By: Emma Morrissey
In a world where family dynamics come in various shapes and sizes, the life of a single parent forms a unique combination of strength, resilience, and the often-silent struggle against isolation. The journey of single parenthood, marked by both victories and challenges, is a testament to the unsurpassable spirit of those who find themselves navigating the intricate web of solo parenting.
Single parents, whether by choice or circumstance, often find themselves carrying the weight of parental responsibilities alone. Balancing work, household chores, and childcare without a partner can be an overwhelmingly solitary endeavor. Parents of children who have disabilities or mental health conditions feel these strains even more.
During the holidays, these challenges are often heightened with the expectations of attending gatherings, the pressure of creating a magical Christmas on a solo income, or the negotiation of shared time with another parent. So how do we combat these challenges and redirect energy to self-care and creating a positive and joyful environment?
Create New Traditions:
Creating new traditions can be a special way to bond with your children and create positive memories around the holidays. Baking special cookies, decorating the tree, or taking a drive to see neighborhood Christmas lights are all fun ways to spend time together. After going through a divorce, a friend of mine decided that she needed to create new traditions with her children around the holidays, as this was a time that in the past would be filled with anxiety and arguments. When she became a single parent she decided that for their family Christmas cards each year, they would all dress as characters from a different Christmas movie each year. This has become a fun tradition that her kids love and that she cherishes as fun time spent together. Creating these new memories and traditions allowed her to take back control of the holiday times as well as allowed her to find joy during the holidays.
It’s okay to say no. You don’t have to feel obligated to attend every event that you are invited to, or to spend excessive money. Bringing joy to your children can be focused on creating memories, starting new traditions, and spending quality time. I know that I personally feel obligated to attend all events that we are invited to by family because of the emphasis of the holidays being family time. I realized about a year ago that the holidays were not created to cater to the needs of others, and decided that I needed to take charge of how I shared my time and when I decide that we can pass on certain events.
Set Realistic Expectations:
It’s important to be prepared for the harder moments such as sharing time during the holidays or interactions with an ex-partner. Setting expectations of when you will be with your child and when they will be with the other parent will be helpful in coping during the more difficult times. It is also important to set expectations for what your child will be able to handle during the holidays. Skipping a holiday party for the benefit of your child’s mental health doesn’t mean you have to lose out on holiday experiences. Creating your own holiday memories at home can be equally valuable as doing it with others. This year, I created an activity advent calendar to place a larger emphasis on spending time together and giving back to our community. Some of these activities included popcorn movie night, board games in our pajamas, making cards for people living in assisted living, and donating gently used items to those in need. These are all activities that require minimal money and for the most part, can be done from home. The point of these activities is that we are doing them together and are low-pressure.
If you co-parent, use your time alone for holiday-related activities and self-care. Shopping, wrapping gifts, giving back to the community, and spending time with friends are all wonderful ways to fill the time that your child is with the other parent. It is also a time to catch up on rest and engage in your own self-care. I recently saw a post on social media of a group of friends who rented a hotel room for the night to wrap presents and watch holiday movies. This was a fun way to get out of the house and spend time with friends during the holidays, while also tackling a task that can be less exciting on your own.
Single parenting during the holidays can feel daunting and bring up the painful memories of the past, but it can also be an opportunity for something new and joyful. What are ways that you have found joy during the holidays as a single parent?
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