Christmas is supposed to be a happy time. A time for the whole family to be together. But after divorce, when relations with your ex may be exceedingly un-festive, you will feel anything but a complete family. Even if you don’t miss your other half per se, your children will. And chances are, you miss that special someone to wrap their presents with, fill their stockings and marvel at their happy smiles on Christmas morning.
So here are a few tips on how to make it through the festive period as a single parent – without feeling lonely and hopefully creating some magical memories along the way:
Spending Christmas as a family post divorce
If you and your ex get on reasonably well, and you live close enough to each other, think about spending Christmas Day together. This will be the biggest present you can give to your children. If this is their first Christmas after divorce, separation from one of the parents will be difficult for them to compute, especially at times like Christmas. If you do not want to let your ex into what is now your and the children’s home, then you could meet on neutral ground and book Christmas dinner at a local family pub where everyone feels at ease. You could even bring some of the kids’ presents and open them together after your meal. If you can pull this one off, your kids will have a truly special Christmas and they will appreciate you both for it.
Splitting Christmas between mum and dad
If you are not sure that you can put your differences aside for the kids’ sake, then Christmas is probably best done separately. Consider splitting the festive days between you and turning this to your advantage. Think about having Christmas lunch with Mum, then dinner with Dad, or vice versa. Alternatively, you could split it so that one of you has them on Christmas Day and one on Boxing Day, or one on Christmas Eve, and one on Christmas Day. Whatever you do, don’t try to compete with each other – a common mistake single parents make. Instead, make your Christmases different – breaking with old traditions might help here as it will be very awkward for the kids if they have to celebrate the same Christmas twice, once with each parent. So speak to your ex, ask what he or she will do so as to not put your kids into a difficult situation. And don’t feel bad, kids are incredibly adaptable and if both parents are happy, they will sense that and be much happier, too.
Spending the holidays away from your children
If the distance between you and your ex is both emotional and geographical, and the ‘back together over Christmas’ model can’t work logistically, you are facing the daunting prospect of spending Christmas without your children every other year as you will need to alternate who has the kids over the holidays. If you’re the one entirely without the kids over the holidays, and especially if in the immediate aftermath of a divorce, you’re going to miss them terribly – so get planning! This might be the first time in many years you have time to yourself, so make the most of it and don’t dwell on the situation. Consider spending the festive period with other single parents or adults in a similar situation. If you surround yourself with other people’s children, you might feel reminded of what you are missing. You could spend the holidays with other single friends or siblings, or even a new romantic interest, or splash out and go on a singles holiday with adults of a similar age and/or interests. Don’t forget to arrange times with your ex to skype with your kids. That way you will hopefully miss each other a little less. Plus you can put them at ease that you are happy and enjoying yourself. You would be surprised how much children of separated or divorced parents worry about mum and dad!
Just you and the kids at Christmas
Of course, it may be that your ex no longer plays a role in your kids’ lives. There are many reasons why a parent is absent and in most cases the parent is sorely missed by the children left behind. To limit the trauma and sense of abandonment, it is important that you, the solo parent, talk, listen and reassure your children of your unconditional love and affection, even more so at a time where everyone and everywhere reminds you that Christmas is a time for families. On a positive note, you can plan Christmas without having to worry about anyone interfering. Every decision is yours and that of your children so involve them in the planning: You can cook your favourite dishes together, choose which Christmas movie to watch and decide which ice rink or Christmas market to go to. Make Christmas magical for them – you will creative memories and a special bond that will last a lifetime.
Surround yourself with people you care are about
If you worry about feeling lonely over the festive period, why not invite friends, family or neighbours over? Even if you don’t have parents or siblings nearby, there will undoubtedly be others who will be celebrating Christmas alone and who will jump at the chance of spending it with you and the kids. You might have a single parent friend who would love to spend Christmas Day with you and the children, or elder neighbours, single friends or cousins who all feel that Christmas is more magical with kids around. Whether you invite them for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day or to stay with you over the holiday period, it will undoubtedly be a fun experience for everyone. And it will show your kids that they are not alone but that there are others who care about them. After all, not everyone has grandparents on their doorstep.
Whatever you decide to do, having a plan and maintaining your composure in front of the kids is key. Seeing you relax and enjoy Christmas is what they need most of all and what will bring that sense of normality back into their life. Christmas after a divorce is tough and you will have mixed feelings, no doubt. After all, you’re only human.