Four Tips for Navigating the Holidays as a Single Parent

The following post was written by Jaimie.   Jaimie is a single, work-at-home mom to a toddler and preschooler who blogs about her adventures in creating a simple, creative, sustainable life for her family at Two Chicks and a Hen.

With the holidays approaching, it’s time to think about how to maximize enjoyment while minimizing stress.  Here are four simple ways to keep things running smoothly and maintain peace as a single parent during this season:

1. Keep Some Old Traditions; Start Some New Ones

This is especially valuable during the first few holiday seasons as a single-parent household. With ritual and continuity being so comforting for children (and, let’s face it, adults too), it’s important to repeat some of the traditions you had as a family before you began life as a single parent. Your family may not look exactly the same, but small children will value, for example, making the trip to the same Christmas tree farm you’ve always visited to chop down your tree.

Children might remember and think about previous years when the other parent was present, and this is fine. Moments like these may bring some amount of discomfort for you, but it’s nice for your children to be able to verbalize their feelings about the changes in the family. Engaging in pre-divorce traditions helps reinforce the idea that, while some things have changed, the core of who you are as a family still remains.

On the other hand, it’s also important to develop new traditions.

Nothing would be worse than a holiday season that remains stagnant, a shrine to something that once was. A healthy mix of the old and the new will keep children feeling safe and comforted while inspiring everyone and encouraging you to live in the moment.

Do this as it comes naturally. Perhaps during your first holiday season, you might add one or two new traditions, and as the years go by, you will develop holiday rituals as an organic process, which, really, is what happens in families of all shapes and sizes.

2. Be Sure to Remember the Children’s Gift for Their Other Parent

This is probably an obvious tip, but perhaps one that might be overlooked in the busyness of the season. If your children have any contact at all with their other parent, whether it is a lot or a little, don’t forget to assist them in making or buying a gift.

Your children will feel good about themselves and the family when they carefully make or choose a gift for their dad or mom. And with all of the challenges co-parenting can bring, a gift from the children is a gesture of goodwill at this sensitive time of year.

3. Keep it Simple

No one can do it all. Even in households with two adults, the holidays can become stressful, overly busy, and chaotic. Subtract one parent, and it obviously gets even harder. Instead of trying to emulate what you see in the imagery of holidays in two-parent households, step back for a moment and think about what you want to and can do in your own home.

You aren’t picking and choosing from a pre-scripted holiday; instead, you are creating the holiday that you want and will work for your family, in whatever incarnation that may be. A simple holiday dinner ritual of warm mugs of homemade soup eaten on the floor next to the Christmas tree will bring much more peace to your home than an elaborate holiday dinner for which you are frantically scrambling, alone, to complete some sort of picture-perfect meal.

Frugality is an additional benefit to a simple holiday, and since finances are often a concern in single-parent homes, making a conscious decision not to go over the top helps keep expenses in line with your financial goals.

4. Don’t Forget About You

The holidays are a time for everyone to enjoy, yourself included. As parents, we tend to focus on our children’s needs and how to make them happy, sometimes at the exclusion of our own needs. You are just as entitled as your children to enjoy the holiday season.

Just as in any household, careful planning will help you avoid stress as big events approach, but we can go above and beyond this for ourselves. When planning the holiday activities, make your own needs a priority along with those of the kids.

What do you want to do this holiday season? Where would you like to go? To cook and eat? These questions are important ones that as mothers, we often overlook.

Be sure to plan something nice for yourself.

A gift need not be a material item, especially if money is tight and buying something will just cause you more stress. You might devote a couple of evenings to watching movies and eating kid-forbidden treats after bedtime—no chores, work, or cleaning allowed; or you might schedule yourself a once a week bubble bath during the holiday season with books and tea; perhaps you will sign up for an extra yoga class.

Focusing on yourself for some amount of time during the holiday season will help you re-energize and enjoy the time rather than feeling as if it’s yet another chore to be completed.

