5 Single Parenting Pitfalls to Dodge During the Holidays
by Paula Statman, M.S.S.W.
Maybe it's not your turn to celebrate Christmas morning with your children this year. Or maybe you will spend Christmas morning with them, but not Christmas dinner. However the time is split between you and your ex partner, it’s a reminder that your family has changed. It may be smaller, bigger or blended but it’s not how it used to be. Now, in addition to missing past traditions, you are also faced with the extra challenge of managing the holiday activities alone.
It’s easy to go overboard on your budget, celebrations, food, and other temptations when you feel short changed. It’s also tempting to throw common sense to the wind if you feel like the holidays are the time to right all wrongs with your kids, who may be hurting from a divorce or separation.
Below are five common pitfalls of single parenting around the holidays and how to avoid them.
Pitfall #1 Giving for the wrong reasons. Spending too much money on gifts won’t erase any regret or guilt you feel and it creates new bills and possibly new worries. Spend what you have on your kids and recognize that spending time with them is the best gift of all. When work or your lifestyle or other factors cost you time with your kids, make it up with your time, energy, and full attention. There is no better way to make your children feel cherished at the holidays or for that matter, any time of the year.
Pitfall #2 Making it difficult for your kids to enjoy the holidays with the other parent. It’s only natural that you would feel angry and resentful about not spending part or all of the holiday with your kids. Try to keep your aching heart in check so that you leave your children with positive feelings about being with you. As hard as it is, don’t burden them with how much you will miss them when they go to the other parent’s house. Don’t say unkind things about the other parent. You want them to feel OK about going, especially if they don’t have a choice in the matter. Reassure them that you will be OK when they are not with you. In fact, if you have other holiday plans, tell your kids about them. It may lessen their worries about you being alone.
Pitfall #3 Being rigid about when you celebrate with your kids. Rather than insist that only one day will work for you, be flexible. Celebrating doesn’t have to be a one day event. Consider celebrating the holiday in the weeks ahead of the holiday instead of jamming everything in to one or two days. Take the lead in spreading the festivities over the month. You will create a less stressful and more enjoyable experience for everyone.
Pitfall #4 Making the holidays just about your kids. If you are putting all your hopes and wishes for a happy holiday on your kids, you are not being fair to them or yourself. Create some new traditions. Volunteer, take a trip, socialize with friends, visit family, relax or do a project. You might include others to broaden your holiday traditions or you might decide to do nothing. Almost any personal choice you make is a good alternative to expecting your children to fill the holiday void.
Pitfall #5 Forgetting to involve your children in the work and the planning. You want to make the holidays special. But you may think that easing up on your kids’ chores or responsibilities will add to the magic. Just the opposite is true. During this hectic time, you need and should ask for help. Assign holiday responsibilities involving decorating, meal preparation, and gift-wrapping so you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Also, get input from your kids about what matters most to them. Set your family’s priorities and model how to manage the excitement rather than get overwhelmed by it. By involving them in the planning, your kids will be better participants and you will have a built in support team.