The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year. There’s a lot of fellowship and family time with big family dinners and delicious desserts. I have fond memories of crowding in front of the television to look for Snoopy in the Thanksgiving Parade. And I waited all year long to watch Charlie Brown and his friends gather around that sad Christmas tree. The holidays can be a wonderful time of year, but sometimes it can be a time of stress and discontent, especially if you are a single parent.
The hardest part of being a single mom (for me) is navigating the waters of time sharing with my ex husband. During mediation things went smoothly until we started trying to figure out visits and time sharing for the boys. We were able to agree on the regular every day schedule but when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas we hit a stalemate. After 45 minutes of going back and forth the mediation ended without a decision. We did finally come to an agreement but I had to step away, pray and really think things through.
If you are in a situation where you are sharing your children during the holidays, I know that it can be a hard thing. We are used to having our families together for these special times, and it can be devastating when that doesn’t happen anymore. I have been that mom – sad, depressed and lonely without my sweet boys. It hurts, but there is hope. I want to share some suggestions that have worked for us and just encourage you not to lose your joy this holiday season.
Maintain the Status Quo
If at all possible try to keep your child’s holiday routine and traditions the same. I know that it may be difficult. For a long time I went through a time when I took my children to places where I was clearly not welcomed or wanted because I didn’t want them to miss out on time with their dad’s side of the family. For birthdays and holidays I would show up with my boys and then retreat to a quiet corner in the room or sit outside on the porch while they enjoyed time with their cousins and grandparents. I kept this up until the day that I was called and told not to come over at all.
If you cannot maintain the status quo, the next thing you need to try is compromise. Find the best way that you can to make sure that your children have time with all the important people their lives. Our compromise is for my boys to spend Thanksgiving morning and the first half of the afternoon with me and then the second half with their father. For Christmas they spend the night on the 23rd with their dad and and then come home for church service on the 24th and we open our gifts on the 25th.
Make New Traditions
One thing that has been really helpful for us to make some new traditions. Show your children that you are still a family. My boys and I started serving at a local homeless shelter during the holiday season. I wasn’t sure at first that my little ones would do more than get in the way, but it has been a blessing to all of us. I got to see my boys working hard: helping with trash, handing out napkins, and helping with drinks. I smiled as I watched my then 3 year walk from table to table telling people, “God loves you.”
Last year for the Christmas season I started an advent calendar with my boys. Each day from December 1-25 we would read a story book about the birth of Jesus. They loved every minute of it. It was also a great way to help then countdown to the day that we would celebrate the birth of Christ and the day that they would get to spend the night with their dad.