Surviving Christmas as a Single Parent

Being a single parent at Christmastime is an immense challenge – not only do you have to figure out the financial aspects of purchasing your child’s Christmas gifts, but you may also have to work out the logistics of shared time with the other parent.

Here are some tips that can help you, a single parent, navigate the stresses of the holiday season:

1. Plan Ahead

Every situation between separated parents is different – while some parents are extremely agreeable, others can be spiteful and difficult when it comes to making any plans.

I parallel parent with my child’s father and I learned that the key to sorting out Christmas is to have a concrete plan as far ahead as possible.

If you anticipate the Christmas day discussion to be a tough conversation, use a parenting plan to negotiate with your ex. When it comes to Christmas, you will have to decide if the entire day is shared (the morning with one parents, the afternoon with the other, for example) or alternated (one year the entire day is spent with one parents, the next year with the other).

Overall, remember what is best for your child. It is fair that he or she spends time with each parent during Christmastime.

2. Create New Traditions

With having Christmas day arrangements between two parents, you may have to let go of some old traditions. For example, if your child is to spend Christmas Eve with your ex, you may have to forego driving around to look at Christmas lights.

Fortunately, embracing new traditions will help your child adjust to the changes. Perhaps you can spend the evening of Christmas day looking at lights, bringing along any candies or snacks found in your little one’s Christmas sock.

3. Create and Stick With a Budget

As a single parent, no matter your income, you need to be realistic with what you can afford. Work out a budget and see what extra cash you have available for Christmas gifts – try to avoid using credit cards.

When it comes to adults, either friends or family, suggest organizing a Secret Santa or consider DIYing many of your Christmas gifts.

If you are using a parenting plan, or even if you can come to verbal agreements with your ex, establishing a spending limit with your child’s other parent. This will help your child ease into the differences between each parents’ home – and they won’t question why more presents came from one than the other.

4. Focus on Your Child’s Expectations

You’d be surprised how much lower your child’s expectations for Christmas are than yours.

Because you are a single parent, and may not be able to provide everything you want to for your child, you may find yourself overcompensating at Christmastime.

Children are automatically in awe of Christmas, so there is no need to go overboard. Try not to focus on having a picture perfect holiday.

5. Don’t Forget About Your Own Self Care

Christmas is a stressful time, especially for single parents who feel they must shoulder the burden of the entire holiday on their own.

There is nothing wrong in taking precautions to avoid overwhelm during this time of year:

  • Accept help from friends and families – whether it is some financial aid or an offer to cook dinner or help you wrap gifts.
  • Treat yourself – buy yourself a little gift or take yourself out to dinner. You deserve some Christmas fun too!
  • Take time to relax – it is a busy time of year, but be sure to carve out some time to relax and actually, you know, enjoy the season!

How do you handle Christmas as a single parent? Let us know in the comments below!

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