Single Parent Holiday Survival Guide

As the holidays approach, the world takes on a festive air, eagerly anticipating the merriest of holiday seasons.  For some single parents, especially those new to single parenthood, this time of year is met with dread.  Spending the holidays without that special someone or even without your children in this most family centered of holidays can lead to depression, anxiety and an overwhelming sense of gloom. 

Instead of sinking into despair, face the holidays head on with anticipation and concentrate on maintaining and/or making new family traditions.

1. If your children are old enough, include them in the planning.  Let them help make choices about when to celebrate the holidays and with whom. If you can’t be with them on that special day, plan a time when you can celebrate together, either before or after the actual holiday.  Don’t make them feel guilty if they have other plans for the holidays.

2. Avoid feeling guilty.  To compensate for the missing parent, single parents often “over shop” and ply their children with too many gifts.  This is a useless exercise conceived by single parents to make up for some perceived lack in their children’s lives. This can be a never-ending cycle that leads to overwhelming debt, if left unchecked. The worst part of it is that it does nothing to ease guilt.

3. Create new family traditions.   If single parenthood is new to you, start new family traditions.  Often single parents make the mistake of either trying to keep everything the same even though things are different or simply surviving the holidays instead of making an effort to enjoy them.  Make new plans—and let your children share in the planning.

4. If you cannot be with your child, write them a special holiday letter to be opened on the day of the holiday.  Make the letter special either telling them how much they mean to you, how thankful you are that they are your children or sharing your own childhood holiday memories. 

5. Reach out to other families in need during the holidays.  Invite another single parent family to share the holidays with you.  Volunteer to help other families through the holidays.  Contact local agencies to see what volunteer opportunities they may have.  Helping someone else feel better is sometimes the best way to start feeling better about yourself.  

6. Redefine family.  Create new family from your single parent network.  Invite friends over or visit with friends from your network. If your children are with you, invite other families with children the same age as yours to share the holidays with you.  Plan recreational outings, share childcare if necessary and encourage each other through the season.  If your children are not with you, you are not the only one.  Network with other single parents facing similar circumstances and plan activities with them that you will all enjoy.

Holidays do not have to be filled with despair and loneliness. With a little effort, and a positive attitude, the peace and joy of this season can be yours.

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