Life is extremely unpredictable and can hit you when you least expect it. Being a Disney kid, I was a believer of true love, lasting marriage, and children – all in that order. Never in a million years would I have predicted that I’d end up a single parent in my thirties with my child only with me 50 per cent of the time. I come from a family who took their “till-death-do-you-part” marriage vows seriously. So having a failed relationship wasn’t something naïve-little-me was set out to experience. But that’s what happened not too long ago and I’ve been trying to make the best out of the situation ever since.

Now that the holiday season is here, I have to admit my emotions have been on rollercoaster mode. One minute you’re fine and the next you get teary over a silly advertisement. It’s tough to ignore all the marketing images of happy two-parent families tossing their toddlers into the air (and worse when you know your ex has coupled up and this is what they’re probably doing with your kid/s). Did you know that according to research done by Saatchi and Saatchi, 77 per cent of lone parents state that companies don’t consider the realities of single parenting when developing marketing campaigns, services, and products? But I digress…

So what happens then when life throws you a similar curve ball?

How does one brave the holidays as a first time single parent?

It’s certainly easy for other people to urge you to stay positive and hang in there but anyone in the thick of it will tell you it isn’t that straight forward. Trust me, I know first-hand. Though it may be difficult to remain jolly in such a life-altering situation, it’s important to be open to the changes that are taking place and try to gain new perspectives on it all.

Start Something New
Time for new beginnings so create a new tradition for you and your kids, Bake Christmas cookies together, watch a movie and camp out in the living room the night before Christmas, engage in craft-making, take a road-trip etc. Basically start something special that you will be able to do every year as a family.

Work on a child visitation plan with your ex
Initiate healthy communication with your ex by working on a holiday visitation schedule which gives your kids equal time with both parents. (Examples: Mornings with you, afternoons with your ex or if distance is an issue…this holiday with your ex and the next with you etc) Bear in mind that compromises and reasonable considerations should be practiced as much as possible to help reduce friction and stress. It’s a long co-parenting journey for you both so the more amicable the relationship is the better for you and most importantly your children. Things aren’t going to magically be smooth; it’s consistent and constant communication with your ex (in regards to your children and all aspects regarding them) that will help ease matters in the long haul.

Set your intention so you don’t end up drifting
Put a goal in place. In this case, make the holidays a special time for you and your kids and focus on that. This way you’ll keep your focus on what’s important and that is ensuring your kids’ needs come first above all else.

Refrain from overspending
You may feel the need to make up to your kids for this difficult time by overcompensating on gifts and treats. But the last thing you need right now is to rack up a debt as a single parent. Though it’s ok to splurge if you have the means but at the end of the day what your children really need more than anything right now is for you to be present. And real talk, there really is no better and meaningful gift than the security of your time, attention, love, and care.

Enjoy some me-time
You have been through a lot and you really should be good to yourself. Take time out to enrich and nourish your soul. During days your children are with your ex, participate in activities that you enjoy. Taking a well deserved break from life’s challenges will help you appreciate and enjoy time with your offspring even more.

I hope some of these tips will help you in some way. It’s not easy navigating the waters as a new single parent, but it’s not the end of the world either. For people like us, it’s onwards and upwards, mainly for the sake of our children. Here’s to a year of love and hope!

Story by S, a single parent living in Brisbane.