Top 10 Tips on How to Survive Christmas as a Single Parent

single mum and daughter at xmas

How single mums and dads can avoid the holiday blues at Christmas.

So, what are your plans this Christmas? How many times have you been asked this in the run up to “the most wonderful time of the year”? For single mums and dads, as well as many other singles, the month of December can seem daunting. You feel like everyone else is looking forward to days of family festivities with partners, parents and children.  As a single parent, this can make you feel sad, lonely – even inadequate. As a parent, you want to make Christmas perfect for the kids but you cannot give them what they crave the most – Christmas with both mum and dad. And so the thought of Christmas Day stirs feelings of loneliness, anger, resentfulness and/or sadness in many single mums and dads.

So, how can you avoid the blues in the run up to Christmas, on Christmas Day and the holidays that follow? Here are our top tips on how to survive Christmas as a single parent:

1. Involve the kids in the planning

Ask your children how they would like to celebrate Christmas this year, for example, which foods they would like to eat on Christmas Day and how they would like to spend the day. Involve them in the planning, starting with how to decorate your home and the tree in the run up to Christmas. Decide together how to spend the time over the holidays, from which film to watch to which activities to fit in and which friends to invite. One of the perks of being a single parent is that you become closer to your kids as you start treating them more like equals. Involving them in the decision-making, will give you all a new sense of freedom and responsibility and will make Christmas special as everyone will get to do a bit of what they like. Thus doing things differently from last year becomes a positive for your kids. There is no need, and it’s not advisable, to try and re-enact previous years. Things won’t ever be the same, and the kids know that.

single mum and daughter decorating xmas tree

2. Plan ahead and invite friends or family

Whatever you do, it’s important to be organised. Plan the holidays to make sure you are busy whether the kids spend all or only part of the holidays with you. There is so much to do out there and so many single mums and dads in the same situation at Christmas.

If you have parents or siblings, you might want to spend Christmas at theirs this year, or, if you love hosting, invite someone over to yours for Christmas Day. If you have no family nearby, why not invite friends over? Many of us have friends who are closer to them than family, so why not spend some of the festive period together? Just don’t leave it to the last minute, as everyone will already have made plans if you do. Few people want to be alone at Christmas. You might even have friends who are single themselves, possibly another single mum or single dad with kids, who will appreciate the invite. If you are a newly single parent, then make it your New Year’s resolution to meet other single parents for friendship and support.

christmas decorations including candy sticks

3. Take the kids on holiday

If you have the budget, going on a holiday or on a mini break can be a godsend. It will take your mind off the fact that there is someone special missing in your life, and a break from the past and your daily routine will do you and the children a world of good. Aside from that, going away means no shopping, cooking, cleaning and stressing over visiting relatives and friends. The excitement of travelling at Christmas and going somewhere new, will be the best medicine for all of you, and, naturally, a holiday will strengthen the bond with your kids further as you find a new dynamic as a single parent family.

If you want to ensure you have some adult company and playmates for your child/ren around, you could book on one of Single Parent on Holiday’s single parent ski trips over the Christmas holidays. If you are first time skiers, this will be an amazing experience for you and the kids, and might turn into a joint new hobby for years to come. It also means you get to meet lots of single mums and dads, and can start building a support network. And your children, aside from having instant friends in the group, will be able to see that there are many other families in the same situation as them. This will help build your children’s confidence after divorce or the loss of a parent.

4. Sharing Christmas with an ex

If you have an ex and one that is involved in his/her kids’ lives, you will probably share Christmas. This can be painful, especially if your kids go off to their dad’s (or mum’s) on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Whatever your arrangements over the kids are, you need to think about your kids’ happiness at seeing their other parent. And look at the bright side: You might get out of cooking a roast for hours, have time to clean up the mess left by your own celebrations with the kids, get some well-deserved sleep and best of all: You get some me-time.

In any case, make arrangements with your ex early and communicate: Who will have the kids when, who takes them where and will it be mum or dad who gets them the new bike or scooter. You don’t have to go into detail about how you spend your time with them, but you can save your kids from getting the same presents twice and the awkwardness of having to try and to keep a happy face to please mum or dad.

