The old rules and patterns no longer apply. Holidays are some of the hardest times for a single parent, but with flexibility and creativity, you CAN do this. First, realize that if you attempt to replicate what you had in the past it might work, but it might also be sad for everyone. Instead, think about what you used to do for holidays and evaluate what you can and want to keep, what you want to remake, and what you want to stop doing. Then think about what you want to add. Attitude is everything around the holidays, so keep yours positive.
Decide both how and when to celebrate with your children and what you will do if you will be by yourself for the holidays. Don’t neglect to make the holiday you spend by yourself special and fun too.
With Extended Family
If your extended family is close enough to get together and your work schedule permits it, by all means get together. If you have the kids on the days your family celebrates, this will not be too disruptive. If you do not have the kids on the day your family usually celebrates, check if it is possible to adjust the date and celebrate early or late.
I know a couple of single moms whose the exes had the kids for the bulk of Christmas vacation because they lived far away. One mom started a tradition of celebrating Christmas on New Year’s Eve. The other would celebrate Christmas early before the kids left to see their dad.
Without Extended Family
Sometimes distance, work schedule, or parenting schedule limits your ability to spend holidays with extended family. If you will not be with extended family on the holiday, can you connect virtually with Skype, FaceTime, or even old-fashioned phone calls. Decide what you are going to do to make the holiday special. You could try to do the traditional meal, but it may be exhausting if you are the only adult making all of the holiday preparations. An alternative is to come up with a delicious and easy meal that will allow you to relax and enjoy the holiday. Some fun meal ideas are a Christmas-tree-shaped pizza or an array of appetizers.
Are there friends you can share the holiday with? Invite them over! The point of the holidays is to enjoy the time together. You are making memories. You may not be able to replicate the memories you have of holidays growing up, but you can make your own good memories with your children.
Create New Traditions
Make an art project, play family football, take a holiday hike, or spend time playing games or putting a puzzle together. Many families make volunteering part of their holiday tradition. You can include your children in the planning. Experiences make the best memories and there are a lot of experiences that cost little money.
Alone For The Holidays
Sometimes work schedules, parenting schedules, and distance work together so that you are alone on a holiday. That can be sad, but if you are a single parent and your co-parent lives far away you may have a little down time. When you are raising children, it is a rare luxury to have a day or longer to do whatever you want to do and not be responsible for someone else. Plan how you will maximize this time alone.
Is there a project you have been wanting to get done? This may be the perfect time to paint a room or redo a piece of furniture. You could play tourist where you live or take a day trip to a neighboring town. Can the children take some time to virtually connect? Coordinate with the other parent to find out what will work for their holiday schedule.
Several single parents have said one of the saddest things about Christmas after divorce was that no one got them a special gift. Perhaps their parents gave them money, but they no longer exchanged gifts with siblings or friends.
One single parent I know organized a gift exchange with a few other single parents. Everyone was excited for the surprise. Another single mom I know shops for herself and buys herself the perfect gift. She says, “If I were in a romantic relationship I would buy him a nice gift, so instead I use that money to buy myself something nice. I always pick out the perfect gift. Sometimes I even wrap it and put it under the tree.”
What To Do For Your Single-Parent Friend
If you know a single parent, especially if it the first Christmas after the divorce, a nice thing to do is to put together a small care package and wrap it up. Care package ideas include: really nice bubble bath, a fancy soap (the kind you admire, but never buy yourself), a fun kitchen gadget, fancy hot chocolate, and a bottle of wine. If your schedule allows and if the dynamics would work, you could invite them to spend some time with you and your family.
The most important part of holidays after a divorce is to keep a positive attitude and focus on what you can do and what you are grateful for, not what is missing.