Tips to help survive Christmas

Plan ahead

Too many people spend weeks worrying about getting the shopping done or leave it till the last minute– it's far easier to do it when you first start thinking about it. Start stocking up with the supplies as soon as possible – try getting a few items over the remaining weeks leading up to Christmas along with your regular shopping. As for presents, a great tip is to have an emergency supply, just a few small gifts to save you from embarrassment in the event of someone arriving unexpectedly with a prezzie for you.

Plan as a family

Get together and write a list of what everyone wants to do. With older children, discuss family time and time with friends so you get a happy balance.  Set a realistic budget for presents, food, and other things and try to stick to this as best you can. If a child wants something that is beyond the budget, speak to them and explain as best you can why they cannot have it. 

Make a list of who needs to see who - This is particularly important if you are part of a blended family where different people have different connections in the wider family.

Don’t try and do everything yourself - make a list of jobs that need to be done and allocate them between family or other guests that are invited. Don’t try and keep everyone happy all the time. Schedule in some time to recharge your own batteries - if you’re well rested you’ll be able to enjoy it more.

If things get heated between family members and everything gets too much - remove yourself from the situation and perhaps call a friend or relative.  If this is your first Christmas as a step family your child may feel confused and maybe even angry – try to allocate some time that you can spend alone together to reassure them.

Plan a family treat - to avoid that deflated feeling after the holiday season. That way, you’ll have something to look forward to.

Make a budget and stick to it

Christmas is never easy when you are on a limited income, and children often have unrealistic expectations. Make sure your children are aware of how much or how little you can afford and don’t overspend. Save throughout the year to ease the burden when it is time to shop for presents.

Give your children something that they can keep for the future

Create a keepsake that you can give to your children that tells them how much they mean to you. This would be something special that they could keep and look back on in years to come. Maybe you could write (or copy) a special poem into a Christmas card?

Many parents create treasure boxes in which they keep special mementos for their children from years gone by that they get out and look through together from time to time.

Don’t over-inflate your expectations

Don’t expect to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas as it’s near likely to fall short of your expectations. The most important thing is for you and your family to have fun. That does not mean landing yourself in debt for the next 12 months by buying expensive gifts – just spending a bit of time together can be the best present. Remember, if something does not go quite to plan, it really is not the end of the world.

If you are responsible for cooking and hosting the Christmas Day activities, then don’t take it all upon yourself. Why not ask other family members to bring different parts of the meal, such as snacks, salads or desserts – don’t be afraid to ask for help. You could even rope in the kids to help out. Make sure you have some time for YOU, even if it's just allowing yourself to watch one special TV show that you really want to see.

Keep a routine

It is good to rest and enjoy your Christmas but daily and weekly scheduling can go out of the window at Christmas, this can disturb sleep pattern and cause all sorts of mischief, try keeping a regular activity such as going to the gym, or go and try a completely different activity altogether. The main thing is to know when boredom is setting in, as that is when frustrations and boredom rise.

Everything in moderation

Christmas seems to be all about excess – but there is not much enjoyment in feeling the size of a padded Santa suit or as stuffed as the festive turkey! The best advice is moderation – apply it to everything you eat and drink. Drink moderate amounts of alcohol and try to alternate soft drinks or water with alcoholic ones. As for food, have a bit of what you fancy but try not to stuff your face if you can help it!

Re hydrate

If you have overdone it on the alcohol, then it is important to get yourself back on an even keel. Even if you have been good, taking our advice consuming non-alcoholic drinks in between – the chances are you could still be feeling pretty rough. Don’t just sit there feeling ill – get up and drink plenty of water and diluted fruit juice to help your liver recover and eventually eradicate the hangover.

Treat yourself

Make sure you buy yourself an extra special something to open and enjoy when your children are with their other parent or after they have gone to bed. You work hard all year long looking after your children and this is a little way to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

Get active the morning after

As soon as you are feeling remotely human, and your chances of throwing up have lessened, then think about doing some exercise. A brisk walk, light jog or swim will help work off those extra roast potatoes and all those second helpings you may have had. Getting active will also help you feel normal again, dispel any festive cabin fever and help repair some of the damage you have done to yourself.


