The holidays, with all their trimmings, have arrived, and for many it is a time for lavish family gatherings and holiday cheer. The endless Hallmark Christmas specials stream over the airwaves and the messages they reflect are like neon signs flashing, “Joy To The World” for all those gathering around their warm and cozy fireplaces.
However, for many single parents, the holidays are less than joyful. Many are attending the festivities with or without their children, minus a significant other for the very first time. This can bring up feelings of sadness, depression, hopelessness, grief, loss and overwhelming loneliness. Suddenly, they are observing the holiday cheer from the outside with despair and desperation.
The Census Bureau reports there are more than 11 million single parents in the United States that are doing the holidays solo this year.
CREATE NEW TRADITIONS
The solution for many single parents is to create new holiday rituals. They realize that they have continued to do things the “same old, same old” as holidays gone by just because old messages tell them they are supposed to. When they begin to shake up the old traditions and create new ones, single parents begin to experience a sense of profound freedom and empowerment.
Maybe this season is one of giving back. Perhaps this year, you can visit a nursing home with cookies for the patients or a domestic violence shelter with goodies for the children, or clothes that no longer fit from your closet for the moms.
Accommodating new traditions teaches children the value of acceptance and tolerance. They learn that the holidays can be celebrated in many different forms, and that there is not just one way to experience them. Psychotherapists who work with single-parent families suggest that new rituals can combat the pain of past memories or alleviate feeling left out in a two-parent world.
One mother journals during the holidays to help purge her feelings of loneliness and grief and takes stock of all the blessings she has received, as well as the endless possibilities of joy and abundance for the coming year.
DEVELOP A SUPPORT SYSTEM
For many single parents, creating a network of other single-parent families can be very effective in reducing the feelings of alienation and isolation during the holidays. It allows children to realize that they are not the only ones that come from a single-parent household. Starting your own single-parent support group, or inviting other single-parent families over for the holidays can increase your chances of being a participant during this jovial season, rather than feeling left out observing others having all the fun.
CO- PARENTING MINDFULLY
Preparing your children for “who gets whom” during the holidays is imperative. Children do much better when knowing what to expect. Ask them for their input as to how they want to spend their holidays, and keep in mind that teenagers also need time with their friends. Children who are away from one parent often find it difficult and need to feel safe and secure at the other parent’s house. Creating a sacred space for them with some of their comforting things from home can alleviate some of the stress. It is important for the primary custodial parent to keep in touch regularly with their children by email or telephone. They can even send small notes in stocking stuffers letting them know they are missed and how much they are loved. Keeping the lines of communication open with the other parent can eliminate hostility, resentment and conflict during this stressful time.
There are various options parents can take with the holiday schedule. Celebrate the eve of the holiday at one home and the day of the holiday at the other, for instance. This way, children get the best of both worlds. If both parents feel comfortable celebrating together, the children will receive the benefits, as long as it is a peaceful environment. Studies suggest decreasing conflicts between co-parents in front of their children is the best indicator of better adjustment later on in their lives. In addition, don’t burden your child by making them feel guilty as to where they are going to spend the holidays. Also, don’t over-indulge them with lavish gifts because you yourself feel guilty for not being there, or because they are a product of divorce. This type of guilt will only make your child feel entitled and can cause problems for them later on. This teaches children the value of money, and that gift-giving can be a source of creativity by making gifts if money is tight.
HOLIDAYS AS A SINGLETON
Now is the perfect time to pamper yourself, travel and, above all, be good to yourself. Throw away the guilty hat, and make time for you. How about taking up yoga? Going to the spa? Skiing in Vail?Cruising to Mexico or Italy – go ahead and be a kid. Seize the holidays with pure pleasure and decadence while the kids are away. Buy some gifts and wrap them up for you. You deserve it! And if you need to shed some tears, go ahead. There is nothing more healing than having a good cry.
Take your power back. Stop thinking about what the holidays “should” be and make them what they are, right now in this moment. Live in gratitude for what you do have. Stop blaming him or her for your blues and make the paradigm shift of honoring the family you do have. Take the time this holiday season to slow down, take a deep breath of joy and let out a breath of compassion for you, your children and for the universe.
TIPS TO CONQUER THE HOLIDAY BLUES
- Accept that the holidays are going to be different and new, but that doesn’t mean it has to be less-than or damaged.
- Be mindful and grateful for what you do have: Make a gratitude list of the abundance you have right now.
- Discuss co-parenting issues in advance so there are no surprises.
- Get into the spirit of being, rather than doing so that each moment that passes you are awake, open and available to experience all the endless wonders and miracles that surround you this holiday season.
Stay tuned to Sherry’s first teleseminar in January on “Finding your Purpose with Intention” from her book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery. Go to her Website, www.sgabatherapy.com, to receive your free Relapse Prevention Report or http://thelawofsobriety.com/ to buy your book today.