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6 Smart Holiday Parenting Ideas for Single Moms

6 Smart Holiday Parenting Ideas for Single Moms

The key to magical solo time with your kids at this time of year—don't overdo it!

The holidays are a crazy-busy time of year for all parents—but if you’re a single mom, you may feel double the pressure. You want your kids to enjoy this festive time of year, and you may be tempted to give them a full-scale winter wonderland all on your own. Add to that the possibility of your ex trying to outdo you by being the quintessential Disney-esque holiday dad, and it’s all a perfect prescription for holiday stress. How to really bond with your kids rather than struggling to be Holiday Supermom?

“Slow down,” suggests psychologist Leah Klungness, PhD, co-author of The Complete Single Mother. “It’s time to establish some great new rituals and traditions just for you and your kids, not to redo or one-up whatever went on in the past. The key to enjoying the holidays with your kids is to actually do a lot less, so you can take the time to really be together.” Consider these ways to do just that.

Keep activities to 30 minutes or less.

If your kids are very young, holiday outings and projects can be overwhelming. If they’ve been through a recent family break-up, things can be emotionally charged. So instead of trekking to the Christmas tree farm to cut down your own evergreen, grab a good-enough tree at a local lot. Another day, let kids glue glitter on pinecones or make simple garlands out of strips of colored paper stapled into loops. Simple is key here.

Cheat at baking.

It’s really OK if you’re not into elaborate cookie making after a long day at the office, says Dr. Klungness. You don’t need to bake dozens of holiday treats from scratch. Your kids will have just as much fun using holiday cookie-cutters to make shapes (and dinner!) out of frozen or par-baked pizzas. You can also buy plain, baked cookies (or rolls of pre-made dough) and focus just on decorating them together.

Give more time than gifts.

As tempting as it is to try to cheer your kids with “stuff,” time with you is more valuable to them. Keep presents modest, and use your money to go ice-skating together or take a trip to see the holiday lights at the zoo.

Don’t invite your date.

If you’re seeing someone, this isn’t the best time to introduce your sweetheart to your kids. It’s always smart to wait until you’re in a long-term, committed relationship before introducing that person to your kids anyway. If you’re ready to do that, wait until January. “Your kids will be more receptive to that special person post-holiday, when they’re back to their regular sleeping and eating patterns,” explains Dr. Klungness.

Go to grownup parties.

Your work may require you to attend a holiday soiree, or you may want to get together with adult friends. Do it without feeling guilty. Invest in a few hours of babysitting or swap child care with another mom/couple. “It’s actually good for your kids when you indulge in some adults-only social activities during the holidays,” Dr. Klungness suggests. “They feel too much pressure if they know they’re your whole world.” Give them—and yourself—a break and go out!

Recharge your own batteries.

If your ex has the kids at a significant time during the holidays, take time for yourself. “Don’t feel pressure to accept invites from friends and family, especially if it’ll make you sad to be at an event without your kids,” says Dr. Klungness. Instead, take an evening to binge-watch a show you missed or read that book you never had time to finish. When your kids are home, you’ll have renewed energy to devote to them.

Written by Teri Cettina for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to