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Family traditions are often the thing that many adults remember about Christmas. Traditions don’t need to be expensive or complicated to create special memories.
Consider getting in touch with other single parents who may also find Christmas a difficult time. Gingerbread membership groups can be a great source of support and many organise activities or social events for both you and your children. You can also chat to other single parents in our online forums. To find out more about becoming a member visit www.gingerbread.org.uk or call 0800 018 4318.
It may be too late for this year but there are lots of ways you can help spread the cost of Christmas by saving or buying gifts during the year.
Setting a small amount aside each week or month soon adds up. You could try putting money aside in a tax free savings account or buy supermarket savings stamps throughout the year. Joining a Christmas savings or hamper club can also be a good way to spread the cost but be sure to choose a well-known, reputable company.
If you can, plan ahead and make advance arrangements for when your child will spend time with their other parent over the holiday period. This can make sorting out contact arrangements easier and less emotional. If your children are old enough, include them in the planning, to help them feel more secure about how things will workout.
Draw up a schedule together showing who is doing what and when. Hang this in a central place in your home, so everyone can see it. Try to be flexible if things don’t go quite as planned. You may need to consider that older children might want to do things outside of the family with their friends.
If you are worried about your children spending time away from you, build in some quality time together before or after they go. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive – an afternoon of silly games or a trip to the park can give you all time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Children, family, friends or work might place lots of demands on you. Remember, you cannot please everyone all of the time. There may be times when you need to decide what is best for you and your children and not be afraid to stick to it.
With young children and babies, try to keep roughly to your usual routine. Explain to relatives the best time to visit to fit with nap times and meals. This way, you avoid unexpected visits and reduce the chance of having grumpy children.
As a parent, it is easy to concentrate on your child’s needs and forget your own. If your child is with relatives or friends, why not take the opportunity to relax, even just for a few hours? Perhaps arrange with friends who are also parents to help each other out with childcare, so you all get some time to yourselves.
Don’t be afraid to talk to friends and family about how you feel and ask for help if you need it – they may not know unless you tell them. If you prefer to talk to someone you don’t know, the list of useful organisations at the end of this factsheet can provide advice, information or a listening ear. Also see the Gingerbread factsheet Looking after your emotional health.
Find free or cheap activities to do in your area by checking your local newspaper, library, community centre, or supermarket notice board. Take advantage of family and discount vouchers by joining up with friends or other single parent families.
It can be really difficult to budget over the holiday period. As well as extra expenses, benefits and wages may be paid early because of bank holidays.
Make a realistic list of all your expenses and how much you can afford to spend on each – is there anything you can cut down on or remove from your list? Planning ahead may help you feel in control and reduce stress. A free online budget planner is available at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk, or request a copy of the Gingerbread MoneySense booklet from our helpline.
If you cannot afford to buy something on your child’s wish list talk to them about it. Give proper reasons so they understand your explanation. “Because I say so” is unlikely to satisfy them. Explain why a gift is not suitable or too expensive. With older children an item may mean more to them because it fits in with their friends or image. Consider making a deal where you contribute to the cost of a present, with your child taking responsibility for saving the rest. For example, from a part-time job or other relatives who may be willing to contribute.
Try to avoid using credit or borrowing money to pay for things. If you do have to use credit, shop around for the best deal. Compare interest rates, work out how long it will take you to repay and find out what the total balance will be after interest is added. Do not be tempted to sign up for store cards if you are out shopping for gifts, as they can charge even higher rates of interest than credit cards.
For an impartial, straightforward guide to borrowing money, contact the Money Advice Service at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or call 0300 600 6000.
Everyone’s feeling the pinch at the moment, so you
might decide with family or friends to only to buy
presents for the children or organise a secret Santa
for the adults.
If possible, agree tactics with your child’s other
parent or family members about presents. For
example, you may want to agree that you both
spend roughly the same amount on presents for
your children, even if one of you could afford more.
Spending time together can be equally valuable as
fun times last longer in children’s memories than
If you use the internet, check to see if you can get a
better deal online than you can on the high street.
Try price comparison websites to hunt for bargains
but remember to add the cost of any delivery
charges. Also remember to book your online
delivery slot early for Christmas to avoid
disappointment. You can find out more about your
consumer rights, including buying online by visiting
Many community groups, local newspapers and radio stations run Christmas toy appeals, which donate gifts to families in difficult circumstances. To find out details, look in your local newspaper, listen for adverts on your local radio station or contact your local Citizens Advice bureau.
Your local area may have a food bank, which provides free food and support to local families. Food boxes usually contain three days’ worth of food. The service is provided to support the local community, so don’t be afraid to ask for a little extra help if you need it. You may find that other local organisations offer a similar service, such as the Salvation Army.
If your family does not have enough money for food, heating or other essentials, you may be able to get a crisis loan from Jobcentre Plus. This is an interest free loan of up to £1,600. You do not have to be receiving benefits or tax credits to apply.
