Holidays can present unique troubles and joys for single parents. They can cause some sadness, but also have the potential to create new beginnings. As a single parent, I can relate to these ups and downs. I now have five years of holiday celebrations with my three children under my belt. The first set of fall/winter holidays were the most difficult. For me, these were Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
Challenges for single parents may include financial troubles. It may be difficult to give your kids the presents that you gave them in the past with only one income and mounting debt. It may be twice as hard to get things done like shopping, holiday baking, wrapping, and decorating with no partner to watch the children. If you were used to celebrating with your ex’s family and friends, then you might find yourself feeling lost and alone.
If you’re one of the many single parents feeling overwhelmed during the holidays, then here is some advice to help you get through it.
- Money worries. No one wants to tell their children that Santa got divorced this year and had to make cut-backs. But, if finances are a concern, then take it as an opportunity to discover a new meaning in the holidays. Holidays aren’t just about material possessions, and love can be expressed through more than just expensive presents. Give the gift of your time and attention to your children this year. Let your kids help you with the holiday baking. Make homemade gifts for family and friends with your kids and do some inexpensive holiday crafts. The internet can give you many ideas and most of the products used to make these items can be found at your local discount retailer, such as Dollar Tree (this can also be a fun alternative to buying expensive gifts and decorations from the store). If you’re like me, you may have to down-size the Christmas tree, which can seem disappointing. However, you can spruce up your Charlie Brown tree by stringing popcorn and cranberries with your kids and making decorations out of construction paper. Your children will surely enjoy the time that you spend with them and it is also economical. Picking out some good holiday films and curling up on the couch with your kids and some popcorn can be a cheap way of spending time with your children, as well. In addition, volunteering in the community with your family can be a way of finding the true meaning of the holidays. So make sure to sign you and your kids up for the local soup kitchen or holiday toy drive this season. Doing something for others who are less fortunate can also help alleviate some depression that you might be feeling.
- Childcare Concerns. If you are lucky enough to have family, friends, or neighbors who you can trust, then don’t be afraid to ask them to watch your kids while you take care of some holiday chores. Planning tasks to coincide with your custody schedule is also helpful. If you don’t have any social ties nearby or the other parent is absent, then look into babysitting, daycare services, or before and after school programs that can do some childcare for you. If you are in counseling, then your therapist will most likely have some good resources for you.
- Reconnect and form new connections with people. Relationships, especially an abusive relationship, can cause you to become alienated from your family and friends. It can also inhibit your ability to formulate new relationships. Take the opportunity as a single person to reconnect with family and old friends. Try to make new friends. Go to lunch with a co-worker, have coffee with another parent and set up play dates for your kids. Contact long lost friends and explain to them your circumstances and how you want to reestablish a relationship. Visit your mom and dad, spend time with your grandma, and contact those cousins that you never talk to. You will need all the support you can get now, so don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Having this social support will open the door to holiday invitations and give you the opportunity to have guests at your own celebratory gatherings. Before you know it, you and your children will have your own circle of friends and family to make festive memories with.
- Make new memories. It may bring on depression and anxiety when thoughts of old family rituals with your ex-partner enter your mind. However, you can also realize that you have the chance to make new memories and create unique family traditions with your children. As a single parent, I began my own holiday traditions. I decorated a gingerbread house with my kids every year. I found a cute, local tree farm in town to get our Christmas tree from. We buy fudge and decorations from their gift shop also. I go shopping with my kids every year and let them pick out a tree decoration of their choice (we’ve built up quite a collection over the past few years). It is also part of our holiday repertoire to go around town and look at the beautiful Christmas lights. I make coco with candy canes and extra marshmallows. My kids also look forward to getting their annual snowman cookie at Starbucks. We play in the fall leaves on Thanksgiving break. We eat Chinese food and read our fortunes on New Year’s Eve. These are traditions that I made after my divorce and will enjoy with my children for many years to come.
- Change the scenery. Perhaps a holiday trip is just what you need to break out of a “funk.” A change of scenery can provide a much needed diversion (just make sure that you aren’t running away from your problems). It can be a camping trip, a long trip across the country to visit relatives, a trip to tropical Hawaii, a trip to Disneyland, or just simply renting a vacation house nearby. In any case, a holiday getaway can give you a new lease on life. I began going to Incline Village, Nevada during the holiday season every year after my divorce. My kids and I enjoyed going on sleigh rides, sliding down snowy hills on saucers, and throwing snowballs at each other.
This time of year can be a roller coaster for single parents, especially if you are a new single parent. However, you and your kids can have a happy holiday if you learn to find your own joy in the season!