Sharing the kids at Christmas can work really well as it gives both parents quality time with the kids and little time for the blues. You just need to approach it with a positive mindset. And if you alternate years and do not have the kids at Christmas one year, why not go on a solo holiday? You could have fun with other adults in the same or similar situation.young woman looking sad at xmas

5. Check out local events

Whether you are by yourself or with the kids, you will be surprised how much there is on offer on and around Christmas! Book tickets for your local pantomime, choir, ice-skating rink or Christmas market or help out at your local soup kitchen. You could even go on a city cruise, or, providing you live in travel distance, a Discover London tour on Christmas Day (through the deserted streets of Mayfair and Soho – a unique experience) with stops for breakfast and pub lunch. Check out the flyers that come through your door, your Facebook community pages or google things to do at Christmas near you.

6. Let go of expectations

Christmas is supposed to be a special family celebration and undoubtedly puts us all under pressure for that reason.  Relax. Christmas is what you make of it. Enjoy quality time with your kids and don’t feel like you have to do things a certain way. So, why not treat yourself to a cleaning service? Maid Service NYC advise that you hire a professional home cleaner if you need it. You are a hard working single parent, and you deserve a break just like anyone else. If you don’t fancy cooking that roast at Christmas, get a takeaway you all enjoy. Or cook your kids’ favourite meal – even if it’s pancakes!single parent mum and son baking at xmas

7. Don’t overspend

Most single mums and dads will at some point, usually immediately after a separation, feel the pinch. Don’t feel under pressure to buy. But whatever you do, don’t touch that credit card if you have no immediate means of paying it off! Young children will be happy with inexpensive Christmas gifts, and older children will understand that you are not in a position to buy the latest craze. If you need help on how to save money throughout the year, check out our top ten money saving tips for single parents.

8. Establish new Christmas traditions

Try something new with the kids this Christmas: a visit to Santa’s Grotto, picking your own Christmas tree from a Christmas tree farm, ice skating, making a Gingerbread house, a challenging game, a special film, a Christmas walk in the woods, a favourite meal. Let go of the old life and start something new. Don’t let your childhood memories dictate how you and your kids should spend Christmas. Re-invent your own family Christmas. Your new traditions will strengthen the new, special bond with your kids that only single mums and dads baking - gingerbread house

9. Relax

Don’t let the insanity of Christmas get the better of you. If things don’t go the way you planned, make the best of it. The best part of being a single parent is that you are in control and don’t have to agree every move you make with another adult. Just change the plan or go with the flow.

10. Reflect

Whether you are a working parent or a full-time parent, you probably never stop. You are on duty 24/7. Many single parents don’t know what to do with themselves when they suddenly have ‘downtime’. You might even feel anxious and depressed. Try to use this time to reflect on all the things you have achieved in the past year and think about what you want to achieve in the coming year. Ask your kids for their input – it will help you see where you can improve and they will appreciate being asked. This might even turn into another new Christmas tradition. If you really feel at a low, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. From helplines and counselling, to life coaching for single parents – there are people who will listen and understand!

Christmas is about family, putting a smile on a kid’s face and sharing magical moments. It does not require romance. Whatever you do for Christmas, remember that your kids will value the time you spend together and the effort you make – even if they are too little to show it or too hormonal to admit it. Toddler or teen, your kids will remember Christmas with mum or dad and this is why it will be worth the effort. single mum and daughter drawing xmas tree

If you’re a newly single parent or feeling alone in the run up to Christmas, check out these posts, which might help you:

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Blair says:

    Hi Andrea
    thanks for the 10 points, yes I am a single dad for 3 yrs now, have 4 children youngest being 15. I was always the Christmas person in the relationship. My 2 older don’t talk to me 2nd youngest who’s 19 part talks and the 15 yr old spends time with me on the weekends. When the kids were young I would decorate the townhouse right through.
    Every year I get down the closer it gets. This year I decided to listen to Christmas songs from beginning of November just so I can be over it by Christmas day, it’s 18th and not even close to getting over it. Every year I watch the old videos of better simpler times, that doesn’t help. I have been to a medium whom says things will get better, but you can’t get rid of your memories. One thing I will be doing next yr is going on a cruise with my sister her family and my youngest. Reading tips like these helps, I’m not sure about dating sites they just seem to be about sex only, I like everything about a person to share with.
    I find it hard that the kids of today have lost family values and the world is too close to hand. Just wish this was a bad dream.
    thanks for your time

