Single parent at Christmas? Here's how to navigate the festive season

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Depending on your personal situation, these holidays may be pretty tough – but there are some things you can do to lighten the load.
Depending on your personal situation, these holidays may be pretty tough – but there are some things you can do to lighten the load.

Unwelcome visitors. Family feuds. Nagging aunties. The festive season can be a stressful time, especially because we're supposed to be coming together to enjoy ourselves and celebrate the end of another year. And what a year it's been (again).

But if you're approaching the holidays as a newly single parent, there's a whole other minefield to navigate as you try to get through this time. 

Who gets the kids on which days? 

How do you organise gifts (if you give them)? 

And what will you do on days you’re alone? 

Parenting solo also means that you may no longer have a sounding board available to you when making important decisions about your child.

Depending on your personal situation, these holidays may be pretty tough – but there are some things you can do to lighten the load. Here's what to think about:

1. Confirm the holiday schedule

Co-parenting is never easy, to begin with, but as long as you put the interests of your child or children first, you should be on the right track. 

Discuss the upcoming school holidays with your partner and plan who the kids will stay with on which days or weeks. Depending on the age of your children, they may have specific (and valid) concerns or things they really want to do (Boxing Day with their cousins for example), so listen to their opinions too. 

Once the plan has been confirmed by all, agree to stick to it, as it's much less stressful to meet these expectations, instead of trying to juggle last-minute changes. 

Also see: 'The challenges are magnified': A single parent's survival guide

2. Make time for fun

You've been through a lot, so try and plan some fun activities over these holidays, when you all have a break from work, school and other responsibilities. 

Maybe your kids have always wanted to visit a water park, but you've never actually taken them, or maybe there's a holiday spot your partner always vetoed but is actually on your bucket list? 

It's often about reimagining your role as a parent or reprioritising your values, and this often requires a bit of thought. 

You may also want to start new traditions together, like eating pizza on Christmas eve and watching old movies? YOU get to decide on all of this, so make the most of it. 

3. Travel logistics

If you are going to be flying anywhere internationally with the children, remember that there are laws requiring you to carry official documents with you such as unabridged birth certificates, an affidavit from the other parent granting your official permission, and in some cases even a court order. 

These laws are in place to protect children from child trafficking and other crimes, so be sure to check this all before you depart.

Also read: Black single fathers: a forgotten, but ever-present phenomenon

4. Budgeting

Divorce is expensive and your finances have most likely been affected by this recent dramatic life change. 

While it can be tempting to overspend as a form of retail therapy, keep those impulse buys as small splurges, bearing in mind that your financial future may be a bit more uncertain now, and you'll need money saved up for rainy days. 

Your children can feel loved and appreciated without over expensive gifts, you just have to be creative about your gift-giving, as well as any holiday activities. 

5. Don't forget self-care

Once you know the schedule for the upcoming weeks, pencil in things that you want to do when the children are not with you. 

This isn't a good time to just "wing it and see", as many people's diaries fill up fast and you don't want to spend too much time alone.

Don't be shy to reach out – maybe it's meeting up with a friend you haven't seen for years, or going on a date, but try to schedule in a new activity per day that you can look forward to. 

There is much less stigma attached to divorce and separation these days, so while the next few weeks and months may be tough, know that lighter times are awaiting you. You're strong and resilient and so are your children. You've got this.

Submitted to Parent24 by FedHealth

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