Being any sort of parent is stressful, and being a single parent is especially stressful. There are a mountain of health, social development, and personal considerations that you have to think about from the very beginning. However, when you cut the number of people managing those considerations in half, it becomes that much more difficult, especially during the holidays. Holidays tips for single parents, are not one-size fits all, but we hope there may be some here that can help.
The winter holidays are a time when family closeness is emphasized, but when you are separated from your partner, you might feel like you’re falling short. Your holiday experience will be much different than the idyllic Christmas card, and if you are sharing custody of your children, then you might not even see them over the holidays. This can be gut-wrenching, shame-inducing, and isolating.
But you’re not alone. Fifty percent of Americans born after 1982 have lived in a single parent home, which means that they have spent the holidays in a single-parent home. So, despite the image that we promote, most of us have experience with single-parent families. However, many don’t consider how difficult it can be for those single parents during the holidays. Luckily, there are some strategies that you can use to get through it stronger and closer to your kids than before.
Establish New Traditions
Yes, it will be different. The first holiday tip we have for single parents is that it’s better to steer into the skid than try to make everything as normal as possible. If every year you make gingerbread houses with your ex, it might feel a little off without him or her. Instead, come up with something else that you can do as a family and still celebrate.
Of course, you should still talk to your kids about it. Depending on how old they are, they might even have an opinion or a suggestion on what you should do instead. Focus on the new things you can try together as a family instead of what used to be. These new experiences can draw you closer together and cement a new holiday tradition.
Prepare for Single-Income Challenges
Depending on how long you’ve been a single parent, you may already have some experience budgeting for a single income. However, the holiday season can be particularly challenging. It might be better to go with the “Want-Need-Wear-Read” approach— a kid gets one gift that fits each of those categories. That way, their gifts cover a good spectrum. The developed world spends way more than necessary during the holidays. We go crazy over material goods and often lose sight of why we’re celebrating in the first place.
This is a good philosophy to carry over to your kids, but no one wants to feel like they fell short of their kids’ wishes. You need to manage their gift expectations and be smart about how you holiday shop. Make one or two of your kids’ gifts really special by including notes or unique wrapping paper; anything you can do to make their gifts more memorable will be appreciated for much longer than anything they asked for on their list.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
It’s important that you surround yourself with loved ones over the holidays. For whatever reason, you might not get to see your kids for the whole season. Your heart will break. Being alone over the holidays can be hollowing, especially if you’re separated from your kids during them, but don’t let that send you into a spiral. Surround yourself with important friends and family; host a party if need be! Anything to distract you and keep yourself busy.
Don’t forget, there’s always volunteering. This is one of the best ways to make you feel connected when you’d otherwise feel alone or useful when you might be lacking a purpose.
Most importantly, schedule a time during whichever winter holiday you celebrate to connect with your kids. FaceTime, a phone call, Skype … Whichever option you choose can go a long way towards making you feel more connected to your kids during this valuable time. And absolutely don’t feel like it’s a burden, because they’ll want to see you just as badly!
Perhaps this is the most important holiday tip for single parents. It’s only natural that you’ll try to compare your situation to the holiday plans of your friends or coworkers. However, this type of comparison can be toxic and accomplishes nothing except making you feel like less than what you are.
Instead of feeling ashamed of your situation, realize that it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Your friends and coworkers might have a great holiday season with their nuclear families, but that does not mean that you’re offering a lesser experience to your own children. They might even get to celebrate twice!
You are enough, you give your children enough, and your holiday season will be enough. Don’t ever think otherwise!