Your first Christmas as a single parent is pretty difficult, and getting through it is no easy feat.
If this is your first Christmas as a single parent, let me assure you that it DOES GET EASIER. The first one was the hardest for me, and the second was difficult too, but this will be my fourth Christmas as a single parent and I can confidently say that it doesn’t bother me at all anymore.
My first Christmas was sad. I felt lonely, but I mainly felt sad that maybe I had let my daughter down, and that she wouldn’t be able to celebrate with both her parents. I also felt sad for her dad, who wouldn’t be spending Christmas with his daughter. Christmas is the time of year for family, love, and celebration, and it seemed like everywhere I looked there were happy couples with babies and young children.
I’ve learnt a few things over the years to make it better, and if this is your first Christmas as a single parent I hope you take some comfort in knowing that although it feels pretty shitty now, it does get easier and better…great in fact!
Here are 7 tips for your first Christmas as a single parent.
1. Start some new traditions.
Now is the time to introduce some new traditions into your life, for you and your children. Maybe it’s to take the kids out late on Christmas Eve to look at the Christmas lights, or to go to the Carols in your local area? You could start a tradition of watching a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve, all tucked up on the couch eating pizza, or you could all go and spend a couple of hours volunteering at a homeless shelter. Maybe you could start baking Christmas cookies, or have a tree decoration making day? You could even have a Christmas Eve beach day finishing up with fish and chips on the beach for dinner, or camp out in the lounge room or backyard in a tent and wait for Santa. They’re bound to fall asleep eventually, right? (Just make sure you don’t!) There are so many things you could do, many very cheap or free.
I started a tradition of giving my daughter a Christmas Eve gift that always has something nice for her to wear on Christmas Day, and a book about Christmas. And as she gets older, I look forward to introducing more traditions into our life.
2. Treat yourself.
If you can, treat yourself to some pampering or a gift. You definitely deserve it! You are going through the worst of it now, but life will get better. You should give yourself a massive high-five for getting to this point; it’s not easy.
3. Be grateful.
Practicing gratitude is a really simple and powerful way of making you happier. Look at your beautiful children and be thankful that you’ve come out the other side. There are always people worse off than you, so look around you, and be grateful for all the little things.
4. Spend time with loved ones.
If you have family around, spend Christmas with them. If you don’t, maybe you can even celebrate with a friend. Maybe you know another single parent you can celebrate with? If your family is overseas, have a Skype party. Try not to isolate yourself as it will be good for you to be around people you love, and to celebrate. It’s a great distraction too. If you don’t have your kids on Christmas Day, this is probably even more important. You don’t want to end up sad, depressed and alone on Christmas Day. So get out there, and have fun!
5. Don’t get into debt.
One advantage is that now you don’t have to buy presents for your ex and his family. But try to avoid the temptation of buying loads of things for your kids to try to over compensate for the situation. Of course you want to make them happy, but you can definitely get some nice things for them without breaking the bank.
6. Know that you’re not alone.
In Australia, around 15% of children are being brought up in single parent households, and this is increasing all the time. In fact, single parent family units are now the fastest growing family unit in Australia. So even though it may seem like everyone is living happily ever after in their traditional family unit, know that there are single mothers, and single fathers all over the country that are feeling exactly the same way as you. You are not alone, so reach out to others if you can, even if it’s in an online single parent community.
7. Look after yourself too.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are doing the very best that you can in this very moment in time. That’s all anyone can ask for. Don’t beat yourself up, or think about the “should’ve, would’ve and could’ve”. And most of all, don’t compare your life to that of others. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, and just focus on you and your children. Everyone loves to share the family happy snaps on social media, but just remember that life is not always what it seems, and Christmas is also a time of high level conflict in some relationships, which of course doesn’t get shared on social media. If you are happy and having a great time with your kids, they will be happy too. If you are moping around and on edge, they most likely will know something is up and also be unhappy. So cheer up, treat yourself to some champagne, and be merry!
And if you don’t have your children this Christmas, it probably means that next Christmas you will, so try to focus on how great that will be, and re-create Christmas Day for another day close to Christmas, when you do have them.
Be kind to yourself, be gentle with yourself, and know that with time, it does get easier.