Christmas is a week away (which is hard to believe), but for the single father’s out there, this can be a difficult time of year. While you most certainly face challenges all year long, the holidays seem to bring about their own unique set. Below are some of the most common obstacles you might face, as well as some helpful tips to overcome them so that your holiday season can be merry and bright.

The “Who Gets Them” Debate

If your single parenthood status stems from a separation or divorce, the holidays bring the inevitable debate over who gets the kids this year. If you don’t already have an agreed upon holiday schedule, it’s time that you get one. Perhaps the two of you would prefer to alternate years, or maybe you can switch off between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The key here is flexibility, so this could mean having your extended family’s holiday party a week early or late, or moving around scheduled time together to accommodate your child’s holiday schedule. As your child gets older, he or she will have their own events to attend such as plays, musicals, and holiday parties with friends. Even if your ex isn’t in the picture, there may be grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins vying for that quality time together that the holidays bring about. Remember, it’s okay to say no, but a happy compromise is a good compromise. Keep your children involved in whatever plan you make, and be open to their response, whether positive or negative.

Altered Traditions

Perhaps in years past when the two of you were together, you all read a special Christmas book together or decorated ornaments. It can be hard for children to understand why things are different this year, but this offers an opportunity for you to start your own traditions with them. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are together, because that’s what the holidays encompass – cherishing precious moments together with family and friends, and being grateful for the little 10-fingered blessings in your life. Plus, there are plenty of fun activities that can become an annual event such as decorating cookies, singing carols, or enjoying baked holiday treats in your matching onesie pajamas. This year might also be a great time for you to teach your children about being thankful for what they have by giving back. You could donate your time to a local charity, encourage your children to donate old toys and clothes, or find a family in need and give them a Christmas they’ll never forget.

Negative Comparisons

It can be hard to resist the temptation to compare yourself to other families’ holiday situations, whether it is that of a friend, co-worker, or that seemingly perfect family on the Hallmark channel. However, every family is unique, and negative comparisons lead to a negative mindset of self-loathing and depression, further fueling holiday stress. Rather than waste your time on meaningless comparisons, focus your thoughts on ways you can improve yourself this year and next and be the best version of yourself. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing.” Not taking care of yourself affects everyone around you, including your children, so amidst all the holiday chaos take some time for yourself whether it is taking advantage of a quiet moment to meditate or finally reading that book you’ve been wanting to open before bed each night.

As a single parent, the holiday season can be a difficult time to navigate. There are various obstacles you might face such as agreeing upon a holiday schedule or coping with the fact that some traditions might have to change. You may even find that the obstacles you face come from within, such as comparing your situation to that of others. Just remember, you already have the greatest gift of all – your children.

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