For more information on food banks, local support and crisis loans contact your local free advice centre, Citizens Advice bureau or Jobcentre Plus.
If the holiday period is difficult for you, try to look ahead to the New Year as a time for positive change. Are there things you have been putting off or too busy to sort out?
You may think it’s impossible to deal with long-standing problems or reach your goals but there is help out there.
Whether it is tackling debt, studying, training or wanting more support, there are organisations that can give you the advice and information you need. If the organisation you need is not listed, call the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline and if we cannot help, we can give you details of other organisations that can.
Organisation: Money Advice Service
Details: Provides impartial financial information including budgeting, loans, credit cards, mortgages and savings.
Phone: 0300 500 5000
Organisation: Citizen’s Advice
Details: Information and advice on a wide range of issues including benefits and tax credits.
Phone: England: 08444 111 444; Wales: 08444 77 20 20
Organisation: Civil Legal Advice
Details: Can assess your eligibility for legal aid and signpost to local sources of help.
Phone: 0845 345 4345
Organisation: Contact a Family
Details: Online support for parents and carers of disabled children.
Phone: 0808 808 3555, 0808 808 3556 – Textphone
Organisation: Cruse Bereavement Care
Details: Cruse provides bereavement counselling and support for both children and adults, by telephone, in your home or through local groups.
Phone: 0844 477 9400
Organisation: Disabled Parents Network
Details: Provides support and advice for disabled parents.
Phone: 0300 3300 639
Organisation: Family Lives
Details: Provides information and support on all aspects of parenting, including bullying, eating, exams, truancy, toddlers, teenagers and more.
Phone: 0808 800 2222
Organisation: Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline
Details: Free information on a range of issues including maintenance, benefits, tax credits, debt, employment, education, legal rights and holidays. Open Mondays to Fridays, 9.00am – 5.00pm, with extended opening on Wednesdays to 8.00pm.
Phone: Freephone 0808 802 0925
Organisation: Home start
Details: A network of volunteer parents who can visit you at home for a few hours each week. They provide practical and emotional support, including a listening ear, help with the children and a chance to meet other parents in similar situations. The service is free
Phone: 0808 068 63 68
Organisation: Jobcentre Plus
Details: Processes welfare benefit claims
Phone: 0800 055 6688 - Benefit claim line; 0800 012 1888 - Benefit claim line – Welsh language
Organisation: Men’s Advice Line
Details: Confidential helpline for men who have experienced or who are experiencing domestic abuse. Provides emotional support and practical advice including how to make yourself safer, where to get legal advice, how domestic abuse affects children and information for gay and bisexual men.
Phone: 0808 801 0327
Organisation: National Debtline
Details: Free, confidential and independent advice on dealing with debt problems.
Phone: 0808 808 4000
Organisation: National Domestic Violence Helpline
Details: The freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline is run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. It is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence or their friends and families. A translation service is available.
Phone: 0808 2000 247
Organisation: NHS Direct
Details: Open 24 hours, every day of the year.
General information about health and medical problems. Staffed by nurses who can provide advice, a listening ear and referrals on general medical queries.
Phone: 0845 46 47
Details: Information for parents and carers supporting children who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence.
Phone: 0808 800 5000
Organisation: Offenders’ Families Helpline
Details: Information and support for relatives of prisoners.
Phone: 0808 808 2003
Organisation: One Parent Families Scotland Lone Parent Helpline
Details: Run by our partner organisation, the Lone Parent Helpline provides confidential advice and information for single parents in Scotland.
Phone: 0808 801 0323
Organisation: Salvation Army
Details: Local branches of the Salvation Army often provide
support at Christmas. They may be able to give toys
and food, and some offer Christmas dinner/parties
and emotional support. Their number can be found
in your local phone directory or on the website.
Phone: 020 7367 4500
Details: Provides confidential emotional support for those experiencing feelings of distress or despair,
including those which may lead to suicide. The helpline is available 24 hours a day and you can also contact them by email or letter. In some areas face to face appointments are available.
Phone: 08457 90 90 90
Details: Gives details of local housing advice centres throughout the country and provides information and advice on a range of housing issues and signposting service for further help and advice.
Phone: Freephone 0808 800 4444
Organisation: Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help
This organisation can help service and ex-service
personnel and their families, including divorced or
widowed partners of service personnel and
Phone: 0800 731 4880
Organisation: Trussell Trust – food banks
Details: Trussell Trust food banks can provide three days of food and support to those experiencing financial or emotional need. The food bank network is based in communities across the UK. Food boxes are usually delivered to your home and contain non-perishable nutritionally balanced food. To find your local food bank call or visit the website.
Phone: 01722 411244
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and/or products and services offered by third parties.
Helpline: 0808 802 0925
Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, is registered in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee, no. 402748, and a registered charity, no. 230750
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