Turkey Day is nearly upon us. For many, this is a happy time spent with family members and old friends. But for those who are recently separated, Thanksgiving can be tough. It can serve as a reminder of a time when you were once a happy family unit.

But making it through Thanksgiving after divorce does not have to be so difficult. Here are some practical tips for how to manage co-parenting, create new memories, and have a positive experience during Thanksgiving after divorce.

1) Create a Co-parenting Plan Ahead of Time

Having a co-parenting plan in place ahead of time is crucial. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting style for Thanksgiving after divorce, but here are some suggestions:

Joint Dinners

If things with your ex are cordial enough, consider a joint dinner. However, this has to be done carefully. If it feels like you are walking on eggshells all night, this is not the best move. It might be tempting to wear your brave face, grit your teeth, and get through the night. But–if you can feel the tension, your kids can too. They are much more perceptive than they may seem.

Quick Tips for Joint Dinners

  • If you do decide on a joint dinner, have a set starting and ending time for Thanksgiving dinner. This can eliminate some potentially uncomfortable conversations.
  • Consider having close friends who are familiar with the situation present as buffers. If don’t have friends who can be away from their own families (which is often the case), have a friend on speed dial who is aware of the situation.
  • If possible, have a divorce coach who might be available at times via phone that evening.
  • If things are cordial with your ex, you could even have an agreement in place. Setting the kids as a priority, you can decide that if things feel a little tense (on your side or the kids’) you can end the night early.

Have 2 Thanksgiving Dinners

If a joint dinner is out, consider having 2 Thanksgiving dinners: one at your house on Thursday night and the other at your ex’s house on Friday night. If your ex is argumentative, it may be best to let your ex have their dinner on Thursday and you can have yours on Friday. This may eliminate any friction during your Thanksgiving after divorce.

It is very important to remember that the divorce recovery journey is about healing, both for yourself and your kids; It’s not about winners or losers.

If your kids are little and struggling to understand why they’re having one Thanksgiving at mom’s and one at dad’s, a quick selling point is to highlight that they will be having twice the amount of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Dinner VS the Weekend

This goes hand-in-hand with having 2 Thanksgiving dinners. You can have your kids all day Wednesday and Thursday, and your ex can have them through the weekend (or vice versa).

Switch Off Years

Another strategy is to have your kids for Thanksgiving this year and your ex can have them the next (or vice versa). If you land on a year where your ex has them, plan a Friendsgiving (which we will talk about later in this article).

Remember That Communication is Key

As we mentioned, co-parenting during Thanksgiving after divorce is not about winners and losers. Either everyone wins or no one does. Keeping your children in mind, make sure that you set up a plan with your ex that you are both satisfied with.

2) Follow Traditions and Create New Memories 

You want your first several Thanksgivings after divorce to feel as “normal” for your kids as possible. You likely have some customs and traditions that your kids really enjoy. Try to follow them as best you can. 

When not possible, or too painful, create some new ones! Ask yourself–what new activities or traditions would your kids like? What about you? 

Some off-the-cuff ideas include board games your family might like, volunteering at soup kitchens during the day, watching the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade on TV, or going apple picking. You can also invite some of their friends to participate!

Obviously, you know yourself and your kids best. Plan something that will be fun for everyone and conducive to creating some new memories! 

It’s important that your kids know they will still have a fun Thanksgiving. 

3) Do Something for Yourself

If you do not have the kids for Thanksgiving dinner or over the weekend, it is helpful not to be alone, bored, or trapped in negative thoughts. Planning fun things for yourself can help get your mind off the challenges of having Thanksgiving after divorce. 

Here are some easy activities if you find yourself alone on Thanksgiving: 

  • Plan a Friendsgiving with some good friends
  • Cook a special meal for yourself or friends
  • Do something fun during the weekend–go see a movie, get a message, have some drinks with friends
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter

It is also helpful to give yourself permission to not feel festive.

4) Stay Close to Your Support Network and People You Can Lean On 

This is an especially important one. It is important to keep in contact with your network of friends, family members, and divorce supports who understand your situation. They can provide you with emotional support and help you get through your first, second, or third Thanksgiving after divorce. Having a support system is invaluable during this difficult time. Remember, you are not alone.

We hope that these tips were helpful to you, regardless of whether this is your first, second, or third Thanksgiving after divorce.

My name is Moshe Ben-Lev and I understand what you are going through. I am a Certified Divorce and Parenting coach and can provide assistance as you navigate this challenging stage of your life. 

To learn more about Divorce Coaching and what a Divorce Coach can do for you, please schedule a free, 45-minute session by clicking the button below.

You can also read our article, “What is a Divorce Coach? 7 Ways a Divorce Coach Can Help” to learn more.

We wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving!