keep promises.
Another good thing that parents can do is to keep in touch with their children during the holidays. A parent can call, send cards, or email his or her children.
Self Help for Depression
There is one very good rule for getting through the holidays after having gone through a nasty divorce: Let go of anger. While this may be easier said than done, it can be done. Try thinking about happy days before the marriage or before meeting the ex-spouse. Here are other tips:
- Smile when talking to the ex or talking about the ex. A smile creates a reaction in the body and tricks the mind into creating a happy mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin.
- Get out of town or find new friends. Holidays remind parents of Thanksgivings and Christmases past. So, make plans to spend time with friends. Holidays can be lonely without friends.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Another problem that can add to Christmas blues and divorce depression is lack of sunlight. The well-documented Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused by the shorter darker days of winter and can lead to cravings for carbs, a need for more sleep, sleep disturbances, and general irritability.
People who were melancholic or lethargic around Christmastime, even before their divorces, could have SAD. This disorder is usually treated with special light therapy boxes, medications, or by talking with therapists. See a physician or psychologist for help.
Certainly, it is quite common for divorced men and women to feel depressed around the holidays. However, anyone who has felt sad for two weeks or more, or feels an intense, debilitating depression, should check with a doctor to find the cause and treat it.
Winter blues can come from divorce depression, shorter days, or holiday nostalgia and loneliness. If self-help doesn’t work, talk to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a general practitioner. Parents who are divorced should take very good care of themselves because their children need them.