Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
The holidays – especially Christmas – can be hard on single parents. It seems that the number one priority of most people during this time of year is gifts – specifically, getting the right ones. But we all know that gifts are not the true reasons behind the traditions of this time of year. Regardless of your religious or cultural background, the holidays are so much more than buying, giving, and receiving presents. So how, as a single parent, can you get past the stress, pressure, and money-draining activities of the holidays?
The hardest part of the solution is to decide that you have the backbone to stand up to the pressures of family and friends. Regardless of what they expect or want from you, it is time for you to decide that you need to do what is best for your family and you. Believe me, I well understand how much pressure family can exert. They use every tactic available to guilt you into doing what they want instead of what you think is best. But remember this, while they are the family you grew up with, you now have a family of your own who deserves to be your first priority. Then make that first step and don’t look back…
Next you must decide what traditions are the most important to you and what you most want your children to remember about family traditions when they are grown. It is simply impossible to do everything that makes the holidays brighter – especially when you are a single parent. You are already dividing your time between job, children, family, friends, and a variety of other responsibilities. When the holidays make their demands on your time, money, and efforts, you have to pick and choose what you most wish to convey to your children.
I suggest that you narrow your most important traditions down to three. I realize this is an almost impossible chore because there are so many wonderful traditions that go along with the holidays. Decide for yourself what three traditions you want your children to remember all their lives and what three traditions you would like to see them pass down to their own children. These are the three that you make the highlights of your holidays.
Holiday baking and all the fun that goes along with it; religious or cultural traditions; music; decorations; hot chocolate and a Christmas Eve reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. You may have time for more than three of your favorites, but the three you pick will be the three that you always make time for, even if there isn’t time for anything else. They will be the highlights of your holidays and the joyful memories that you carry with you through your life and into the lives of your children and grandchildren.
In my home, there are many holiday traditions that we observe from Christmas to Christmas and many more than come and go as the children have grown or experienced various cultures through school friends and studies. There was the year when we had German calendars with a piece of German chocolate in a tiny compartment of the calendar for each day counting down until Christmas. There are mistletoe and nativity scenes. There are favorite ornaments for the tree and traditional holiday foods. There is Christmas music and sometimes there is caroling. There are Christmas stories – some grounded in religion, some in folklore, and some in the spirit of Christmas alone.
When I narrowed down to my three that I wanted to share with my girls for eternity, they were holiday baking, the fun of decorating, and the sharing of beliefs. In our household, we all have slightly varying religious and spiritual beliefs. At Christmas, we enjoy the opportunity to share these beliefs and explain why they are so important to us. I think that it is the heart of our holiday season. So, we take these three things, and add whatever time and finances allow, and we have our Christmas/Yule.
I feel that it is the best fit for us because it allows me to impress upon my girls the importance of religious/spiritual beliefs, along with the fun of decorating and the joy of beauty combined with the smells and laughter that fill our kitchen as we do the holiday baking. There is a lot of laughter and a lot of our selves in our Christmas traditions. For me, it is what I want them to remember and carry on to their own children – the belief that Christmas/Yule stands for something more than buying and exchanging gifts and focuses on the joy of family togetherness.
So, take the first step towards making your holidays less stressful and more meaningful by establishing the traditions that are most important to you. Then use some of the others to fill in as needed, changing from year to year as time and finances permit. But always hold onto those traditions that are the most important to you and teach your children another valuable lesson – standing by that in which you believe.
Have a wonderful Holiday season!