Single Parent? Here’s How to Survive Holidays Without Your Kids

A divorced mom sits alone on a couch looking at a Christmas treeIf you’re reading this, then you are very likely going through one of the hardest times of your life: the first holiday as a single parent.

I know that feeling. It’s as if your heart has been ripped out of your chest and flown across the country to spend “the most wonderful time of the year” with your ex-husband’s family.

I promise that you will survive this first holiday season without your kids. It’s going to be difficult, but you’ve already proven how strong you are for how far you’ve come.

Last Christmas was my first without my two sons. They flew off to the northwest while I stayed behind in Texas. Here’s how I made Christmas memories with my sons and survived my first holiday season as a single parent.

Santa Claus Comes to Town {Early}

If your family believes in Santa, I have great news— he makes special pit stops at single-parent homes.

I told my kiddos that I wrote a letter asking Santa to come to the house the weekend that we would have together. This meant that I could experience the magic of Christmas morning on a random Saturday in December with my babies.

Because here’s what you need to know: your kids don’t care about the calendar. You can celebrate a holiday on any day because what matters to them is spending time with you. They want you to be a part of that holiday magic.

Create New Traditions

This may feel a bit like twisting a knife, but here goes: you need to make your own family traditions. The new family you have without your ex.

You can absolutely keep traditions that were a part of your family before, but think about new ways to celebrate the holidays. Perhaps your ex always wanted to watch a certain movie on Christmas Eve that was never your jam. Now you can choose a different movie or even go on a walk instead. Or, you can finally strike that gelatin concoction off the menu that was your ex-spouse’s great-grandmother’s recipe.

My little family’s tradition is the Icelandic “Jolabokaflod,” where everyone receives new books to read on Christmas Eve. We sip hot chocolate, eat holiday treats and then cuddle up to read the boys’ books for bedtime. Then, I curl up with the book that I gifted myself.

Take Care of Yourself

Speaking of giving gifts to yourself, that’s exactly what you must do. Because while your kids don’t care about the calendar, you do.

I spent my first Christmas without the kids with my best friend’s family. I knew that a “normal” holiday with my parents would only make me miss my kiddos more.

I moped on the couch while they graciously brought me plates of food and glasses of wine. The puzzles, rom-coms and numerous naps helped numb the pain. This past Thanksgiving, I spent with another friend in New York City.

The main goal is to ensure that you are taking care of yourself. The best parent for your kids is the rested, happy parent. Happiness may seem out of reach currently, but do what you can to find slivers of joy.

Focus on Your Kids’ Happiness

When you talk to your kids while they’re with the other parent, make sure that you’re as excited as they are about their festivities. Ask what games they played or the food they ate. You want them to have an amazing holiday, even if you aren’t there to experience it with them.

It may be tempting to make snide comments about your ex-in-laws, but children pick up on the slightest hint of negativity. You want the best for your kids, which means spending time with all their family members, even the ones who haven’t been the kindest to you.

Celebrate this holiday season as a new single parent in whatever way feels best for you. But do remember to seek out joy, whether that’s in people, places or things {such as my new fluffy slippers}.

And I promise, the time apart becomes easier. You will always miss them, but you’ll also find ways to enrich your life so that you can be an even better parent when they are with you.

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