Shared custody is never fun, especially not when it leaves you alone on Thanksgiving. The prospect of spending holidays without your children can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t get to see the kids this Thanksgiving, here’s a few things to remember in order to stay sane and maximize the visitation time you do get.

Family Is Not Defined By Blood Relatives

Although you might feel isolated and lonely this Thanksgiving, you are definitely not the only one celebrating without your kids. You might have the opportunity to spend the day with your extended family but you might not.

If your siblings and parents are too far away, why not look to an alternative family to spend the day with? Reach out to your friends who are divorced or who live far away from their families. You might feel like a loser asking people to spend Thanksgiving with you, but you are nothing of the sort. Your friends will be grateful to have someone else to spend the day with and will appreciate you having the courage to take the first step and extend the invitation.

If you haven’t got any close friends who spend the holidays alone, think outside the box. Are you part of any sports teams? Volunteer organizations? Church groups? Somewhere in your social life is a current or potential friend to keep you company. You aren’t the only one who would rather not be alone on Thanksgiving!

Whether you choose to invite someone over for a home-cooked meal or opt for a Thanksgiving happy hour, remember that family is not just blood relatives. Some people even develop their own non-family Thanksgiving traditions so why can’t you?

Enjoy Some 21st Century Togetherness

One of the best things about technology is the ability to Skype or FaceTime. Just because the kids are with your ex this Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you don’t get to see them.

Just because the kids are with your ex this Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you don’t get to see them.

Before the holidays, speak to your ex about coordinating a video chat with the kids. Make sure you set a time in advance so that you don’t interrupt the meal or any special traditions your children may be enjoying. Be prepared to offer her the same courtesy when the kids are with you!

Although this isn’t an ideal solution (especially if your kids are young and get distracted on the phone) it’s better than nothing. Try to have a list of questions ready for the kids or ask them what’s new with their cousins in order to keep them online long enough for you to get your “fix.” It takes some doing, but video calls can be a great way to maximize face time with your kids, regardless of your visitation schedule.

Don’t Just Sit There, Take a Trip

If you really can’t find someone to spend the day with or you just prefer to be alone then why not take a trip? Your kids will love to hear all about your adventures, and it’s a great way to teach them about independence and being comfortable in your own company.

There are countless online sources devoted to solo traveling. If you know you’re going to be alone for the holidays, start planning now. Invest time and energy planning your adventure and allow yourself to get excited about it.

Given that Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, traveling abroad can be a fantastic distraction. In the rest of the world, it’s just another Thursday for you to spend sightseeing or enjoying a drink on the beach.

Flying away from home can be exciting, but you don’t have to go that far to enjoy a solo holiday. Taking a road trip or visiting your favorite city can be a great way forward too.

There is something about the holidays that puts most people in a good mood. If you stay in a hotel or grab a bite at a roadside diner, you’re bound to make some memories with the strangers you meet who are also alone or working on the holidays.

Take Advantage of Being Alone On Thanksgiving

Most people want to spend the holidays with others and there are certainly ways to do that but maybe what you need is to embrace being alone.

Living through the end of a marriage and establishing a new life post-divorce is completely exhausting. Throw in parenting, the logistics of shared custody, work, friends and family and it’s a wonder you haven’t crashed and burned.

Consider taking Thanksgiving Day as a personal day. There are lots of people who hibernate for the holidays and really enjoy it so why not give it a go? Are there movies you’ve been wanting to see? Books you haven’t read? A DIY project you’ve been wanting to take on but never have the time? There’s always chili and football!

That’s what your personal day is for. Stock up on your favorite grub and beverages, and unwind in the man cave for a day that is 100% about you. Shaving is optional.

Forget that it’s a national holiday, this day is a You Holiday. Kick back and enjoy yourself. You’ll be more relaxed and in a much better position to make the most of the time you have with kids.

Who Says You Can’t Have Thanksgiving With Your Kids?

This is the most important thing to remember if you’re spending Thanksgiving solo.

Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter, doesn’t have to take place on any specific date.

When my brother’s deployment meant he was going to be away for Christmas, we all got together and had Christmas in October. It was amazing! Even if the weather isn’t quite right, you can put up a tree, play some Christmas music, and eat your weight in cookies and open presents wrapped in red and green paper. Ta da, you’ve got Christmas in October!

The atmosphere and the company are what make holidays special, not the date. If you don’t have custody of your kids this Thanksgiving, have two. There is nothing stopping you from spending the fourth Thursday in November however you choose and having a second holiday in the weeks before or after.

Do It Again, Dad!

There is no shortage of turkey, pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce so what’s stopping you? Tons of families end up having multiple Thanksgiving dinners because they have to visit several houses. The only difference is that they have to do it all in the same day. Luckily for you, time is not an issue so you can skip the too-full-to-function feeling and actually enjoy multiple meals.

A second Thanksgiving Day could be the perfect solution for you. Children love to use their imaginations, so let them. Ask your kids to help you organize Thanksgiving Part II and spend some time thinking about what new traditions you want to establish for your super-special, alternative holiday.

Take Charge of the Changes

Making the most of shared custody isn’t necessarily about trying to see your kids as often as possible. Maximizing visitation is creating a positive atmosphere and building quality relationships when you do get to be together. It takes work and forward planning, but it’s something to strive for.

Whether you spend Thanksgiving having a personal day alone, video chatting with your kids or establishing new traditions with your friends, don’t forget that you are making the most of your situation. By taking charge of change, you are proving to yourself and your children just how strong you are, and what makes you a great father.

And don’t forget, there’s no rule saying you can only have one Thanksgiving Day per year!

Will you be alone on Thanksgiving?  What advice do you have for divorced dads?  Let us know in the comments below!

 For more on co-parenting challenges, see Home For The Holidays for Brian Weiss’ take on sharing the kids during holidays and T.J. Carver’s top five tips for Dads – Alone for the Holiday.

 Good stuff? Remember to share this article on your favorite social media!


(c) Can Stock Photo / Zinkevych

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