    • Alex says:

      Yes I think a Christmas holiday would be a good idea to take the pressure off.
      As a single mum, it’s going to be the first time with just me and my 10 year old on Christmas Day this year. My 2 grown up children have flown the nest and are busy leading their own lives. I had a long chat with my youngest and he said how he would love to have a big family Christmas with lots of people and other kids to play with. I felt so sad for him.
      We’ve got several outings planned for Christmas week, which will be fun. I’m going to really try and make Christmas Day special too, but it will feel strangely quiet, just the two of us. I agree with you about getting the music on and decorations up to try and lift the mood.
      Good idea about letting the child help with the planning and starting new traditions.
      Definitely looking at holidays for next year!
      Good luck with yours!

  • Olly says:

    I stumbled across this webpage by accident but after reading the above comment from Blair, I felt compelled to leave my own comment. Sorry to read about your situation. I hope you have a good Christmas and I’m sure things will get better in time – 3 years is still fairly recent. Maybe you could try and do something charitable/volunteering to be around others? It sounds very tough for you but try not over-hype Christmas too much, take it easy and eat plenty of chocolate. Wishing you all the best!

  • Julia says:

    It’s something that’s hardly spoken about & unless you’re in the situation wouldn’t understand, ..but we all battle through with pride & put a brave face on in what can ultimately be a very lonely time of year. The tv is full of adverts, movies and shows about huge family groups and lots of kids all enjoying the perfect time. But in reality, ..and I’m certain of this, there’s lots of us trying our best on a much smaller scale ..& often spending this time of year, at some point, alone. Very hard indeed. It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones, ..but more groups could be formed to help each other through it I’m sure.

  • Bestsy says:

    I have been a single parent for just over 8 years. I never really knew what it was like to raise a child in a normal family. Over the last 8 years I never dreaded Christmas as it’s just another normal day. Yes it would be great to wake up on Christmas morning with a partner and together watch your child/children open their presents, but you’ve just got to get on with it in life. It may seem harsh but it’s the truth at the end of the day.

  • Anna Gill says:

    Yes i agree we have to get on with it. But it hurts to watch your child not have both parents sharing the joy. My husband died when I was pregnant. 5 years later and it seems to only get tougher on these occasions.
    My siblings seem to do their things out of the country or hours apart. Dad’s remarried so I’m a third wheel wherever I am.
    So this year I’m going to try and have our tradition begin. A sleep in and a Xmas movie and brekkie just my daughter, pets and me. Then we will join wherever else. Getting on with it but to those who feel sad – you are allowed to let yourself feel ripped apart, too.

  • Samantha says:

    I’m not sure if anyone will read this comment, but after reading some of these sad comments I felt obligated to say something. My parents recently split up, so I’ve been trying to think of something I could do to make Christmas this year better for both of them. So far all I’ve been able to do is read a lot of posts like this. Speaking from the kid side of things, don’t feel like any of you have to work harder than normal to make any Christmas special for your kids. We worry about you guys just as much as you worry about us, and I know that nothing would make for a better Christmas than to see my parents happier than they have been for the past few months. I know Christmas is a challenging time for some of you, and it probably is for your kids too. As long as you can spend time together and support each other, the holiday season will still be great.

    • Hi Samantha, thank you for your comment! It’s nice to hear from a child who is worried about their parents and not vice versa. You must be a lovely kid and sound quite mature. Even when kids are older, the guilt of splitting up the family is still painful for parents. They often feel like failures and focus more on their kids than ever before. This can make things even harder for the children involved, I am sure. No one wants to see their parents unhappy! I hope you can all find a way to have an enjoyable Christmas !

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