11 October 2023

How to handle your first Christmas as a single parent

Lucy Reding Senior Associate

The festive period is often portrayed as a time of joy, togetherness, and family - but if you’re facing your first Christmas after a divorce or separation, it can feel daunting and become an emotionally charged time.

Coping with the changes in family dynamics and finding a new normal can be tough. Remember, you're not alone in this journey.

Lucy Reding, senior solicitor, explores some practical strategies to help you navigate your first Christmas as a single parent with intention and resilience.

1. Coordinate plans with your former spouse

It might be hard, but it’s essential that you coordinate with your former spouse when it comes to arranging schedules, gift-giving, and other holiday arrangements.

This not only ensures a smooth experience for everyone involved, but it also avoids any potentially uncomfortable confrontations or difficult situations.

2. Make plans well in advance

Plan ahead to avoid last-minute stress. Make a list of the activities you’d like to do with your children during the holiday season, and set a budget to prevent overspending.

As well as cutting out aggravation over Christmas, this will also allow you greater opportunities to enjoy experiences you might otherwise have missed and enable you to make the most of your time together! 

3. Communicate with your children

Encouraging your children to engage in open and honest communication with you is crucial during this time.

Talk to your children about what they may be feeling and let them know it's okay to express their emotions. Encourage them to communicate their wishes and concerns, and work together to find solutions that make the holidays enjoyable for everyone.

4. Embrace your emotions

It's natural to feel a mix of emotions at this time of year. You may experience sadness, anger, loneliness, or even relief. Whatever sentiment is swirling around your head, it’s important to process them in real-time instead of bottling them up - which is likely to compound problems further down the line or cause those emotions to be expressed or portrayed when you are with your children or towards your children. 

Find a trusted friend or therapist to talk to, as sharing your feelings can be therapeutic and help you process what you're going through.

5. Create new traditions 

Part of the reason Christmas without the kids can seem daunting is the changing family traditions. After all, traditions are a big part of the festive season, so the absence or change can come as an unwelcome surprise. It is better to focus on the future and the unique opportunity you have to create new traditions with your children. 

You could involve your children in brainstorming and planning these traditions so that they’re actively engaging and involved in the decisions for their Christmas time. They could be as simple as cooking together or watching a family-favourite movie, but approaching it with intention and interest will make all the difference. Take this opportunity to start fresh traditions that allow everyone to look forward to the holidays with excitement.

6. Manage your expectations 

You can still have a ‘holly jolly Christmas’, but adjusting your expectations is key to navigating this first Christmas after a separation successfully. 

Be flexible, open to change and, most importantly, do not compare yourself to other family snaps you might see on social media. Remember, most people present an image of themselves online that is carefully cultivated, so comparing yourself to others in this way can be incredibly upsetting. Instead of aiming for what is perceived to be perfection, focus on creating a loving and harmonious atmosphere for your children and yourself.

7. Christmas: now and in the future

Even if you’re in the midst of a contentious separation, you don't have to go through this alone. Practical advice during a difficult time can help you navigate these new challenges.

If you’re unable to come to an agreement with your former partner, talking to a family law solicitor may help you reach compromises or arrangements that let both parties enjoy a happy Christmas time with the children -both this year and in years to come.

If you or someone you know requires assistance in relation to the arrangements for their children and wants expert advice on how to take the next steps, get in touch today.

Lucy Reding, Wilkin Chapman LLP
Need help?

Contact Lucy to discuss this further.

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