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How to Get Through the Holidays If You're Facing Them Alone

Photograph by Twenty20

If you're a single parent, the holidays can be rough. No matter how much you may love the traditions and extra cheer, spending less time with your kids can really suck the magic out of the holiday season and leave you feeling extra lonely.

Last year was my first time navigating the holidays while only having my kids part of the time. I'd thought I was almost to the other side, and healing from the pain of my marriage ending, but the holidays made it feel as if I'd opened the wound all over again—and I struggled hard.

So, how do single parents survive getting through the yuletide with their emotions intact? Mom.me talked with some experts about how you can enjoy the holidays as a divorced, co-parenting mom—even when your kids aren't around. Here's their advice:

1. Realize you are amazing

Being a co-parent isn't easy. You're on 24/7 when your kids are with you and you need to acknowledge that it's a tremendous task in itself. Licensed professional counselor Brittany Freeman Jean-Louis says the holidays are a good time to recharge and focus on self-care when your kids aren't with you.

There is so much extra to do during the holidays, so it's especially important for you to make sure you are getting your rest and indulging in some of your favorite relaxing activities—such as watching your favorite holiday movies or getting a peppermint foot scrub—even if you're feeling down and not in the mood this time of year.

2. Reinvest in yourself

This is also a great time to keep your mind and body busy by gifting yourself a class, whether it's learning to speak Spanish or going to Soul Cycle. Use the holiday season as an excuse to treat yourself. Jean-Louis suggests picking something you have "shelved" since becoming a single mom that you've really wanted to accomplish.

3. Make plans

Get together with friends and family you don't see a lot but would like to spend more time with. Plan a game night or have a Friendsgiving, suggests Jean-Louis. "Remember that you are an adult woman who needs more than just your kids and you deserve to have fun in your free time," she says.

4. Find your holiday tribe

With the divorce rate right around 50 percent, there are sure to be other moms in similar situations to reach out to. It's important to stick together and partner with someone who understands what you're going through.

The most important thing for you to remember is to take care of yourself and feel as good as you possibly can during this difficult time of year.

5. Spend money on yourself

Last year, I bought myself a few things, wrapped them and put them under the tree. It may sound silly, but it was uplifting and reminded me that even if I didn't have a partner, I was still worthy of a few gifts.

It was also fun to get some treats like chocolate, a new candle and bubble bath, and enjoy them when the kids were with their father. Having something small to look forward to can make those alone (and lonely) times bearable.

6. Start writing

A gratitude journal can be so healing, especially when you're missing your kids and feeling nostalgic. Dawn Burnett, CSA transformational divorce coach and wellness strategist, says, "Your energy flows where your attention goes." When we're able to look at the positive things in our life, and not just wallow in what brings us down, it can help us get out of our own way and allow more good things to make their way into our lives.

7. Make a vision board

This is a great time of year to make a vision board, and start imagining and creating your future. Sometimes it helps to look ahead when you are feeling stuck and sad. Burnett suggests that making a vision board will "help you get ready for greatness in the New Year." And who wouldn't want that?

8. Create new traditions

This was something I realized I had to do last year. Instead of going to a farm to cut down a tree, I ordered a fake tree online instead because I knew I didn't have it in me to relive every tradition the same way we did when my husband and I were still married.

It felt good to let some things go and open the door to see what new memories we could make without trying to replicate every other holiday. Not only did it help me feel more free, I now had less angst about trying to get everything "just so" for my kids.

9. Do what makes you happy

Maybe this means saying no to parties or exchanging gifts with certain people. Or it may mean making more plans so you have things to look forward to. Whatever it is, do what you need to do.

The most important thing for you to remember is to take care of yourself and feel as good as you possibly can during this difficult time of year.

Whether your children are with your ex-partner or with you, they want to have peace of mind knowing you are OK, and the best way to do that is to listen to what your heart and soul needs—even if that means banning all holiday music and eating cooking dough alone on the sofa.

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