8 Tips for navigating your first Christmas as a single mum

first Christmas single mum

Christmas. It’s supposed to be joyful. But, for many families it’s stressful and overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost in the craziness of finishing work, shopping, catching up with friends and family, and focusing on getting everything done. The mental and emotional load eclipses the joy and we lose connection with what is important. This is especially true if you are navigating your first Christmas as a single mum.

Yes, if this is your very first Christmas after separation or divorce, you might feel apprehensive and overly stressed. It can be a highly emotional and complicated time.

We are here to tell you that, although it will be different, it can still be meaningful and joyful.

Below are my six top tips for navigating your first Christmas as a single mum.

6 Tips for navigating your first Christmas as a single mum

Focus on the kids

Keep it about the kids … always. Focus 100% on what works best for them.

Things have changed, Christmas plans and traditions included. Let go of the story you might want to tell yourself about it not being ‘fair’. Park your own sadness at having to spend Christmas Day (or at least every second one) by yourself and just do what will work best for your children.

Organise the festivities early

Knowing what’s coming helps everyone, especially kids, offset anxiety. It also gives them time to contact Santa and let him know where they’ll be.

For many kids who move between parents, this is a MAJOR cause of anxiety in the lead up to Christmas. Once they’re certain Santa will be able to find them, the anxiety eases. Knowing the plans in advance gives everyone time to adjust to a new normal.

Tell Santa where your kids will be

There are plenty of creative ways you can help your kids do this. A letter posted or left out at night for the elves to collect. If you have Santa’s (aka your BF’s number with the name changed) number in your phone, the children can text him and he will respond. Super useful for those days you need some help keeping everyone’s name off the ‘naughty’ list too!

See: Personalised messages from Santa: 7 Ways to make it happen.

Don't burnout

The build-up to Christmas can be pretty full-on for us single mums.

Make sure you find a balance in the busy lead-up to Christmas so you don’t end up having a meltdown on Christmas day from built up tension and/or exhaustion (is does happen).

If your kids see you happy, relaxed and enjoying your first Christmas a single mum, they will enjoy their Christmas too. Which is the best reason ever to take it easy, give yourself a break and go with the festive flow.

Tips for navigating your first solo Christmas (cont.)

Gifts not competitions

Try to decide with your co-parent who will give what. If you’ve always given a joint gift from Mum and Dad, this may still be possible. The loot from Santa can be split across both homes or left all at one, depending on your arrangement. If you’re not able to agree and it needs to be separate, make sure it’s not about who gives the biggest, best and most expensive present (kids do eventually see through that).

Gifts can be homemade or creative – a frame with a photo of your kids for their Dad, favourite baked treats for siblings little, or (and this is my favourite all-time gift from my girl) a lucky dip jar of ideas for time spent together on Family Dates. A beautiful gift of time (the time she spent making the list) that keeps on giving throughout the year. Support your kids to give something to their other parent; teach them that generosity and kindness are important tools of healing.

Keep your first Christmas a single mum simple

Trying to fit everyone and everything into the one day is impossible. All you will do is stress yourself and your kids. No-one will have a good time, least of all you.

Keep the day as simple as you can because the simpler the plans, the less chance they can go wrong! Keep travel on Christmas Day to a minimum as no-one wants to spend this special day moving from A to B. Keep gifts simple, thoughtful and inexpensive. Pre-cook or outsource the food. One dish and a simple salad is perfect. Fish fingers, chicken nuggets and potato gems would do it too.

Simplicity is golden when you are navigating your first Christmas as a single mum.


For many kids, the best and simplest way for Christmas to work after divorce is for it to be turn-about. One year it’s with Mum, the next it’s with Dad. Be willing to compromise and change things for the sake of the kids. So, Christmas has always been at your family’s beach house 3 hours’ drive from home? Maybe it can’t be this year and you all have to find new traditions and new ways to celebrate.

Many bi-nuclear families find they end up celebrating Christmas twice, once on Christmas Day and then again on Boxing Day. Santa is pretty cool at adjusting deliveries to suit different plans and is often happy to split the delivery over two nights/homes.

Learn and adapt for next Christmas

In all honesty, the first Christmas after divorce or separation is going to be a bit shaky, and it’s unlikely you’ll get it right first time.

Don’t get the Christmas guilts and beat yourself up if everything wasn’t perfect. Instead, know that you did your absolute best and you can use what didn’t go to plan as a lesson to make next year better.

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Sallyanne Hartnell

About the author

Hi. I’m Sallyanne. I’m a Relationship Coach, Separation & Divorce Strategist for women at a crossroad in their relationship. I support women to reclaim their identity, reconnect to themselves and redefine their future. Whether you’re in a relationship wanting a deeper connection, wondering whether to stay or go, stepping out and navigating the messy middle or newly solo, I support you to come back to yourself first, help you identify what you most need, and create a plan forward.

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