And in case you need the reminder: focusing on yourself is not selfish. Your kids will enjoy you much more when you’re enjoying the holidays as well.

What are your tips for navigating the season as a single-parent household? How does your family create a happy holiday season?

About Jaimie

Jaimie, an American ex-pat living in chilly Montreal, is a single, work-at-home mom to a preschooler and a kindergartener. When she’s not busy building her freelance editing and writing career or making messes with her kids, she blogs about her adventures in creating a simple, creative, sustainable life for her family at Two Chicks and a Hen.

Online Knitting Class
Delightful kids' crafts delivered to your door!  See sample crates>>


  1. Great post– I have to be honest I never considered getting my child’s father a gift for Christmas, we usually do Father’s day but that’s it. We will find something to make him.

  2. This is a wonderful list – establishing traditions, keeping it simple, and remembering time for self. Thank you!

    Funny, I often forget to help my kids pick out a gift for dad until the last minute, so this is a good reminder for us married moms as well!
    Alissa´s latest post: Summer Lovin – County Fair

  3. Thank you for these insights and tips, Jaimie, and for opening the door for this conversation.

    And, welcome to Simple Kids! We’re honored to have you writing here 🙂
    Kara @Simple Kids´s latest post: Four Tips for Navigating the Holidays as a Single Parent

  4. Love it! As a single parent now, this is my first holiday with 3 kids in tow and I was completely lost as to what to do. Last year we were with my mother & brother but now that we have left its just me. I appreciate the though involved & creating new traditions. I look back at my Christmas’s as a child & remember the things we did, I enjoy knowing that we can create some new traditions together.
    Katrina Smith´s latest post: 10 Things That Make My life Easier

  5. Single Mama by Choice says:

    Sooo glad to finally see posts about single parents – while we all have similar goals (happy, healthy, and safe children), single parents face different challenges that many parenting/simple living blogs don’t address.

    Thanks, Jaimie!

  6. Love this post! And I love your blog, Jaimie – glad you’re going to be contributing regularly at SimpleKids!

    You’re point about keeping it simple and doing what works for your family really resonated with me. I know a single mom who was completely overwhelmed one Christmas and ended up having pizza delivered on Christmas Eve. They ate it by candlelight to make it more special, but there was no cooking and minimal clean-up. Now it’s one of her kids’ favorite traditions – and hers too!

    I’m a single mom with two daughters – one in 2nd grade and one in 4th. A couple of years ago, it hit me that despite all my efforts to make the holidays memorable, my girls weren’t really enjoying them. They were picking up on every ounce of my carefully-concealed (and sometimes not-so-carefully-concealed) stress. So I decided to start fresh and make holiday planning a team effort. I call a family meeting sometime in mid-November, and we make a list of all the traditions we’re looking forward to. Sometimes newer traditions get nixed, and sometimes older ones do. Then we talk about any activities we might want to add – keeping in mind things we already know are on the calendar (an annual gingerbread decorating party we attend, holiday recitals, etc.).

    With that information in hand, I sit down with a Nov/Dec calendar. I fill in the scheduled events, and I pencil in the traditions. I try to be VERY realistic about what we can manage without feeling overwhelmed. If we have too many things planned, I talk with the girls about what we should leave out. Then I transfer everything to the big dry-erase calendar that lives in our dining room.

    Something else I always try to do is arrange time for a friend or family member to take the girls shopping for ME. They love that they get to go shopping, but their favorite part is surprising me on Christmas morning.

