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