Holiday Survival 101 for the Single Mom

My sister and me at the Whoville tree in Balboa Park
My sister and me at the Whoville tree in Balboa Park

Now, I would never describe myself as a Scrooge by any means, but whenever I hear a Christmas song come on this time of year with the lyrics, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I think to myself, “Really? Do people really think this is the most wonderful time of the year?” Too many activities, freezing cold weather, shopping with the entire planet, dark nearly every waking hour. Surely, these people must not know about summer.

Holidays can set people on edge no matter what situation they are in, but to the separated or divorced the holidays can seem downright frightening. At least they do to me. This year, because of the visitation arrangement, my two boys were with their dad for Thanksgiving. I knew this was going to be hard on me because I have never been away from them for any holiday, and I wouldn’t see them for five days. So, I knew I needed to be proactive about making sure my Thanksgiving was a good one.

I think I succeeded and am looking forward to applying some new tips I’ve learned to this Christmas, as well. I want to share some nuggets of gold I’ve come across in hopes that they may help someone in a situation similar to mine.

  •  Join a support group – Talking with people who are going through a similar life situation can do so much in the way of healing a broken heart. These groups help you recognize emotions, talk through them and allow you to view them as normal. I highly recommend the group DivorceCare. They are nationwide and they even have a special video session tailored around “Surviving the Holidays.” Great stuff. You can find a group or more information here.
  • Have a plan – What are your priorities going to be this year? Know this ahead of time so you are not caught off guard. I decided to skip town for Thanksgiving and go visit my sister and brother-in-law in San Diego. I believe that this was the perfect distraction for me, and although I was constantly thinking of my boys, I did manage to really enjoy the adult time with my family.
  • Don’t attempt to have the holiday “together as a family” – Things are NOT going to be the same. I know personally that this is a very BAD idea. Last Christmas, I was newly separated and, at the time, I was thinking, “The kids want to see their dad.” But, I was a wreck, and kids pick up on that sort of thing. Plus, it may give false hope of a reconciliation which is never a good for the kids. Learn from my “hindsight is 20/20” experience.
  • Take care of yourself – Don’t overdo things. Relax. Lower your expectations; chances are they are too high anyway. I have to admit, I may be failing at following this tip… however… I’ll commit to working on this one.
  • Don’t isolate yourself – Let people who love you help you out. Really, they want to. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it. Cry on people’s shoulders. They may not understand what you are going through, but I can tell you that if you surround yourself with friends and family who want the best for you, you will feel the positive flowing from them. You need that.
  • Focus on what is important – For me, this is thinking about the greatest gift of all time: Jesus, Emmanuel, God With Us. My boys, my family, my friends. My health and my many, many blessings.

I’m pretty sure that even if you follow these tips to the letter, you will probably not find yourself belting out the lyrics, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” However, you just might find yourself a little better off than if you hadn’t. And isn’t that what we really want? A life slightly improved?

Wishing you all true Peace and Joy this holiday season, but if you can’t have that, I hope you can somehow survive until January 1. Or spring. Spring sounds good.


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Jennifer is a single mom of two boys. She does her best to get to places on time, despite being a chronically late person and the fact that neither she or her boys are morning people. She recently went back into the classroom after staying home for nine years to raise her kids, and she credits her sanity and success at this endeavor to the fact that she has incredibly supportive parents, family, and friends. She also has a network of single moms that truly “get it” and who encourage her on a daily basis. When she’s not hanging out with her kiddos, Jennifer enjoys writing at a coffee shop, trying new restaurants, or catching up with friends.


  1. I am going to focus on my two girls and making their Christmas as Merry and Bright as possible. I want to make a new “Tradition” that the three of us can do together.

  2. They say misery loves company, when you’re a single mom you look for other single moms and make marvelous. My first year with out the kids I thought i would just die. luckily girlfriends turned a painful experience into a joyful one. I got to shop with no kids and eat an adult meal not in my car or from drive thru. Oh and don’t try to compete with the ex on gifts, afterall, you did all the shopping and the gift of life
    trumps them all. New traditions to keep tidings of comfort and joy.


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