Christmas! Particularly if you are parenting alone, the thought of it can be enough to send stress levels soaring through the roof. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little thought and careful planning we can reduce our stress leading up to the holiday.
1. Keep hold of your finances – it’s tempting to blow your budget on all the trimmings and expensive presents. Expensive presents will soon be forgotten, but spending the day playing and focusing on your child will be a memory that will stay in their mind for years. Remember it’s not the presents but the presence that will be remembered.
2. Shop early – you can get great bargains in the after Christmas and mid-season sales; also, buying throughout the year helps spread the cost.
3. Set up a support system – someone you can talk to if you feel overwhelmed and find the day difficult. (See ‘Help at Christmas’ below.)
4. Keep your menus simple – less preparation and cooking means more time for you to relax and enjoy the festivities.
5. Stick to your usual routine – even though it’s Christmas, children still need structure in their days, and regular bedtimes. Some late nights are fine but it can be stressful if your children are overtired and grumpy, especially when you’re tired too.
6. Make time for your children – it’s easy to rush around with all the preparations and lose sight of what is important. Spend time playing, going for a walk, or maybe listening to some music together. Enjoy your children – they grow up so quickly. Allow each child to choose what activity the family should do one day during the holidays.
7. Don’t feel guilty – it’s always easy for single parents to feel guilty about the time they don’t have or the things they can’t give their children. For you own sense of well-being, focus on the things you do accomplish and the things you do provide. Don’t forget about all the love, attention and comfort you give throughout the year!
8. Decorate together – while it’s tempting to do it all when the children are asleep, putting up the decorations together gives you time to talk, time to listen and, most of all, to be together. Perhaps it could be the start of a new family tradition; you could even make your own decorations.
9. Be consistent with discipline – it may be the holidays, but children need to know that “no” still means “no”. Holidays are a time when children push the boundaries.
10. Establish in advance who the children will spend Christmas day with, so both they and you know what is happening. If you are going to be without the children, plan in advance what you will do; ask friends to help. Don’t just sit at home alone; do something, even if it’s helping at a shelter for the homeless.
11. Make time for yourself – the build-up to Christmas can be exhausting. Make time even if it’s just reading a book, watching a favourite DVD, or taking a warm bath. Setting aside some personal time will give you a chance to refuel. I always buy myself a new book and a big bar of chocolate. Then when the children are at their mother’s, I have something to look forward to.
12. Stay positive – it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and demands of parenting alone. Try to maintain a positive attitude. The best way to deal with stress is to exercise, eat properly (not too many chocolates!) and get enough sleep.