  7. You have some good tips here and I just have to say- I am loving these single parent posts! I appreciate reading something relevant to so many of us. Families come in all shapes and sizes and now it’s showing up in some of my favorite blogs. Thanks for writing!
    GM´s latest post: Of Temporary Hiatuses &amp Fall Lists

  8. My sons father has never been around so that’s not an issue but I think it’s important, no matter your family dynamic, to let go of guilt. Your child isn’t seeing into any home but yours so don’t try to be anyone but you. Get someone to watch your kids for shopping time and/or deliver Internet ordered to some where else so it can be a surprise. Don’t try to relieve guilt or makethings allright by buying more than you can afford. There are lots of free holiday events. – check them out…just walking in our neighborhood all bundled from the cold to see Christmas lights was enjoyable. I also try to give gifts all year so Christmas isn’t just about gimme gimme. Many homeless shelters are overwhelmed with volunteers at this times so I try to give where it’s really needed – holidays typically see a dramatic increase in domestic violence so donating to one of them is a great idea.
    Nina´s latest post: great sites 111810

  9. This is a really nice post, Jaimie. Point number two must be tough, especially when the other parent is a difficult human being. But that’s the whole point, right?, to guide your children through the holidays with generosity and love – for all the people important to them. It’s being really mature (this can take a lot of work) and really putting the spirit of christmas into what is or might be difficult. And trying to create an atmosphere of magic in your life as it is, rather than how you imagined christmas would be years ago as you dreamed of what the holidays would be with your chosen family. I guess all of us have some of that to deal with around the holidays, as this time can bring up all sorts of feelings for adults even while we want our children to feel its joy.

  10. I’m so excited to see that SimpleKids will be running regular features on single parenting! I’m married, but DH is out of town all week, every other week, and works long hours when he’s in town. I’m grateful every day for the fact that he’s home at all, but I really need the wisdom of women who go it alone because that’s the boat I’m in 50-75% of the time.

  11. I’m echoing how much I love the single parenting posts. My husband is a merchant marine and ships for half the year, leaving me alone pregnant with a preschooler and a toddler. We usually get him for Thanksgiving or Christmas (Christmas this year!) and it is hard on all of us when he is not here. Because he is coming home so close to Christmas, I have to do all the prep-decorating, gift purchasing, organizing relative visits, and attending my kids’ holiday concerts alone (my hardest part!). This year though I chatted with a neighbor months ago who agreed to come over the Sunday after Thanksgiving and string my outside lights and wrestle my Christmas tree up from the basement. In exchange, I’m shopping for his wife’s (a friend of mine) smaller gifts and stocking stuffers. I think this plan will work splendidly:)

  12. Great advice! I love Jaimie’s blog and I’m excited to see her writing for Simple Kids!
    maryanne´s latest post: Story Cubes

  13. I am excited to know of another single mom’s blog, Jaimie. But could you try to be more inclusive? Single-parented families aren’t all created from divorce, don’t all have some “two-parent” history, and don’t all have a second parent in the picture. For instance, my family has always been a solo-parented unit.

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Just as it is a challenge to address all types of families in one article, it’s also a challenge to address all types of single families in one article. I struggled with this as I was writing this post, and it was the main thing still bothering me when it was finished. Perhaps I could have titled it “Four Tips for Navigating the Holidays in a Post-Divorce Family.”

      I’d love any input from you and other single parents of all varieties. My next post, later in December, will open up the floor for discussion of single parenting and what we all want to talk about/learn about. I hope you will return! In the meantime, feel free to email me at twochicksandahen (at) hotmail (dot) com.

      Thanks again for the comment!

      Jaimie @ Two Chicks and a Hen´s latest post: Electricity-Free Evenings


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by NJ Family-Lucy Banta, Susan Heid. Susan Heid said: RT @simplekids Four Tips for Navigating the Holidays as a Single Parent […]

  2. […] US alone are headed by single parents. There are certainly plenty of us out there.  Beyond that, as the comments on my previous post help highlight, there are plenty of other parents who, while not single, find themselves alone for great periods […]

  3. free parenting advice

    Navigating the Holidays as a Single Parent | Simple Kids

  4. Best personal injury lawyers Orange county

    Navigating the Holidays as a Single Parent | Simple Kids


    Navigating the Holidays as a Single Parent | Simple Kids