Christmas is a special time for children which traditionally involves the family unit but if parents are newly separated or divorced, Christmas can bring extra challenges.

To avoid a family crisis that could upset children, it is better to agree logistics a few months in advance. Most parents make alternate arrangements, for example Christmas and Boxing Day with one parent, and New Year’s Eve/Day with the other, and swap those arrangements for the next year. Never ask children to choose which parent they want to spend Christmas with as this would undermine their sense of loyalty towards the excluded parent. If you happen to be without your children this year, we’ve put together a list of positive ideas to help you survive the festive season without them.

Surround yourself with family and friends

The more the merrier! Try and make plans to spend time with other family members and friends.  They will be a great support to you if you are on your own, particularly if this is your first Christmas as a single parent – people are a great distraction. Don’t worry if you have a down moment, just go with the flow as best you can and remember that you are surrounded by people who care about you.

Make new family traditions

Traditions are very emotive and can cause you (and your children) unnecessary upset – you can’t recreate what has been lost and so don’t try, take the opportunity to create new traditions.  It doesn’t mean that you should avoid that visit to Santa, or that you shouldn’t go and see your local Christmas lights switched on – just do it differently. If you haven’t done it before why not get the kids to make some paper chains, make the lounge look festive and have a Christmas Movie Night.  Let your imagination run wild and have fun!

Dont feel guilty

This is a hard one but don’t beat yourself up if your children end up going between you and your ex on Christmas day.  It may be that due to logistical issues the children have to miss out seeing one parent altogether.  It is easy to try and sell it to them that they will have two Christmases, this may work to some degree, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get the positive response that you’d hoped for.  They may be confused about how that would work. If you have an amicable relationship with your ex, then all get together and plan the day in advance to suit everyone.  Reassure them (and you), that it will still be a special day and that they won’t miss out.  You can’t change what has happened so let the guilt go and plan positively.

Working together

If you can, it’s important that you and your ex work together on all things surrounding the festive season from attending school plays and events, to what you do on the big day – don’t leave the children guessing, that will only breed insecurities.

Don’t compete with each other for the biggest and best presents – that’s not going to work for the children or your bank balance.  If you have an amicable relationship compile a Christmas list between you, then divide and conquer – there’s nothing worse for the kids than getting duplicate presents.  The best thing that you can give them is your time, reassurance and love – with some careful planning you can make it enjoyable for everyone.

Charity work

If you can’t be with your children at Christmas then why not keep yourself occupied with some charity work. Your local church may well be hosting a Christmas lunch for the elderly who don’t have any family. There is nothing like helping those less fortunate than yourself to build self-esteem and make you feel better about your own circumstances – it can be very rewarding. Local authorities usually have a volunteering hub on their website to highlight openings in your local area, and there are many national campaigns and schemes set up specifically for Christmas. If you live in West Kent, you can also visit to check out their volunteer opportunities.