Developing New Holiday Traditions After Divorce

Developing New Holiday Traditions After Divorce

General Concepts and Approaches to Developing
New Holiday Traditions for You and Your Family

  • Rewrite your story with new holiday traditions and how you want it to play out.
  • Have a strategy-whatever that strategy may be.
  • Don’t be attached to the Holiday being only a specific day – spread the wealth of holiday spirit over multiple days and even weeks. 
  • Make plans early. Be happy to accept an invitation. 
  • Create your own connections with neighbors, and new friends in your community. 
  • Be sure to ask others you include in meals and parties if they have dietary restrictions. 
  • Traditions start by doing something more than once. Anything can become a tradition.
  • Input from the kids in terms of developing new traditions they want to create. 
  • Talk with kids about what traditions they want to keep and those they don’t care about. 
  • Also be able to say “no” and protect your energy levels during the holidays. And don’t try to outdo the ex or Grandparents.  
  • Have a backup plan in case those who said they would be there get sick or something comes up. 

28 Specific Ideas

  1. Host a Party and invite others who are in your situation
  2. Do holidays a week early so that you can avoid the demand on that one day.  Invite other family members because you know they won’t be otherwise engaged on the “un-holiday”.
  3. If you won’t have your child(ren) with you on Christmas, make with your Jewish friends to go to the movies and have Chinese (or any other non-holiday tradition- food. This could become your new tradition to look forward to. 
  4. Start a gratitude journal in mid-November, writing at least one thing each day that you can be grateful for. 
  5. Choose one day in November or December to spend a couple of hours helping others serving in a rescue mission or similar place, to get focused on others.
  6. Move your holiday dinner to another day – like Christmas Eve or Boxing day to accommodate all the kids and their in-laws.
  7. Do something new, get out in the world, and get to know each other in a new way… and have fun. For example, one new tradition is during the holiday break to do 3 things:
    • see the outdoor lights at botanical gardens,
    • see a musical, theater show, and 
    • see an exhibit at the art museum. 
    • I incorporate eating or snacking out at new places or favorites.  
  1. Time sharing – choose either Christmas or New Year’s Eve or Day so that the kids celebrate the holiday with both families
  2. Create a “memory jar.”  Throughout the year anytime anything exciting happens, write it down on an index card and put it in the jar.  On New Year’s Day, open the jar and read about all the exciting things that happened over the year. These can be big or small, for example, a good report card, hitting a triple during a baseball game, seeing a concert, whatever you deem noteworthy.  Kids and Adults look forward to opening the jar every year to remember all those good things and good times. 
  3. Plan a trip to some place other than home with your children, because they like to travel and you don’t want them to dwell on the fact that they are not in a traditional holiday home
  4. Brainstorm about what you can do, without prejudging the things that come from your mind. Often the things that sounds stupid turn out to be fun. To get to the real nuggets in brainstorming, sit down and make a list without judging or editing anything.  Read it again and add to it.  And read it a third time to add more to it.  Review the list a highlight the things that really tickle your fancy. 
  5. Enjoy the skits and singing that children do at the holidays  by going to a children’s program at a school or at a church.
  6. If the kids are young, have everyone dress up in Christmas pajamas, pick up a hot chocolate from a local coffee shop, and drive around to look at the pretty Christmas lights.
  7. Plan simple game night/dessert with kids and family or friends.
  8. Do things your ex never wanted to do and you have always wanted to do. Try new things! And remember your bucket list from earlier years!
  9. Put ideas for new restaurants and activities in a jar that you have always wanted to eat at or visit in a jar, and then pick one for a night out.  This is a good way to get out of your rut because we tend to be creatures of habit!
  10. Join the online resource:! You take care of people’s animals (you choose what kind) and stay for free. You can go all over the world and look after other people’s cats or dogs or bunnies – you choose.  It is great fun, you meet some great people, and it’s a great way of seeing the world too.
  11. Explore Meetups (an app for people who want to meet up with others rather than a weird dating app!!) for winter walks. Look for opportunities to explore new places and met great people
  12. Take a photo of each child/person/relative/friend and put them on your Christmas tree! You can use past and current photos on the tree and it’s always fun to look at them with the family or group of friends.
  13. Make homemade Christmas cards. Make and decorate ornaments.  This avoids the painful memories that might come from bringing out your ornaments that may hold special memories of celebrations past. 
  14. Go out and get a fresh cut Christmas tree and make pinecone/peanut butter/  birdseed ornaments and popcorn garland and have it outside to enjoy the birds feasting on your tree.  
  15. The first year after divorce, send holiday cards to all of your mutual friends and family. While some had chosen sides, if you reach out to everyone in good faith, those that want to will respond.  
  16. With a family of blended children who may not all live together all the time, invite them to share in each other’s unique holiday traditions.  Celebrate multicultural holidays. 
  17. Volunteer at a food pantry, soup kitchen, participate in a food or toy or clothing drive-give back and feel good you are helping others in need. Involve your children so that they can make a difference during the holidays for those who are facing difficult circumstances. 
  18. New Year’s idea- Invite single friends with their kids ( if they have) to a potluck and to watch the ball drop.
  19. Spend alternative holidays with your kids. When you don’t have the children for the holidays, plan a special trip or travel to a new location.  
  20. Create a vision Board for the New Year either by yourself or with your children, each making one for themselves.  Go shopping for magazines at Friends of the Library or at Thrift Stores. Or ask your neighbors for donations. (Maybe they would like to join you as well!)  Make popcorn, get plenty of glue and scissors and pieces of cardboard to use for base. 
  21. Create your own Family Manifesto.  With your children write down what they need for having a good home environment, how they want to interact with each other, what they want to share and what they want to keep private. How they want to celebrate success and celebrate special occasions. As the parent, write down how you agree to be as your best self and what you promise to do to support your kids as they grow and develop. Have everyone sign their name, frame it with pictures of all the family members. Hang it in a place where each person can see it in their daily activities. 


Thank you to all the CDC Certified Divorce Coaches® who contributed to this list of ways to celebrate the holidays with new traditions with your children or with your community of friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Feel free to share this with your clients and invite them to do the same. 

Keep the spirit of the holidays present – Peace and Goodwill for the New Year! 



Renken Law Firm, PLLC
11500 Northwest Fwy #618
Houston, TX 77092
(713) 956-6767