If you separated recently, this upcoming Christmas might be your first as a single parent.
Since Christmas is considered a special family time, it can be hard to imagine how it will work for you, your children, your ex-partner, and everyone else involved.
However, there are lots of separated families, with single parents and children of divorce who love Christmas just as much, if not more, than when their family was still together.
In this article, we provide advice on how to plan for your very first Christmas as a single parent.
ACCEPT IT WILL BE DIFFERENT
This Christmas is going to be very different from past years when you were partnered and celebrating as a whole family. Accept that.
Don’t try and replicate last Christmas under completely different circumstances because it won’t work and could cause disappointment for everyone, kids included.
Instead, be open-minded about this year’s festive season. Everything has changed but that can be a good thing. You can embrace the new-style Christmas and make it even more special than before.
MAKE PLANS EARLY
As a single parent, you can never start too early when making plans for Christmas. Most importantly, what will happen and where the kids will be on the key days, these being Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day?
Ideally, have a parenting plan or consent orders drawn up that include plans for the holidays. This eliminates the need to make new plans each year, which ultimately lessons conflict.
Even with plans in place, allow room for flexibility if the situation for yourself or your ex-partner changes i.e. someone moves home, re-partners, or has new work commitments.
COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR EX
You will already know what type of communication is most effective between you and your ex-partner. Use this to make your plans for Christmas.
Embrace the season of peace and goodwill by being as respectful as possible. This will set the scene and hopefully encourage them to behave with the same courtesy towards you.
Ideally, get everything in writing in case the plans go awry and either of you needs reminding of the arrangements you both agreed to.
LET YOUR KIDS KNOW THE PLAN
As well as using open, clear communication with your ex-partner, don’t forget to let your children know the plans for their Christmas.
Not knowing where they are going to be and with whom on Christmas Day can cause huge anxiety for children. This is especially true for younger kids who get seriously concerned that Santa won’t be able to find them on Christmas Eve.
Tell them what is happening as soon as you know. If plans are not confirmed, assure them that everything will be fine and fun, and that Santa always knows where to find little children on Christmas Eve, even if there is a last-minute change of plan.
START SHOPPING EARLY
Many single parents are stretched when it comes to time and money. This can make the huge present buying mission extremely difficult.
Rather than wait until December, plan what you need to get early and make use of mid-year sales and layby. Black Friday which falls at the end of November is a great time to get discounted gifts either online or in-store.
The more you can buy throughout the year and stash away before the big day, the less time and money will be required over Christmas.
We are all guilty of overspending at Christmas but as a single parent who is responsible for all the household bills, it is more important than ever not to enter the new year in debt.
A simple Christmas budget is the best way to record how much you plan to spend on certain items such as presents, decorations, food, and holiday activities. You can then track your spending each time you purchase something Christmas-related.
Don’t be tempted to stray from your Christmas budget to keep up with how other people celebrate Christmas. Focus on your finances, your family, and what works for you.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
If you are feeling down about the approaching holidays and looking back longingly at Christmas’s past, it might be time to mix it up a bit and do something completely different.
For example, if you are still living in your family home and the absence of your ex is upsetting for you and/or your children, get out of it! Organise a party picnic at your local park or arrange a couple of nights camping or at a resort for fresh new surroundings on Christmas morning.
Christmas is what you make it from here on in. New traditions are waiting. Try something new and run with it.
We are all guilty of getting carried away at Christmas. There is something about this high-spirited season that causes over-excitement and often unnecessary pressure.
If you find yourself getting carried away and stressing over trivial matters such as what brand of mince pies to buy, snap yourself out of it.
Keep in mind that Christmas is just one day of the year, and it is not worth putting yourself under strain for. It is also a time for you to enjoy yourself so stay on track with your feelings and bring it back to basics when you feel yourself taking it all too seriously.
LEARN FOR NEXT YEAR
This is your first Christmas as a single parent. We hope it will go perfectly for you, but it is likely to have a few hiccups. That is fine and expected.
Rather than beat yourself up over ‘things gone wrong’ learn from them for next Christmas.
If your spending went crazy, start saving earlier and adjust your budget. Or, if the plans with your ex-partner fell flat, get in early and change your parenting plan or orders.
Every stage of the parenting journey, especially as a single parent at Christmas, is an opportunity to learn and improve. And the best bit is that Christmas from here on in will get better and better.