This article about navigating Christmas as a single mum was last updated in 2021.
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 makes it easy to forget about the joy and lose connection with what is important.
If this is your first Christmas after separation or divorce, this time of the year brings with it a whole new set of changes and challenges to negotiate. It’s likely to be a highly emotional and complicated time for newly divorced families.
Yes, it’s going to be different, but 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, not you, your needs, your traditions. Focus on what works best for the kids. 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 THINGS 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!
Tips for navigating your first solo Christmas (cont.)
GIFTS NOT COMPETITIONS
Try to decide in consultation 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 AS 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. Keep travel on Christmas Day to a minimum. Can you keep the kids in one location and get the adults to move in and out of that space? 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.
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.
In need of Christmas gift ideas? Look no further …