When you become a single parent, things change. Lots of things change. And the holidays are no exception to that rule. Especially if you become a single parent because a relationship ends.
The holidays can be particularly hard to adjust to, and when your family traditions go out the window (Dad can’t put the star on the tree top if he’s not there; Mom won’t give the secret family recipe to her mashed potatoes to Dad), you might feel like you’re scrambling to find something new to do. When you homeschool, you might also be looking for ways to combine tradition, education and the holidays all into one.
I thought I’d share some of the traditions I have with my kids to give you a few ideas, if you’re looking for some new traditions this year.
1. We look at Christmas lights. This seems like an obvious one, but I’m surprised how many people don’t think to do it. We get in the car a few days before Christmas, often with my mother, and just drive around and enjoy the Christmas lights. We have some folks nearby who really outdo themselves and put on an amazing display year after year and we love to go see what they’ve done. If you think yours might get a bit bored with just looking at lights, how about making it a scavenger hunt? I found this scavenger hunt printable that could add a new layer of excitement for them.
2. We bake cookies together. My grandmother always baked the best cookies, and many years ago, I had a major mishap trying to replicate them. Since then, I’ve gotten much better at it and I’ve begun to include my children in the process. These cookies take some work, but they are worth it. The flavor, the texture, the frosting and decorations – it’s amazing cookie. But what’s really so wonderful about it is the connections – my connections with my children, their connections with each other, mine with my grandmother, and theirs with their great-grandmother. My children and I are creating new memories, and I share my memories of my grandmother (who, by the way, is still alive and well, just not baking the cookies anymore) with them, helping them get to know a woman who is connected to them by blood, but a thousand miles away.
3. We watch Christmas specials. We watch old favorites like Rudolph and Frosty, and we check out new ones, like Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas. We enjoy watching the classics like Miracle on 34th Street, and sometimes I can get them to enjoy the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movies with me, too. It gets us in the spirit, and it’s cheap fun. Pop some popcorn, or bake some cookies, and whip up some hot chocolate, then curl up with some blankets and enjoy the moments.
4. We decorate the tree and the rest of the house. We generally do our decorating the day after Thanksgiving, but maybe you put your tree up a bit later (or this can be a good one to keep in mind for next year, if not). I used to do the tree all by myself when my kids were super little (out of necessity, of course), but as they grew older, I found that decorating was more fun with them. Seeing how they want to put the decorations on the tree, or how they want to string the outside lights can be very interesting – and letting them see their input is valued is important, even if you can’t do what they want (“No, Johnny, we can’t string the lights that way because there’s no plug there for them.”).
5. We make Christmas cards (and other Christmas crafts). Whether we make a homemade gift for a friend or loved one, or just a card, the homemade touch is always appreciated by those who receive them, and it’s a good way for the kids and I to spend some quality time together. My kids are getting older, so some of the really cute Christmas crafts are behind us now (seriously, the handprint salt dough ornament just doesn’t look the same when your child’s hand is bigger than yours now), but with younger kids, there are a ton of Christmas crafts that you can do together – and some would double perfectly as a gift, too. Even as the kinds get older, you can find crafts that you can all do together, allowing you to create some great memories together.
6. We spend some time looking forward to next year. This is more something we do after Christmas is over, while we’re in that week between one big holiday and the next. But it works really well to help us stay focused. We talk about what we did this year, both in terms of school and simply in terms of life, and figure out what worked and what didn’t, what we’d like to drop and what we’d like to carry forward into next year. We discuss new things we’d like to try, whether we think everything is balanced pretty well or if we’d like to do more of this and less of that. We set some goals and discuss what we need to do to meet those goals.
7. We go through old stuff. Christmas is that time of year. It’s the best time to go through old clothes, books, toys and games and get rid of the ones that are broken, unused or outgrown. As a parent, we often think the easiest, fastest, most effective way to do this is to do it alone. And if your kids are particularly clingy when it comes to their things, maybe it is for the best. But having them go through their things with you, while it might take longer, might prove to be a better memory. Looking at old toys, clothes or games that were favorites of yours or of theirs can bring back some nice memories that’ll make you all smile. And you might find that they’re more easily able or willing to let go of their old things if they help you sort them and decide what goes and what stays. If you donate the gently used items, that can also not only be a great learning experience, but it can create a beautiful memory, too. And if your child is able to give them directly to another child who will treasure them, it might be something truly amazing – for everyone.
These are just some of our holiday traditions. There are so many ways that you can create beautiful traditions and memories with your children. You might be able to adapt traditions you had when you were still with your ex, but if not, there’s still a ton of other things you can do.
What have you already found that you can do to create Christmas traditions and memories with your kids?