The holidays are a time to be with family, which can make it extra difficult to be happy and cheery when your husband is deployed overseas. Some may tell you to focus on feeling grateful for all you have to wash away those blues, but that’s often easier said than done. Even so, there are ways to bring holiday cheer into your home for both you and your kids and not just by reminding yourself that the holiday is just one day of the year. After all, you want to be positive over the holidays. Here are a few ideas on how to do just that.

Find a Support System

Socializing is important during the holidays, particularly to stave away isolation and the blues. While you might not be able to visit your blood relatives, you have a military family whom may also have a loved one who’s deployed. Band together during the holidays and focus on holiday cheer rather than who isn’t able to join in the festivities.

With your support system and military family, you can plan a time for your kids to get together and make holiday crafts, while you enjoy some eggnog with friends. Perhaps you can also organize a holiday sweater party, with or without kids in attendance. When you surround yourself with others who are trying to make the most of the holidays, chances are you’ll feel a bit brighter too.

Stay Connected

It’s easier than ever to stay close despite the literal distance between you and your husband. Email each other as regularly as possible and even suggest to your husband that he send your kids gifts or cards to remind them that he’s thinking of them and wishing he was there. Even better? Plan a Skype date on the holidays, so, for example, he can still “participate” on Christmas morning as everyone opens gifts! He’ll love seeing their reactions and it will feel like he’s there, at least for a little while.

Keep Traditions Intact

Having a consistent routine and structure is key to handling your husband’s deployment, no matter what the time of year. This becomes even more important when the holidays roll around and when it’s easy to become wrapped up in all the festivities and parties. Make time for yourself, as well as time for your kids.

Routine and structure can also apply to traditions. If, in past years, you’ve always decorated the tree as a family, continue to do so this year as well. At Thanksgiving, if you normally all go around the table and say what you’re thankful for, then do that again.

You can also start to create new traditions, like having the kids make Christmas cards to send to your husband via a care package. Or perhaps you can bake cookies, because the smell of chocolate in the air is sure to get you into the holiday spirit.

Give Back

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people, whether they have a loved one in active duty or not. Volunteer your time at a local school to read to kids, or perhaps head to the local soup kitchen. Giving your time freely can be spiritually and emotionally rewarding, because you’ll be making the holidays richer for someone else.

Recharge Your Batteries

While it’s important to throw yourself into the holiday cheer and festivities, it’s also good for your heart and soul to take a break and recharge. Go for a run around the block. Read that book you’ve wanted to read for years. Take up a new activity, whether it be a painting or drawing class or prepping for post-deployment life by learning about education for active duty personnel. Recharging your batteries doesn’t have to be holiday-related. Rather, it can be a time to give a gift to yourself.

The holidays can be a stressful and emotional time and even with all these ways to make the holidays better, there’s nothing that can replace having your husband at home. Even so, try to stay positive and make the most of your holidays and the time you have with your friends, kids and family — and that goes for your military family too.