5 Tips for Making It Through the Holidays as a Single Parent

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By Russell J. Frank, Esq. for Divorce Magazine

The holiday season can absolutely be a time for great joy and compassion, and like everything else in life, you will only get out of it what you put into it. Whether you are spending time with your children this year or not, remember to embrace the holidays, remain active, and make peace with yourself and the coming season!

As the weather starts to slightly cool and you begin to see all of the holiday displays at your local stores, hawking everything from candy corn to Christmas tree ornaments, it is easy to forget that the holidays are not always a time of joy for everyone. In fact, according to the National Institute for Health, the holiday season is the time of year that people can experience high levels of depression. There are many reasons for this, and of course, each individual person is affected differently during the holiday season based on their particular life experiences.

What can be helpful is to assess how to best cope with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression over the coming holiday season. This is particularly true and important for those parents out there that may be experiencing time away from their children during all or part of the holidays. In my line of work, dealing with parents on a daily basis who are going through their own stresses about their children and the coming holidays, I’ve come to learn of several ways that a parent can help their own situation during the holidays, even if you’re not able to spend actual physical time with your children. Here is what I’ve learned in my time as a family law attorney:

1. Create new holiday traditions
One of the most important factors in creating a positive atmosphere is not to dwell on the past, but to focus on the future and what is to come. To that end, there’s nothing better for the psyche than establishing new, creative holiday traditions to do by yourself, or share with friends and family. Whether that’s a Christmas Day movie, Thanksgiving flag football with friends or beginning a new art project each holiday season, the ability to keep yourself busy with new ideas and activities should keep your mind going in the right direction throughout the holidays.

2. Get video-conferencing compatible
With all of the technological advances in the last 10 years or so, the ability to connect with people in different locations has never been easier. Whether it’s Skype, Facetime or any of the other video conferencing applications, there is no excuse for not being able to communicate face-to-face with your children during the holiday season. Many parenting plans and timesharing schedules created these days will provide video-conferencing communication time with your children throughout the year and particularly on holidays. If you are not taking advantage of video-conferencing or if video-conferencing has not been ordered as part of your parenting plan, then it may be worthwhile to take another look at that and seek to have your communication parameters modified.

3. Take a vacation over the holidays
You would be surprised how often my clients will tell me that the best time for them to take a vacation is during the holidays, as it can provide a complete escape from the constant daily reminders of spending the holidays without your children. Even just a night away can do wonders for refreshing your mind and spirit, so if you have the opportunity to just “get away from it all,” the holidays are a perfect time for that.

4. Volunteer
In many respects, the holidays are about giving back and there is no better way to give back than to offer your time to the local charities, food banks and homeless shelters in your community. Volunteering to help those less fortunate than yourself can serve the dual function of helping provide hope for someone else who could really use it and reminding you of how much you have to be grateful for.

5. Surround yourself with your friends and family
While you may not have your children with you during the holidays, you should not let yourself be without your friends and other family members. The holidays are the perfect time for reconnecting with family and friends lost through the years, so don’t be hesitant when it comes to reaching out to others. Sometimes reconnecting or just sharing time with old friends and family can warm the heart and mind in ways that can’t be measured.

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