The holiday season is often a very stressful time of the year for parents as they try to navigate through the hustle and bustle of gifting, traveling, visiting with family, and everything else this season entails. Things are already difficult as is for a two-parent household, but imagine a single-parent home and how much more difficult it can be to go through this season seemingly alone. Though it is certainly hard, it is not an impossible task with the right mindset.
When talking with parents, one major misconception they point out is the idea that parents that are co-parenting never get along with each other nor like one another. Of course, every situation is different. There are cases where it is very difficult, and there could be some unresolved issues between parents that make co-parenting borderline impossible. No matter the situation, the most important thing to remember in all of this is the wellbeing of the child. Gary Alipio, a single dad, expresses, “Sharing your child’s time with a co-parent is what you make of it … it’s about sharing. While I used to think about making every minute with my daughter count when she was with me by cramming several activities or holiday events in one day, it’s the time you share together doing whatever that’s special during the holidays.”
Rabb, another parent, shares that she is able to co-parent well because of a mutual understanding that they must put their son first. Simply put, no matter the situation, it is vital that both parents are willing to put things aside and put their children first. This is not an uncommon sight to see even though the media typically portrays co-parenting in a less-than-flattering light. Parents can’t let this idea prompt hesitancy in them and push them more towards trying to do things all alone. There are tons of misconceptions out there about single parenting, but Rabb puts it best, stating, “I also believe that other misconceptions are merely opinions. I cannot speak on every other single parent’s situation, but always remember to put your kids first.”
Being a single parent is hard. You are going to make mistakes, feel overwhelmed, and there will be times where you will tell yourself that you have failed as a parent. A parent’s job is to protect their children, to make them feel safe and secure, and to do everything they can to ensure their happiness. So, it is easy to blame oneself when their children are in a not-so ideal situation due to their parents not being together during a season where family often means everything. Though it is very easy to just blame yourself, know that doesn’t do anything good for you or your children.
Hard Moments, Tips, and Advice
Alipio’s advice for other single parents is to communicate. He highly recommends utilizing a shared Google calendar so that both parents can keep track of events and important appointments. He also advises that you trust each other as well as the child as you embark on this journey together. He shares, “Co-parenting during the holidays became much easier once we let our daughter become a bigger voice in the what/where/when of our relationship.”
There is no need to force your child to do something they don’t enjoy. The time you get with each other during the holidays should not be treated as a narrow window to cram every holiday activity you can with your child before having them go away to their other parent. Instead, simply enjoy the time you do have together doing the things that you both enjoy. They will remember these moments way more.
The most difficult thing that Alipio found himself struggling with was wondering if his daughter was having a good or bad day when she wasn’t with him. While it is normal to want to know about the well-being of your child, Alipio had to learn to resist messaging her every second she wasn’t with him. Instead he learned that what works best for him was just a check in of the highs and lows at the end of the day. This allows him to not only keep in touch with his daughter but to also make some time for himself.
Rabb found that the most difficult part about navigating the holidays as a single parent was dividing the time. It’s hard to only get to spend part of the season with your child, but she advises parents to not create drama over it and to always keep the children’s interest first. She emphasizes that parents should “remember what the holidays are about. How do you want your kids to remember it? You don’t have to go overboard to suffice the situation. Compromise the best that you can with your ex. Create a positive environment.”
Rabb concludes with one final remark: “As I cannot speak on all situations, I would like to say this: Co-parenting is only hard if you allow it to be. Make sure your children understand that they are not the reason for the split. Again, keep your kids first, and do not use them against the other parent. Remember, your ex is going through adjustments as well.”
Have grace for yourself. This is a very difficult thing to navigate, and no one will ever have it truly mastered. You learn as you go, and you always love your child as the season comes and goes.