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image jennifer baringer

Next week is Thanksgiving. Black Friday ads and Christmas decorations have been out for weeks. One of my children has already asked if I might be available for a little Black Friday grandchildren time (i.e. babysitting.)

Holiday time has not always been fun for me and some years it was downright trying. Still today, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the Grinch in the mirror. Doing Christmas as a single parent was tough…made me want to run away and hide or worse, like the Grinch, or Scrooge, I was robbing others of happy holidays.

Regardless of how I felt, I had two little ones who were depending on a mom to keep the heart of the holidays alive and well, even while everything else in our world seemed to be falling apart. And I can assure you that no matter your situation, you can have a holiday that isn’t down right depressing for everyone.

Here are some ideas I used:

  1. Make your own new tradition. I asked the kids what they wanted to do different. They both said they wanted a Christmas tree. Trees had not been part of our previous celebrations and really weren’t my thing, but it wasn’t an unreasonable request, so we did it. Because our extended family situation changed after the divorce, we also changed up some things for our Thanksgiving meal and holiday parties, making them more friend based than family.
  2. Prioritize gift giving if finances are an issue, and especially if they are not. On our first post-divorce Christmas, I found myself without a camera (pre-cell phone days) and my budget was really tight, so I made a camera one of “our family” gifts. It was for all of us to open, and was part of the fun of Christmas morning, when we all took turns taking pictures. Each year I tried to have a special family gift, something we could share or do together. If finances are not tight for you, avoid trying to make up for difficult emotional times by over-gifting, what kids really want and need is you and your love, not stuff.
  3. Sometimes your actions must determine your feelings, especially when it comes to visitation schedules during the holidays. Yes, you always want Thanksgiving morning to watch the parade and Christmas Eve or Christmas day. But when the schedule isn’t in your favor, be a big person about it, tell your face and your attitude too. Your kids are struggling enough with the schedule, they don’t need the added stress of your unhappiness too. Scheduling issues are great opportunities to make new traditions, like watching the parade another evening with hot chocolate and cookies, snuggled under lap blankets.
  4. Find your creative genius and let it out. We made ginger bread cottages from graham crackers and decorated with icing and candies. We invited a few of their friends over every year and made it a party. We baked cookies as gifts. Find what you and your kids can enjoy together.
  5. Help your kids get giftsfor the other parent or yourself. If you really can’t muster this up ask a friend if they could take them shopping. My ex would not help our kids get a gift for me, what happened was they felt so bad that they didn’t have a gift to give. I didn’t need the gift, they needed to give. When I figured this out, I asked a friend if they would take them out to pick out a little something. Many schools do small stores during the holidays now, so they can get something, just make sure they aren’t left feeling bad.
  6. Take care of you! My first post-divorce Christmas without the kids was spent crying in bed. If that helps you, I guess do it, but it didn’t really help me. Accept invites that family and friends offer, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, but don’t waste time feeling sorry for your situations. Make a plan ahead of time and stick too it, regardless of how you feel…your feelings will catch up with your actions!

Doing Holidays as a single parent is extra work, but I always say, not for sissies. You can do this, and in the end, making holidays special for your kids, makes your life full of joy. Happy Holidays!

If you have additional ideas…post them here…good ideas should never be wasted!