How to Deal with Single Parenting over the Holidays

Divorce is difficult enough to deal with on its own—add the holidays into the mix and you have the makings of a perfect storm. Divorce proceedings can cause an emotional and financial toll. And in states where one must file for divorce under specific at-fault grounds, it’s important to know your rights. But even when the divorce is amicable, you will need to allow time for your life to adjust.

If your breakup happened before the holiday season, or if this is the first year that you are facing the holidays as a single parent, what will help you cope? Here are some steps you can take that will lighten your load.

Chill on the gift exchange.

Where your household may have been pulling in two incomes, you’re now down to just your own. And even with child support payments, it can be hard to readjust to living on a smaller budget. The holidays are a time when Americans typically overspend on gifts, some to the tune of $929 on average. About 56 percent of those surveyed said they’ll likely go into debt doing so.

Aside from being a source of stress, gift exchanges can be a drain on your wallet that you should avoid. Announce your intentions of easing back on Christmas gifts this year to your family and friends. Instead, offer homemade gifts or coupons for simple activities that can be enjoyed together. Or give to a cause. You may be glad to hear you won’t be the only one trying to cut back either. Others are opting out too.

Plan the holidays in advance with your ex-spouse.

Scheduling conflicts that used to be difficult to manage, even when you were both on the same team, now have the potential to cause greater upset. Consider taking the following actions:

  • If you are not on speaking terms with your ex, ask a good friend or sibling to be the go-between in working out who does what pick up, etc.
  • Pick your battles and learn to compromise. Focus on what will make the holidays the most fun for your kid and avoid looking at it as who is scoring the most points.
  • Plan as far ahead as you can, but also have a back-up plan. Where there used to be you and your partner to handle the unexpected—now there’s just you. This is particularly true if your ex is flakey or has work that can’t be dropped to help handle your emergency.
  • Have a couple family members and close friends who know your situation on speed dial. Look for a trustworthy babysitter. Join a single parent support group. Or find a parenting circle where you can exchange favors. These people will be your support group on those days when you’re stuck in traffic or can’t be at a certain place at a certain time.

Take care of yourself.

While you focus on making the holidays a great time for your kids, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eating right, getting in 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and staying physically fit are not only health guidelines for kids, but for adults as well. Your emotional, mental, and physical needs should be considered as important as your child’s. Their needs are dependent on you seeing to yours. Some quick ideas to keep you sane during the holidays:

  • Arrange for a sleepover where your kids stay the night with your parents or a sibling. Put on a movie and just enjoy the peace of not having to be anywhere or do anything.
  • Call a sitter and sign up a fitness class or other activity that takes you away from the house. If you’re still at home, you are fair game to all the demands that come with being in it.
  • If family members insist on getting you a Christmas gift, ask for babysitting coupons and cash them in immediately.

Yes, single parenting is not for the faint of heart. It requires you to do the job of two but on less sleep, less time, and less money. But it’s during times like these that family and friends get to prove their worth, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help.

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