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?