Five Ways for Single Parents to Keep the Holidays More Calm and Less Conflicted
The holidays can be extra stressful for single parents, here are some suggestions about holiday parenting that I hope will help you create a wonderful holiday experience for your children.
- If you haven’t already done it, talk with your ex NOW about the holiday plans for your children. Even if you already have a schedule for holidays and special days as part of your custody plan, it’s wise to touch base with your ex, if only to make sure you’re both on the same page. If you have the children‘s wish lists, be willing to share it with the other parent and ask the other parent if they have a list as well that they will share with you. Coordinate between the two of you as to who is buying what. Maybe you want to buy two of everything; maybe you don’t. Think about it and make a decision.
- Once holiday parenting plans are made, sit your kids down and tell them what the plans are. Explain if there will be one Christmas at Mom‘s and another at Dad‘s and/or which parent they will be with on Christmas morning, or however your plan is going to work. Kids get anxious about the holidays, particularly the first holiday where their parents aren‘t living together. You can alleviate some of their anxiety by giving them a road map of how the holidays are going to work and being willing and available to answer their questions about holiday logistics. Sometimes it helps to illustrate the parenting plan on a calendar. For little ones who cannot read, you might design a color-coded sticker system to help them look ahead and also begin to learn about time and calendars.
- Remember to give your children lots of reassurance about your unconditional love for them. When parents separate, the children tend to blame themselves. They don‘t understand that there are many reasons why adults split up that have nothing to do with them. Children just assume you broke up because they did something bad. Tell them you love them, again and again. Double down; say it twice as many times as you want to say it. Remind them that the other parent loves them too, that both of you will always love them, no matter what, even if you don‘t love each other anymore.
- Be the parent your kids need this holiday season. Your kids need you to parent them. They don‘t need you to be their friend; they don‘t need to have to parent you or hear your troubles. They need you to take care of them B to be the parent. You may be very depressed, angry, or despondent about the loss of your relationship with the other parent. That‘s completely understandable, but keep a lid on your emotions in front of the children. It may be hard, but it‘s absolutely the best thing you can do for your children. If they see you sad and crying, they may instinctively want to protect and comfort you, rather than focusing on their own lives, friends, and activities. If they see you angry or overhear you say disparaging things about the other parent, they are going to try and hide their love for the other parent from you to shield you and to protect themselves from their fear of being rejected by you.
- Come up with some new, single-parent holiday traditions you and the children can enjoy without the other parent. Whether it be taking the kids ice skating, making cookies together, or decorating the tree, look for fun and memorable experiences you can share with your children. Looking back years from now, they won‘t remember what present you got them, but they will always remember the experiences you share with them. Need ideas? Look through December magazines. Check the paper for scheduled holiday activities. Go to your local library. Ask other parents.