Sleeping is the time when our bodies recover from the excesses of life. Drinking and eating too much can severely affect our sleep patterns, as can the frequent late nights that are a regular occurrence during the festive period. Over Christmas and New Year, many people are sleep-starved leaving them not fit for much after a few late nights, let alone being the life and soul of the party. Therefore, make sure you get some quality sleep – even if it is just a few hours.

Time off

If possible, plan your holidays so that you are not forced into going into work over the festive period. Many people try burning the candle at both ends, combining parties and work, and end up completely knackered. Time off in the run up to Christmas will prevent you from being overworked and overstressed by the time it arrives, so you will be in a better position to enjoy the whole experience.

Take some time out

Lets face it, Christmas can be pretty overwhelming, so it may be important to take a few moments out from the frenzy. Maybe spend sometime in the garden, have a lie down or go for a walk. Tell the people around you what you are doing so they don't think you are ignoring or avoiding them - and let them know its OK for them to do the same.

Don't be on your own

If you are concerned about being lonely over Christmas, either being single or unable to spend it with family, then do something about it now. Think about inviting a few others over who are in the same boat as you and consider offering your house as a venue for the event. Also try not to turn down any invitations to other festive events, provided that you are giving yourself a chance to recover in between!

It is also OK to be on your own at Christmas

Your time is yours to do whatever you wish to do, if you don't want Christmas - Then don't have one

A few more tips for divorce / separated guys

Make new family traditions

Traditions are very emotive and can cause you (and your children) unnecessary upset – you can’t recreate what has been lost and so don’t try, take the opportunity to create new traditions.  It doesn’t mean that you should avoid that visit to sit on Santa’s knee (the kids of course, not you!), or that you shouldn’t go and see your local Christmas lights switched on – just do it differently, tag on something or someone else to make the occasion different and special.  If you haven’t done it before why not get the kids to make some paper chains, make the lounge look festive and have a Christmas Movie Night.  Let your imagination run wild and have fun!

Don’t feel guilty

This is a hard one but don’t beat yourself up if your children end up going between you and your ex on Christmas day.  It may be that due to logistical issues the children have to miss out seeing one parent altogether.  It is easy to try and sell it to them that they will have two Christmases, this may work to some degree, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get the positive response that you’d hoped for.  They may be confused about how that would work.  If you have an amicable relationship with your ex, then all get together and plan the day in advance to suit everyone.  Whether or not you are able to do this the key is to reassure them [and you], that it will still be a special day and that they won’t miss out.  You can’t change what has happened so let the guilt go and plan positively.

Working together

If you can, it’s important that you and your ex work together on all things surrounding the festive season from attending school plays and events, to what you do on the big day – don’t leave the children guessing, that will only breed insecurities.

Try to make a cease fire agreement, even if it is just for the holiday time.

Try not to compete with each other

Don’t compete with each other for the biggest and best presents – that’s not going to work for the children or your bank balance.  If you have an amicable relationship compile a kids Christmas list between you, then divide and conquer – there’s nothing worse for the kids than getting duplicate presents (unless that’s what they want of course!).  The best thing that you can give them is your time, reassurance and love – with some careful planning you can make it enjoyable for all concerned.

Surround yourself with family and friends

Go with the old adage “The more the merrier!” and try and make plans to spend time with family and friends.  They will be a great support to you if you are on your own, particularly if this is your first Christmas as a single dad – people are a great distraction.  It may be that you have the children with you and this is their first Christmas as a separated family – family and friends are bound to get on board to instil some fun and festivity.  Don’t worry if you have a down moment, just go with the flow as best you can and remember that you are surrounded by people who love and care about you.

Charity work

If you can’t be with your children at Christmas then why not keep yourself occupied with some charity work.  Your local church may well be hosting a Christmas lunch for the elderly who don’t have any family.  There is nothing like helping those less fortunate than yourself to build self esteem and make you feel better about your own circumstances – it can be very rewarding.  Why not check out this website or search on the internet for something in your area: