The holidays can be a stressful time for any parent: planning a budget that you won’t be paying for until the next holiday season, negotiating time with family and friends, and trying to find time for yourself in all the chaos. For single parents, it can be even more difficult. Budgets are tighter, family negotiations are more tense, and “free time” seems like an elusive dream. Fortunately, there are a few tips you can follow to make holidays as a single parent a bit easier:
Start talking to your former partner early about how you will celebrate the holidays: How much money will you each spend on gifts? Who will purchase what? When will you each spend time with the children? Negotiate these details early so that you have a clear idea of shared responsibilities and scheduling. Don’t wait until the last minute to realize that your parents really want a huge family gathering this year but your former partner has already promised time with his or her family. Avoid conflicts and hurt feelings by working out all the details ahead of time.
Stick to A Budget
Don’t let the holidays break your bank by trying to buy a bunch of gifts to compensate for you and your partner’s split. You are already on a limited budget as a single parent, and you must be disciplined if you are to survive the holidays without going into debt. Set a reasonable budget for yourself, and plan ahead by saving or finding ways to make extra cash for the holidays. Focus on thoughtful gifts to be sure that you are not wasting money on items that will go unused or unappreciated. Make gifts where you can. Many handmade or sentimental gifts often have more value than those bought in a store.
Focus On Holiday Cheer
The holidays can be challenging emotionally, especially if you are single or are recently separated from your partner. Do what you can to avoid any conflict or awkward moments with your ex. This will only exacerbate your own struggle and will make the situation more difficult for your children. Instead, focus on making the holidays as cheerful as you can. Be cordial to your ex when you have to see each other, and spend the rest of your time with friends and family who are positive influences.
Spread Out Your Celebrations
It’s called the holiday “season” for a reason. You don’t have to focus all your celebrations on one day. Instead, participate in a variety of activities as a family to spread your holiday cheer. Spend time together decorating your home, making baked goods for your family and friends, or singing carols and watching holiday movies. Enjoying a number of smaller celebrations and family traditions throughout the season will minimize any hard feelings or loneliness felt if you are unable to be with your children all day on the actual holiday.
Gather With Friends
Find support in other single parents and friends by attending adult-only gatherings or by hosting a special celebration for other single parents and their children. You can share your holidays with this new “extended family” and find support from others who understand the issues you are facing. Your gathering can also become a new tradition!
With a little planning, the holidays need not be a stressful time. Starting early and finding support where you need it will be crucial to making the holiday a little brighter when you are a single parent. What other ways have you found to make the holidays a bit easier? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for CollegeGrants.org. She has a BA from the University of Delaware and has recently finished research on grants for adults returning to college and Pennsylvania education grants.