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Tips for Single Parents Coping with Christmas

Tips for Single Parents Coping with Christmas

Today’s blog is written by Daniel Sherwin. Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23 percent of children under 18 years old live with a single mother, and four percent reside with a single father.

Trying to juggle the “hustle and bustle” of the Christmas season along with working full-time and caring for a family is difficult for most people. For single parents, it can be particularly stressful and exhausting.  In addition, children may be suffering from loss or the effects of divorce.  Christmas can be a reminder to all of who is missing at the dinner table.

Psychology Today cites the stressors below that single mothers (and fathers) face this time of year and offers tips for coping:

  • Sleep deprivation – Whether it’s taking on side jobs to afford Christmas gift-giving or trying to keep up with children’s activities and other parenting challenges, single parents often do not get enough sleep. Take the time to get enough rest by letting the housework go every now and then. You may also want to consider setting a nap time for yourself.
  • Loneliness – No matter how you got to be a single parent, it can be lonely. Decorating the tree, answering questions about Santa, sending Christmas cards, and even attending Christmas work events can serve as reminders of your situation.   Fight feelings of isolation by starting new traditions with other single-parent families such as hosting potluck dinners or other social activities.
  • Financial Issues – After divorce or the loss of a partner, single parents often face financial struggles. While you may still want to give your children expensive presents, sometimes it’s just not possible.  Be honest with your children about money in a way that they will understand.  Answer their questions and remind them that you love them.  Rather than feeling guilty about the situation, it can be helpful to think of low-cost or no-cost Christmas activities like baking cookies or taking a drive to look at holiday lights.  Avoid racking up debt to buy your children the latest gadgets or toys.
  • Ongoing conflict with an ex – Divorce and separation are very difficult under normal conditions. Christmas traditions and expectations can exacerbate the situation.  Find ways to focus on your children rather than fighting with each other.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Single Parents

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically starts in late autumn or early winter and goes away during the spring and summer.  While these types of depressive episodes can occur in the summer, they are rare compared with winter incidents of SAD. Like most forms of depression, the disorder is more common among women. Signs of SAD may include difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, feelings of hopelessness, low energy, carbohydrate cravings, and weight gain.

Just when you need an extra dose of energy and instead feel depleted, dealing with Christmas and SAD can be incredibly challenging. Add in the stresses that come with being a single parent, and the situation can become unmanageable.

Experts at the Mayo Clinic agree that light therapy boxes that mirror outdoor light can provide relief for those struggling with SAD.  For some, this therapy along with antidepressants and psychotherapy may be the best course of treatment.  It’s best to talk with your doctor about using a lightbox and additional resources.

Keep Things Simple and Enjoy the Season

With all of the hype around Christmas from retailers, Pinterest, and DIY sites, voices from all sorts of places are happy to tell you what you “should” do with your children.  Leave assembly of the five-story Barbie dream house to another family and participate in activities you and your children enjoy.  For example, if you and your crew love to be outdoors, take your kids to a Christmas tree farm, or if you like crafts, come up with projects your children can take on under your supervision.  Maybe they can make small gifts for their grandparents and their teachers.

Think about the Christmas traditions that were most important to you as a child.  Do you even remember any of the gifts you received?  Instead, you probably think of the people in your life and the traditions that made the season so special.  Think about those things as you manage Christmas as a single parent.  Those are the things your children will remember, too

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