5 ways to break practiced patterns of pessimism surrounding Christmas

Each draft of this blog I started in different ways but kept ending up in the same place.  It was like my words spilled out, flowing into the ruts of practiced patterns of pessimism.

Practiced patterns of pessimism

So, let’s get the negatives out of the way, naming them and recognising that for some single parents, Christmas can be fraught with difficulties:

  • Just saying the word increases your stress levels as you think about strained finances and trying to buy Christmas presents on top of an already stressed budget.
  • It can remind you what has been lost – the loss of a significant other from your life and now there’s been no one to buy you that special present and no one to plan what to buy the kids and enjoy wrapping their gifts together.
  • Instead of doing Christmas as a family you may now have to share care, negotiate with the other parent and plan with precision who will have the children when and how handover will take place.
  • If the other parent is absent this may increase the pain for the children,
  • Christmas can create a sense of isolation and failure as you feel like everyone is gathering in perfect families together whilst you are doing life on your own.
  • Some single parents may end up spending some of Christmas alone.
  • There can be anger at the situation.
  • There may be sadness that there aren’t as many presents under the tree as there used to be.

I could keep listing and I think that would just reinforce the practiced patterns of pessimism that exist with single parents at Christmas time. So enough of the difficulties.

All the negatives may cloud your perception of Christmas and obscure the joy. But your kids may not be seeing it like that.

Part of your role of being a parent is creating happy childhood memories of Christmas for your children. So how can you do this?

  1. Remember the positive feelings of Christmas from your childhood

Think back to your childhood memories of Christmas. For most children Christmas is a time of great joy, expectation, food, family, presents, pageants, Father Christmas. In Australia it’s the long school holidays so it’s a time of catching up with friends. The weather is warm so there is swimming, daylight saving so staying out in daylight hours till early evening. It’s a time of relaxation and fun.

Plan how you can do some of these things with your children over the Christmas holidays.

  1. Role model

You are a role model to your children. They will be picking up cues from you about Christmas. If they see your doom and gloom, your pain will colour their view of Christmas.

So, find ways to deal with the difficulties of Christmas so that you can find your joy in Christmas.

It may look different from how you always thought it will be. You may need to grieve again your dream of the happy family and what Christmas looks like in this fairytale. Find someone that you can express your hurt and your grief to. This could be a friend, make sure they are safe, or it could be in a formal counselling session, but process your grief so Christmas pricks the wound less.

  1. Reframe some of the difficulties of Christmas into opportunities.

Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

When the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by, I am spending part of Christmas alone, this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe it to saying,  ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’ Click here to read more

  1. Put the children first.

Find ways to negotiate with the other parent keeping any angst and difficulties away from the children. Click here to read the blog  The one step when dealing with the other parent.

  1. Find ways to create new family memories around Christmas.

Firstly, remember you are a family. Click here to read 8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one. Find ways to play as a family. You can also play as an adult.

Putting legs on it

Identify your practiced patterns of pessimism and seek help if you need it to deal with the grief or anger.

How can you reframe Christmas into an opportunity for you and your family?

Think of one new family activity you can do that will become part of your family experience and memories of Christmas.

Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash

 

How to reframe the problem of Christmas into an opportunity

Whose turn is it for Christmas?

The difficulties of shared care at Christmas can tarnish its celebration. However, you can reframe the problem into an opportunity.

frames-jessica-ruscello

Last time we talked about the other parent and Christmas is one of those times that the other parent will feature in your planning. You know the questions and statements: Who will have the kids on Christmas day? You had the kids last year, it’s my turn! My family’s having the big event with all the distant relatives coming so they should spend time with me. Whose house will they wake in? Not all of these are asked or delivered nicely!

There may be competition with present giving. There may be complications with wanting to take the kids away on holidays. Plus there are budget issues and potentially time alone. I’m sure you can add to the difficulties that arise at this time of year.

My family live interstate and when it was my ex’s turn for Christmas I had two choices: travel and celebrate with my family and miss seeing my kids for Christmas, or stay at home and see my kids for some of the day and spend the rest of the day alone.  Christmas can be a difficult time.

So with all that dross, how do you make Christmas the time of enjoyment and celebration that it is meant to be?

Reframe it.

Reframing is defined as ‘frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.’ 1Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

So, in my example when the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by, I am spending part of Christmas alone, this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe it saying,  ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’

The ‘something different’ some years was having a meal with a friend and her large family who always welcomed me as part of their Christmas celebration. Another year it was getting together with a group of single mothers who were also child free and we enjoyed a meal of take away chicken and salads on the best china, no cooking and no kids interrupting the conversation. In all of this I can reframe my Christmas with the positive statement, ‘I don’t have to cook.’ I don’t enjoy cooking and I’m not very good at it – I have exploded a roast chicken.

Other ways to enjoy Christmas

Create new family traditions that don’t revolve around Christmas day such as looking at Christmas lights, attending a Christmas pageant, visiting Santa or attending community events. We would go to Carols by Candlelight in the local park, sit our chairs with friends and the kids would meet up with their friends from the local primary school. The kids were always excited when the notice and lights went up in the big pine tree in the park because it signalled the start of Christmas festivities.

You can develop a routine leading up to Christmas to create your family’s Christmas tradition which allows freedom for who the kids will be spending time with on Christmas day. Shared care on Christmas can be part of the tradition!

What have you done that creates a tradition or reframes Christmas? Please share you thoughts in the comments as this could help someone else.

Reminder: ‘what is best for the kids?’

Using the word ‘turn’ to describe who the kids will spend time with makes them sound like a pawn in a game, dehumanising the impact this has on their lives. It’s about us, the parent getting our needs met, not what is best for the children. We should consider them in our deliberations and conversations. See blog the one step in dealing with other parent

‘When dealing with a parenting partner, the golden rule is the children should be paramount in all considerations, with their welfare being of the utmost importance. Put the children first’.

Putting legs on it

Write down your thoughts about Christmas.  Now reframe them and tell yourself ‘the reframed story’ rather than the ‘woe is me’ one.

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter
Resources

University of the Sunshine Coast: reframing your thinking http://www.usc.edu.au/media/3850/Reframingyourthinking.pdf

For children’s books to support children in shared care arrangements (Christian content) ‘Caught in the Middle’ and ‘My two houses’ click here

References

  1. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=reframing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=ga80WMi9OcqEogO41p_wBw

Photo credit Jessica Ruscello unsplash.com