After a divorce, it’s not uncommon for the holidays to feel overwhelming, especially as you’re trying to learn the ropes of shared parenting time. The holidays can unfortunately serve as a reminder that with divorce comes a shifted family unit dynamic, and in turn those holiday traditions you shared as a family may no longer bring the same sense of joy that they once did. If you’re in the midst of reinventing your holiday rituals as a single parent, the following are great Christmas tradition ideas to get into the holiday spirit, and that your kids can learn to associate with their new holiday dynamic:
- Making a tradition out of putting the Christmas tree up and decorating the house is a great way for you and your children to officially announce the coming of Christmas season. If possible, dedicating a specific date to start can amp up the excitement (say, December 1st, or maybe the day after Thanksgiving). Parents who practice shared parenting time understand that there’s not always the guarantee that you’ll have a kids on a specific day every year, so make it as broad as you need to in order to ensure the kids don’t feel like they’re missing out (say, the first weekend of December that they’re with you). Throw on some Christmas music, bake some cookies, and pull out all the decorations—make it a festive day for all!
- Baking cookies for Santa and them out on a table, along with some milk and a letter, is a classic holiday tradition that has a way of making Christmas Eve feel absolutely magical for young children. A similar idea is making reindeer food out of oats and glitter and sprinkling it in the backyard for Santa’s Reindeers. Even if your kids are with your ex next Christmas, you can still carry out the tradition and send a photo or skype with them to let them know that you’re waiting for Santa to arrive. Even being away, they’ll likely still feel the magic of the moment.
- Make a tradition out of watching one Christmas-themed movie a week leading up to Christmas. This way, even if your kids are away for the week or on weekends, you’ll likely still have a chance to implement a fun movie and get in the Christmas spirit. Add a little fun by buying matching pajamas and wearing them together as a family.
- Buying a meaningful ornament every year around the holiday season is a great way to establish a holiday tradition that also incorporates a time of reflection. Make it a yearly event to purchase an ornament for your Christmas tree that you feel embodies a sweet memory or a valuable lesson experienced or learned over the last calendar year.
- If you don’t have your kids with you around the holiday season, it’s not uncommon for the house to feel empty. Counteract this by hosting an annual gingerbread house contest at your house with friends. Participating in a holiday event with friends, along with a little competition, is a great way of getting in the Christmas spirit amongst a community of people that you enjoy.
- If it’s looking like you may be spending Christmas alone this year, volunteering at a hospital or soup kitchen is a great way of integrating a greater sense of purpose by serving and blessing others in need on Christmas day. Making this your holiday tradition every other year on the Christmas’s that you don’t have children is a great way to shift your focus on helping others, and will in turn surround you with people who are all coming together to offer aid.
Changing your family dynamic during the holidays can be an emotional process, and it can be difficult figuring out how to lay past rituals to rest, while promoting new traditions. If you’re at this crossroads in life, we hope these suggestions can help spark some new ideas of how to redefine the holidays as a single adult or parent.