Festive cheer can be hard to muster if you’re struggling mentally with parental responsibilities in the lead up to Christmas. It’s no surprise that a survey conducted by the
Dealing with the break up of a relationship or the death of a partner only serves to make festive matters more complicated, and with approximately
Dealing with your very first holiday season as a single parent comes with plenty of hurdles whether they are financial, logistical or purely emotional. Here are our tips from single parents and professionals who all have expert advice on how to cope during this transitional period.
Six Ways to Handle the Holidays as a Single Parent
Accept negative emotions
Your knee-jerk reaction might be to paint on a smile and pretend to be happy during this complicated time, but it isn’t necessarily the most helpful approach.
Her number one tip is to recognize and ‘be with’ any feelings that come up as you plan for the holidays.
“Just write it down, say it out loud to the mirror – anything where you don’t have to push it away, feel shame and then start reacting in ways that further the pain and lock it in your mind and body as stress. You will be amazed at how simply ‘recognizing and sitting with’ has an ability to soothe yourself and come up with more insightful, intuitive and clear answers,” says Ferris.
Be patient, especially if you are dealing with grief as part of your new circumstances.
“Don’t expect your feelings to change all at once,” says Dr. Ferris, “but if you can take it on bit by bit you will start to feel it change.”
Let go of expectations
Try not to feel responsible for creating the best possible Christmas for your kids. If you’re feeling worried, enlist the help of friends and family members who will be more than willing to give you a hand.
You could even go one step further and take single mom Katy’s advice and invite yourself to celebrate at someone else’s house.
“If you’ve got a big extended family try to spend it with them. It will keep your mind off things. Plus if you go somewhere else, the pressure is off you to have a ‘perfect’ Christmas. No one needs that pressure!” she says.
Be as fair as possible
Your first Christmas celebration as a single parent is likely to be somewhat different from ones you may have had in previous years, and it might mean splitting up the important moments between you and the other parent.
Try your best to do this as fairly as possible and be aware that most families ‘swap’ routines the following year, so you don’t want to feel the impact twelve months down the line.
“Please bear in mind that in late November and December the courts are flooded with applications regarding child arrangements, so it may take a while for your case to be seen. Whatever agreement you come to, and however you do so, the happiness of the child is most important. If necessary, enlisting legal assistance as early as possible.”
Write a ‘what got done’ list
I spoke to author, wellbeing psychologist and mother of two
If you’re worried about spending time alone this year, try to see that time as an opportunity to recharge your batteries. Chances are you’ll feel tired and stressed nearer the time so be strategic and plot out those activities that really leave you feeling revitalised and loved, whether it’s a meal with your best mate or an early morning yoga session.
Business-owner and single mom
Think about your child’s wellbeing
Many single parents fall into the trap of trying to overcompensate by spending more money than usual on gifts and experiences. Even though this might feel like the right thing to do, it’s no substitute for talking through emotions with your child.
Dr Amanda Ferris states that children will learn how to react to stress from their observations of parental behavior.
‘Think of your children as motivation to work through those tough moments, knowing you want to show them and make them believe that no matter what happens in life they are capable enough, smart enough, strong enough, stable enough and resourceful enough to figure their way through anything life brings.”
“If you always try to shield them or do it for them they will come to believe that they don’t have the ability to do it themselves.Children are remarkably resilient when you give them the space to show you.”
Fiona Thomas is a freelance writer with an interest in mental health. Her memoir ‘Depression in a Digital Age’ explores her experience with depression and anxiety with the help of online communities and blogging. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.