Every year Christmas is more stressful, exciting, over-rated, expensive, commercial, magical, loving, celebratory, indulgent and exhausting, and I love it…so long as I am prepared and people keep happy.
Being a mum of two small boys and two older step-kids we’ve never had a conventional family Christmas. My own family are scattered across the world, so rarely spend it together. The hubby’s dad is no longer with us and his mum is in a home, so it’s us and the kids most of the time.
The first Christmas as a possible future step mum was quiet; his first without the very young children from his marriage, me without my party loving friends in the Caribbean. Both trying to make it special, but actually it was just odd. That was 15 years ago, I think we’ve almost nailed it now, so here are a few of my tips for any of you who may be divorced, step parenting, sharing your children or just for a little insight into keeping an unconventional Christmas normal….it’s not rocket science, and I’m not asking for a Nobel prize, this just works for us….
- Respect each other. Relationships end for many reasons, but if you were in the wrong or made the choices, you don’t get first dabs over your children’s Christmas arrangements. It is just a single day of the year and you need to respect the person who didn’t want it all to end. At least in the beginning. If it was mutual that’s different, but either way do not stress, it is one day. We have never had my husband’s children on Christmas Day, but we have made it work…
- Christmas can be any day. For the past 14 years we have held a second Christmas Day on Boxing Day. This is when we have my husband’s two over and we make it as close to Christmas Day as possible… yes even another turkey. It has worked wonders for us and takes all the pressure off sharing time with each parent. The kids (not such kids now) could wake up with their mum, spend all Christmas day and night there with her, then their Dad would collect them on boxing day morning. Bubbles out, turkey in…..bosh round two!!
- Don’t replicate, ‘create’. Christmas with children will have had some sort of routine or tradition. Don’t force something that once was, when one or more people are missing from the equation. Make up your own, new traditions. If you are single now and couldn’t put tinsel up before, do it now (you’ll soon get over it!). Take the kids on a Santa steam train or to a Christmas market to buy a new ‘annual’ decoration. Take them to buy the tree. Include them in your Christmas regardless of what the other parent is doing.
- Do not over indulge with guilt. Separations happen more and more these days. whether right or wrong shit happens and kids need to know shit will happen their whole life, you cannot change that. You can only change how they respond to it. There will be times they will miss the other parent and times you miss them, but don’t make up for it with gifts. Make up for it with time and explanation, trust and security and most of all positivity for the future. So long as Mum and Dad say it’ll be ok, it will…
- Teach them to give. If you have time with them before Christmas, help them make something for the other parent. A photo book, mulled cider, rocky road, anything that they as children can make and hide for a John Lewis moment at their other home. As a single parent it’s tough to encourage your kids to give you something at Christmas but it is a valuable lesson they need to learn. Nothing big or expensive, but the effort and thought for others is what it should be about.
- Talk about big gifts! If you are planning an iPad, mobile, Xbox , car delivery (!!) in the big man’s sack, speak to the other parent about it if you can. It would be great to share the cost or even just the ‘agreement’ to give, but mostly it can prevent getting into a bidding war over into giving the best gifts. This is not a competition you are raising children to be adults, make sure they are nice ones…
- Be alone or don’t? If the plans work out that you are going to be alone on Christmas Day, think about whether you can handle that or not. If you can’t, ask someone if they fancy dinner out on Christmas Day, or simply tell them you’re alone, they will be sure to invite you. But if not pop into a soup kitchen and make the most of your free Christmas, do not sit at home alone crying! Crisis Christmas have amazing schemes you can help out with.
- Do not show sadness. Never show the children you are sad or lonely when they are not around. They do not need to carry any guilt or worry about you, you’re a grown up handle it. Tell them you’ll miss them but you’ve got so much to do, the time will fly by and then you’ll see them again for some real fun. This ensures when they are with the other parent they relax and enjoy that time WITH the other parent, that is only fair.
- Step-parents back off. You are an adult, Christmas is not for you when there are step-children involved. Let them have quality time with their parent, make the day magical for the right reasons and don’t get wrapped up in bickering, jealously or the fact no one helps in the kitchen.
- Be kind. Even if there is tension and stress in the mix with separated or divorced families, I’ll repeat, it is ONE day. This day for whatever reason has become a fantasy, magical day for children, make sure you remember that and make how ever and, when ever they spend it with you memorable for the right reasons.
Good luck and I hope you manage a very merry unconventional Christmas!🎄🎄