When you’re a single parent, Christmas time can be stressful. With so much to think about including tight budgets and co-parenting issues, it can be hard to actually just enjoy it.
So, here are our tips to start owning Christmas again and feel all the joy of the season when you’re a single parent.
1. Take the pressure off!
Firstly, we all feel it at Christmas time. We want everything to be perfect for our little ones (and our formerly little ones, who have somehow transformed into something else, often hairier, lairier and more even more temperamental, though still, at heart, our little ones).
But all our kids really want is for us to be present in the moment with them, and above all, happy. So don’t take too much on. Just keep things simple. Your kids won’t care at all if your turkey is Lidl not Waitrose and the carrots are a little on the crunchy side (i.e. raw because you didn’t turn the fourth hob on) or if you haven’t got a million and one festive activities planned throughout December.
Spending quality time together is enough. Focus on doing some simple festive things at home like making paper snowflakes, watching a Christmas film with mugs of hot chocolate, or writing a letter to Father Christmas.
And remember, if they’re moaning about how they NEED a new phone, or console or whatever else, then that means you must already be doing a great job of all the real parenting because they feel safe and loved.
2. Deck the Halls
Enjoy putting up whatever Christmas decorations you like! Who cares if your home isn’t Instagram perfect, or if your tree decorations don’t match. You can decorate your house however you want!
Similarly, there’s no one to tell you that your Christmas unicorn ornaments are tacky or that you can’t put up an inflatable Santa in your front garden.
3. Start some new traditions
If old Christmas traditions are now painful, create some brand new ones.
They don’t have to be complicated or expensive. They can be simple things you do at home, like getting the kids to help you peel the veg for Christmas dinner while dancing around the kitchen to Christmas songs.
Anything is a Christmas tradition as long as you’re ready to do it every year and it makes you smile.
4. Get crafty!
If you’re on a tight budget, have a go at making things with the kids to give to people as presents. Everyone loves a thoughtful, homemade gift and doing some Christmas crafts with the kids is a lovely way to spend time together.
You could make some cookies and put them in pretty glass jars with some ribbon, or have a go at making some Christmassy candles out of some plain shop-bought ones and some glue and glitter.
To be fair, half the time, the things that cost the most in the shops are the things that have been manufactured to look handmade!
5. Catch up on some ‘me’ time
If you’re facing the heartache of spending Christmas day without the kids for the first time, make it a day off for you instead and have your own Christmas Day with the kids before or afterwards – the kids will be delighted to have two Christmas days.
Spend actual Christmas Day doing everything YOU want to do and forget about the Christmas traditions until you’re back with the kids. Pamper yourself, re-charge and take some time off.
No stress, no housework. Have your favourite meal – no need to slave over a Christmas dinner – just have something you really really like and indulge in your favourite dessert. Have a relaxing bath. Is there a film you really want to watch? A book you want to read? Take advantage of having some time to focus on you for once.
6. Home Alone
Being alone or isolated at Christmas can be daunting, especially if your character doesn’t tend that way. If you do have your kids with you, that’s the most important thing – is there anybody on earth you’d rather spend Christmas with?
If your kids won’t be there then maybe you can organise a time to FaceTime them, or your brother in America or your best friends who moved a hundred miles away.
Could you volunteer somewhere, or take a shift at work? I’ve always admired the nurses and other essential workers who get up and keep the country ticking over on Christmas day.
7. Don’t borrow guilt
Maybe you’re on the other side of the coin and your children aren’t going to see their other parent on Christmas Day, but they want to and the ‘guilt’ of this is really getting you down.
Depending on your circumstances, you might be able to make something happen, some FaceTime, maybe, or putting up with them coming round briefly? Ultimately though, if it’s beyond your control, give yourself a break – the guilt isn’t fair. Whatever happened in the past is past: focus on all that you have done for your kids this year.
8. It’s not a competition
Christmas shouldn’t be a competition but this doesn’t stop some people trying to turn it into an endless game of one-upmanship.
Whether it’s your neighbour who has to add an extra illuminated assault on the senses, to their already over the top front garden display, if you so much as put a candle in the window. Or your ex who insists on spending more on gifts than you can ever afford (even though they won’t pay their share the rest of the year).
It’s all just nonsense and, frustrating as it is, you need to rise above it and remind yourself of the things that really do matter: the things that you’ve already done for the previous 365 days of the year.
Parenting is a long game and the flashy and superficial vanishes into insignificance with time. Your children will know this one day even if they don’t today. After all, I’m sure the things that you value about your own childhood are not the same as the things that you thought mattered when you were 7 or even 17.
9. Dealing with disappointment
It’s tempting, oh so tempting, to say what you think when your child’s other parent lets them down for the fourth year running, but try to resist. It’s probably best to deal with it, rather than brush it under the carpet, as this will allow you to do what you do best: support them.
10. Christmas is what you make it
And this really sums up all the other points, make Christmas your own. Father Christmas? His magic isn’t intrinsic – it comes from you.
Christmas Trees? They’re a bit odd when you think about it and as is often pointed out a German tradition imported into the UK by the royal family.
Turkey? Goose was more popular until the 1950’s.
Oliver Cromwell, who banned Christmas in the 1640’s, has been dead for 360 years.
So do it your way and remember that if it, whatever it may be – sausage and chips for tea or a fairy on the tree instead of a star or watching Avengers on DVD – feels odd the first time, next time it, and nothing else, will feel like Christmas.