At this time of the year, I am frequently asked by divorced parents for some tips to get through the stresses of being a single parent through the holidays. Indeed, holidays can create anxieties and conflicts for single and divorced parents. The following suggestions may help you better manage and enjoy your holiday season.
1. Choose to spend time and to celebrate the holidays with people who lift your spirits. Spending time with people you don’t enjoy, out of a sense of obligation, will only bring discomfort to you and your children.
2. Budget some “alone time” to satisfy your own needs — a long walk, lunch with an understanding friend, listening to music.
3. Discuss and plan visits and gift giving with your former partner well ahead of the holiday season.
4. Scale down and simplify your holiday celebrations. Whenever possible involve your children in holiday planning.
5. Go over your upcoming holiday plans with your children. If your children are traveling during the holidays (especially if they are traveling alone), review travel plans with them. Acknowledge and alleviate any of their fears and anxieties regarding their holiday travels.
6. Plan celebrations with friends (and with other single parent families) if you will not be with your children and/or your extended family for the holidays.
7. Try to agree on gift selection and cost with your former partner, never attempting to outdo your ex with better and more expensive gifts. If your ex-partner chooses to lavish inappropriately expensive gifts on your children (especially if you cannot afford such gifts), don’t place your children in the middle of your arguments over this. Consider giving special gifts of your time and making the holidays less materialistic.
8. Continue to use old family traditions if they still work for your family but also consider creating new traditions that might have more meaning for your family’s current situation.
9. Consider spreading out your holiday celebrations, employing several scaled-down events rather than celebrating only the “big times” (e.g. Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and first day of Chanukah).
10. If your children are with their other parent for the holidays, don’t send them off with a display of sadness, disappointment or anger. They should not be made to feel guilty or conflicted. Encourage them to enjoy themselves and tell them you’ll be looking forward to seeing them when they return to you.