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Vivienne Smith is a writer, trainer, presenter, transformational coach and certified NLP and Hypnosis practitioner. In this guest blog Vivienne shares her practical tips on being a single parent during the festive season.
Christmas is around the corner and already the customary Christmas madness is in full swing. It seems like every other advert on TV is showing happy families gathered around the Christmas table, tucking into a festive feast – or snuggled up and cosy around a Christmas tree, a small child squealing with delight at the perfect gift, whilst its proud parents hold hands and smile.
But what if you can’t see any chance of achieving that happy scene? Whilst out shopping one day I overheard a woman talking to her friend about trying to get into the festive spirit for her children’s sake; it was obviously proving to be a struggle, because she herself wasn’t feeling full of Christmas cheer. Christmas can seem like an especially cruel way of reminding you that you and your little family don’t fit in to those idealised ideas. I still remember my first Christmas as a single mum and how very bleak that midwinter was for me. Despite the valiant attempts of my mum and dad and my two sisters to create some Christmas cheer, it was hard to come to terms with the fact that it was my baby’s very first Christmas and his father wasn’t there. I had no home of my own, very little money – even to buy presents – and the future looked anything but rosy. Then later on (and still to this day) came the challenge of Christmas without my children, when they spent it with their father.
If you are secretly dreading Christmas then please know you are not alone, even though it may feel like everyone is having a wonderful time except you.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking in a positive way about possibilities this season. It’s so tempting isn’t it to succumb to the advertising or your child nagging you to buy the latest gadget or gizmo. And it would be so easy to have a massive spending spree, pile it all on the credit card. But once the Christmas Feast is over, you may be faced with famine for the months afterwards as you try to pay all the debt back. What I’d like to suggest is a reality check ? both for you and maybe also for the children. Perhaps you’ll choose to put a cap on spending this year – if the children are older you could discuss this as a family – and then get creative, seeing how far your budget will stretch and maybe even exploring the many second-hand or reconditioned or even home-made items that you could give that won’t break the bank. You might consider sharing the Christmas meal with a friend who also has children – it can be a great way to split the cost, the chores and the cooking. It also means extra people to read out the corny cracker jokes and play games with!
What were your favourite traditions as a child? Are there any you could reinstate with your own child this year? Or perhaps this year you could create some new ones, as a family. Even if you don’t normally bake, get baking some Christmas goodies and get children, regardless of age, to join in. Jobs could range from measuring up the ingredients, to reading the recipe, to mixing, cutting out the shapes and decorating. Then everyone can participate in the best bits – licking out the mixing bowl and eating the results! Channel your INNER ELF and spend all evening wearing reindeer horns, or a Santa hat. Play some old-fashioned games like charades or scrabble (you can even play scrabble on the iPad these days). Read Christmas stories, snuggle up together with a mug of hot chocolate and watch your favourite films. Just make it fun and have some family bonding time.
If you’re on your own this season, how could you treat yourself that day? Or perhaps you could do something totally different, like volunteering for a Christmas charity, like Crisis at Christmas? Which other day will you elect to be the new stand-in Christmas day with your children? Agree a time with your ex when you can have a telephone conversation with your child. Make it all about them and keep it light and cheerful. You can ask a series of questions, like: ‘What was your best present?’, ‘Have you played any good Christmas games?’, ‘What are you having for your Christmas meal?’. Even if you are feeling sad you can reassure your child that you are fine by not letting on – at least for the duration of a phone call.
For me, the best gift you can give your child this Christmas is happy memories.
Below I have included a link to a free podcast about coping with Christmas, this audio recording comes from a live webinar which I hosted. It will provide you with a host of encouraging tips and tricks for not only coping with Christmas as a single mum but making it memorable for all the right reasons. Click here for your free audio guide.