Simplify the Season

Illustration of a single dad decorating a Christmas tree with his two young daughters
Jojo Ensslin

Many single parents secretly dread December. The extra pressures of juggling children, work and Christmas preparations can be stressful. They want to do everything right — the food, the presents, the decorations — and recapture the family intimacy they once knew.

If the Christmas season usually leaves you feeling frazzled and empty, make this year different.

Planning for December

By planning the time carefully, it's possible to focus on the warmth and beauty of the season. To help you see where you can simplify, make three lists: what needs to be done, what events you wish to attend and what gifts you plan to buy.

Next, consider everything on your lists. Which items take time or money but could be eliminated? Are you being too generous with too many people? Excessive generosity may not be possible on a tight budget, and simple gifts can be just as meaningful. To save time and money, watch for items on sale and consider buying several gifts during one shopping trip.

Ask your children what is most and least important to them regarding the holidays. You may be surprised by their answers. Consider skipping the things that don't matter to them, and retire old traditions that have lost their appeal.

All parents want their children to have a great Christmas, but the love and time spent together are what will be most remembered.

Rallying support

Although it's fun to gather with relatives to celebrate the holidays, sometimes the distance and cost make it impossible. But your family doesn't have to celebrate alone. Invite other single-parent families to join you for dessert, for a sledding adventure or to see Christmas light displays.

Friends can offer emotional support and practical help. Don't be afraid to ask your friends and neighbors for small favors. Most people are happy to help if they are able.

As people bless you, think of ways your family can bless others. Even discuss with your kids the possibility of donating to charity, and let them help choose which items to give.

As you simplify the season and connect with other families, you and your children will be better able to focus on the magnificent gift of Christmas.

More Helpful Hints

• Save time and money by shopping online.

• Buy cookies instead of baking them.

• Trim your Christmas card list.

• Choose simple recipes for holiday meals.

• Do what you can in advance.

This article appeared in the December 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2012 by Judy Gyde. Used by permission. 

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