Single Parenting for the Holidays
Single parenting during the holidays can be as painful as a visit to the dentist before painkillers. It can cause physical exhaustion, emotional breakdowns, and financial stress. But if you find yourself single and co-parenting during the holidays, you can try the following to make the most of the holidays for you and your children.
Agree to a Parenting Schedule
A good holiday parenting schedule is essential to ensure that your holiday transitions are stress-free. Everyone needs to know the schedule so that there is no confusion. Nothing is worse than fighting about a transition on Christmas morning. My advice to my clients is to always have a holiday schedule in your Court Order. You can make changes to that schedule if there is an agreement, but if there is no agreement to make changes, then you have a schedule to fall back on. Remember that the holiday schedule should be made with the children’s best interest in mind. It is usually in their best interest to send equal time with their parents during the holidays, so unless there is a good reason not too, plan on sharing.
Saving Money and Making Memories
The holidays can be stressful financially too. But you can create your own inexpensive traditions to take the place of those that cost more money than is in your new single person budget. One of my favorite things to do with my kids is to drive around looking at Christmas lights. We bring hot chocolate and tour the town. We listen to Christmas music and the kids have a great time. The entire night costs less than $20.00 in gas and homemade hot chocolate. We also watch White Christmas on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Somehow, I got lucky with kids that love musicals and Christmas lights. But these are extremely cheap and or free ways to make memories with your children.
Ask your children what they like to do. Each family will have their own ideas of what the holidays mean to them. Build on those ideas and make it important to them. Making cookies, coloring pictures for grandparents and putting them in pop-sickle stick frames, cutting down your own tree at a tree farm, or helping those less fortunate. If your family has a faith tradition, it’s important to continue that as a single parent. Your children need that consistency. If something does not fit in your schedule or budget, cut it out without guilt. The holidays are for families and not for going into debt or too much stress.
These ideas may seem simple, but these are the things that create memories that your children will cherish into adulthood and help them transition with you into single-parenthood.
Spend time with family and friends. Invite your mom or grandmother to stay with you the week before Christmas. A second set of hands makes the work much easier and they love making memories with the children too. If you have a friend whose single, spend time with them or trade babysitting nights so that you can get your shopping and wrapping down. It is always easier to buy gifts for children that are not with you!
Never Bad Mouth the Other Parent or Step-Parent
I know it’s hard, and sometimes they deserve it! But your kids don’t and they aren’t mature enough to separate your feelings from theirs. Even if the other parent is completely absent and does not participate in any holidays, do not bad mouth them. Trust me, your child feels bad enough about the situation. Speaking ill of the other parent or new Step-Parent will not help and could make them more insecure about their own self-worth.
If your ex-spouse is not around, remember that you cannot change that and focusing on the negative aspects will not help. Instead, focus on what you can impact for yourself and your children, making memories, being charitable, building a better legacy, and a bond of lasting love.