Your first Christmas as a single parent

Date last updated: 3 December 2020

Ideas for your first Christmas as a single parent

Christmas is an exciting time of year, especially for children – but it also comes with challenges, from keeping spending under wraps to deciding where your children will spend Christmas day.

If you’re about to embark on your first Christmas as a single parent, you might be feeling a little daunted.

To help, we’ve asked other single parents for their advice – here are their suggestions.

Christmas is an important time of year for a lot of families. Watch single parent Lisa discuss how she celebrates the festive period.

1. Make new traditions

Families celebrate Christmas in different ways, and over the years, you develop a routine. This can make it difficult if you’ve recently separated as you might not feel up to continuing with old traditions.

Our most popular tip from other single parents is to create new traditions – and with them, new memories:

  • Make Christmas Eve even more magical with a pyjama party – put on a festive film, get comfy on the sofa and tuck into your favourite treats.
  • Out with the old, in with the new – one parent suggests letting your children pick some new decorations for the tree, or you could make your own. Nothing beats making snowflake paperchains to get you into the Christmas spirit!
  • It wouldn’t be Christmas if it didn’t involve food, and if you’re feeling brave, you could even let the kids decide what you eat on the day. Baking cakes, mince pies and gingerbread – get your children involved too. It’s bound to be fun (if a little messy).
  • New traditions don’t have to break the bank, and they can even be a good way to teach children the importance of saving. Try putting 50p a day in a jar for the 12 days of Christmas, and then let your children use it to buy a gift for someone.

2. Making arrangements with your child’s other parent

As one parent told us, it’s important to remember that ‘Christmas is more than a single day’. Try to make arrangements with your child’s other parent as early as you can.

  • If you’re not going to be with your children on the day, try to make sure you spend quality time together at other points in the holidays.
  • If you’re going to be on your own, do whatever you want to do. You could use the time to have a pampering day, to get prepared for your children’s return, or to catch up with friends and family. There is no right or wrong.
  • Finally, try not to worry if your ex-partner is able to buy your children more expensive gifts. Remember: the most important thing is that your children have a fun and happy Christmas, and spending time together will create the memories that really last.

3. Lean on friends and family

Don’t feel you have to do everything yourself. Find a friend to go Christmas shopping with, and accept offers of help from others. You’ll be grateful of the extra hands when it comes to peeling the sprouts!

If you feel like some company, surround yourself with loved ones or make plans to spend the day with friends.

4. Enjoy the moments

Every Christmas will be different as you grow as a family year after year, so treasure the moments as they happen. Spending quality time together will help make new, and lasting, memories.

Remember: the joys of Christmas aren’t things you plan, or buy. As one single parent put it:

“Having my children’s laughter around me… well, that’s the gift that can never be bought!”

5. Remember: money doesn’t buy happiness

You can’t buy happiness, despite what the Christmas adverts might be telling you. To keep spending under control, focus on smaller, more thoughtful gifts and fun stocking fillers.

One parent suggested that instead of buying expensive selection boxes, create your own. Look out for deals on your children’s favourites, and then wrap them up individually to open on the day.

Most importantly, try to avoid the temptation to get into debt. It’s the time you spend together that’s important, and that’s what your children will remember. Besides, they’ll always prefer playing with the boxes!

6. Look after yourself

Last, but by no means least, be sure to take care of you. A lot of parents said if they had to choose one tip, it would be to not put pressure on yourself, and just do what you feel able to.

Most of all, do what feels right for you personally. It might feel tough now but it will get easier – and, if you can, make sure to treat yourself too.

Looking for more help?

Check out our Christmas information for more advice on topics including making arrangements, budgeting, and looking after your wellbeing.

It's what you do

Don’t try too hard or worry too much. My children are adults now and they talk fondly about what we did, not what they got, at Christmas. And that was mostly/nearly free - decorating the house, driving round town to see the lights and visiting the Christmas section of the local garden centre to each choose a new bauble.

Mum, 2 children

Stay busy

Make plans in advance if your little one is with someone else. Don't sit at home alone, stay busy!

Mum, 1 child

Bring and share

Have a bring-and-share Christmas lunch. My family do this and works well. It can unburden you with the cost of the food.

Mum, 1 child

Go easy on yourself

The best advice I can give is to go easy on yourself. It’s just one day – try to forget what everyone else is doing. Focus on yourself and your children.


Spending time together is what matters

Having my children’s laughter around me… well, that’s the gift that can never be bought!

Mum, 2 children

Blurred background image - mostly grey with pinks, whites and blues

Become part of a community

Belonging to a community can really help around Christmas-time.

You might want to see if any other single parent families would like to spend Christmas together. Our Gingerbread groups are located across the country, so get in touch to see if they have plans for the holiday season.

Alternatively, you may want to speak to people online. Join our Single Parent Forum and chat to thousands of single parents from all walks of life.

New Report