How to survive Christmas as a single parent
If you’re a single parent, making festive plans can be tricky territory to navigate. If it’s the first year as separated parents, it can feel like a mountain to climb. Maybe the thought of a difficult conversation with your ex is preventing you from finalising arrangements or perhaps you can’t think of a fair way to share the holidays? Christmas can be tense in any household with massive expectations but if you’re a single parent the pressure can be even greater. To help you stay merry this Christmas and bring some peace to your separated family I’ve gathered together my top tips for keeping things amicable at Christmas when you’re a newly divorced parent.
If you’re in touch with your co-parent and sharing Christmases, plan well ahead…I’m talking a year ahead if possible. If you’re deliberately avoiding making plans because you know its going to be a tough conversation with your ex, then I promise it will relieve stress and tension when everyone knows what’s happening. Plans can always change but having an agreement is important for children, as they may need more time to get used to your new family set up. Use a Parenting Plan to work out all the things you need to negotiate with your ex. Remember, what seems fair to the adults is not the same as ‘best’ for the kids.
Missing family traditions?
One of the hardest parts of separation can be letting go of old traditions. If you’re feeling sentimental and find yourself missing aspects of how it used to be, take a pause and think about the opportunity you have to create something new. Embracing the change will be a strong signal to your kids to adjust to and accept new things. Change is inevitable, so show them how to enjoy things being different.
Always put your children first
Ask your kids how they’d like to spend the day and take this into consideration. They may say they’d like to spend it with both of you, but if you and your ex aren’t of the best of terms. just don’t do it. Compromise. Divide holidays based on what works for the children not what’s ‘fair’ or ‘equal’ for you and your ex. Try to minimize to-ing and fro-ing on Christmas day as this will frustrate everyone, especially the children. If you’re together on the day, do things out of the home, it’s easier than being in the same house. Plan trips out where there will be other people around and the intensity of the situation can be diluted. Travelling separately is always worth considering so that you can make your excuses and leave inconspicuously if things start to feel difficult.
Preparing for the day
Things rarely go as planned and life’s not perfect, but you don’t have to be angry about them. Christmas and divorce could be a perfect storm, if you allow it. You can’t control other people, but you can choose how you respond. Children will remember the fun they’ve had and not the times and dates. If the day isn’t running as you’d planned, focus your thoughts and energy on the time you’re spending together. Learn from any issues that arise and make alternative arrangements next year, irrespective of whose turn it is.
In the run up to Christmas, it’s a nice idea to help your kids buy presents/cards for your ex. Being able to support your children in this way will make them feel secure in your ability to parent. Small token gifts that they have chosen are a lovely way of supporting their relationship with their mum or dad and reinforces the value of giving rather than just receiving.
On the day
If you’re not with your kids this year, why not keep occupied, do something for you and create your own alternative Christmas? Don’t sit at home alone watching TV, do something for a cause you care about, celebrate with family/friends, do something that you’ll look forward to. And remember, Christmas is not one day. If you’re not with your kids on the day, then make plans to create your Christmas day with them on the 27th, 28th December or 5th of Jan, if you want to. Who cares? Traditions are just ‘a long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another’. This is your new chapter to create a new, positive traditions that your children and you can enjoy for years to come.