Read these 29 Holidays & Gift Giving Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Single Parent tips and hundreds of other topics.
Always be bargain minded. Immediately after Christmas, hit the stores early and take advantage of after-Christmas clearance sales. Stock up on wrapping paper, bows, Christmas cards, gift tags and bags, decorations, etc. for next year. It is also a great time to pick up seasonal items that will make great Christmas gifts for next year such as Christmas hand towels, soaps, baskets, figurines, trinket boxes, angels, mugs, books, etc. Just store in a box and pack away with your other Christmas accessories so you will know where to find it next year. Next year, Santa will be ready!
The best gift you can give your kids is you. Spend time playing games with them, baking cookies together, decorating the tree, caroling in the neighborhood, or if you are lucky enough to have a white Christmas, building a snowman with them or sledding. Spend time getting to know your kids. It will make a difference in all of your lives.
Holidays can be very lonely times for single parents. Start making plans in advance to fill the empty void in your life left by a deserted partner. Make holidays enjoyable for you and the kids. Plan a party of your own or invite another single parent over to share the holidays with your family. Don't look backwards, but forwards. Make some new memories and turn a blind eye, if necessary, to all the traditional families around you. You and your children are complete people too and are entitled to just as much enjoyment, so don't short change yourself or your kids. Reach out to others, don't wait for them to reach out to you.
An especially funny game to play when opening gifts is to wrap a gift with a name tag on it, place it inside another box and wrap it again placing the name tag of another person on it, and then wrap it yet again with another person's name. This makes a great round robin gift exchange and keeps everyone guessing who is going to end up with the gift. The first time you do this, make sure you don't tell anyone the plan and it will catch everyone off guard and should keep them in stitches. Don't do every gift this way as the fun will wear thin quick. I usually do one for each family member or just one per Christmas.
Dealing with holidays is a challenge for many single parents as many holidays are geared to couples and two-parent family units. The most difficult holiday for most single parents tends to be Christmas. Valentine's Day is another downer. Be forewarned of the emotional challenges you may face during these times and prepare in advance for them. Do not let them catch you unprepared. Suicides are at their highest level during the holidays, so prepare ahead of time how you care going to handle them so you won't be the next victim. Make plans to keep yourself occupied and busy during these times. Start planning months in advance if you need to, and make sure you have a Plan B or C in case Plan A falls through. Be flexible in adjusting your plans so you don't get caught off guard and left sitting alone. The other holidays are usually not as stressful and as family or couple oriented as these two holidays and are therefore easier to ignore and survive.
Before the party, cut out pictures of famous people your children and their friends should know. Pin a picture of a famous person on the back of each child so that everyone but that child can see it. Then each child has to ask yes or no questions of the others to figure out who is pinned to his back.
Rather than bake goodies for gifts, try preparing homemade mixes in jars, complete with directions for the recipient to prepare at their convenience. Use quart size jars and layer dry ingredients according to the jar recipe. Cut a square piece of Christmas fabric and insert between the ring and the lid on the jar, add a gold ribbon bell and attach a small tag giving preparation and baking directions. You will be fondly remembered when they enjoy the goodies later.
Make Christmas fun. If you aren't able to spend the holidays with your family, make it a fun time for you and your children. Christmas is all about giving and sharing your lives, not about how much money you spend. Fill a stocking for everyone in the family, regardless of their age. Buy sample sizes of toiletries and wrap each individually in Christmas paper. Other gift ideas include breath mints, disposable razors, pencils or pens for school, notepads, lifesavers and gum packs. And don't forget to add a special Christmas ornament for the tree next year. Let each take a turn in unwrapping the gifts in their stocking and make a game out of it. Put a rhyme or riddle on each gift. Our favorite is to do a twist on the Twelve Days of Christmas song. Number each package with the rhyme so it will be done in order.
Here is a fun game that can be played at a birthday party, regardless of the child's age. Someone starts telling a story and after a couple of sentences, points to another person in the group to continue telling the story. It is a lot of fun as each child adds their own twist to the story. The faster the story goes, the crazier and more fun it gets.
Try making some homemade fudge or candy and put in small gift containers picked up on sale last year after Christmas, or make your own containers. Take a container with a plastic snap-on lid such as a Pringles can, small dry powder mix can, etc., wipe it out with a clean damp paper towel, and then cover the outside with Christmas wrapping paper, leaving several inches at the top and bottom to tuck inside and tape down at the bottom. Fill with goodies, replace plastic lid, and put a bow on top. These containers are inexpensive and can be thrown away without guilt when empty.
Even if your children are visiting their other parent during the holidays, be sure you plan a special holiday time with them also. It doesn't matter what day you celebrate, what matters is that you do it. Not all children get to celebrate Christmas twice! Plan to have at least one special Christmas meal together with just you and the kids (or perhaps a close family friend or relative).
A favorite gift for teenagers or college students studying for final exams is to fill Christmas mugs with snacks for those late night study sessions. Purchase mugs at the clearance sales after Christmas, or find some inexpensive mugs at your local dollar store. Fill with individual packages of hot chocolate mixes, snack crackers, gum, breath mints, hard candy, M & Ms, etc. Enclose mug in plastic gift bag, add ribbon, and you are done.
A fun Christmas activity is to hide a Christmas gift for each member of the family and place clues throughout the house. This requires some thought and careful planning. The clues need to be strategically placed at the last possible moment so as not to be found ahead of time. The first clue can be hidden in the bottom of their Christmas stocking. Good hiding places for other clues could be under a Kleenex box, candle, angel, in a book on a shelf, on top of the refrigerator, on the Christmas tree, etc. Use a Christmas song for your theme, adapting it as needed, and send each person on a treasure hunt throughout the house searching for clues. If there is an upstairs, send them up and down the stairs a few times and even to the garage. Everyone gets in on the action as they follow behind the treasure hunter as he goes from room to room searching for clues. A fun activity for all to enjoy!
Every year purchase a special ornament for each child in the family. (Be sure to keep a written record of who got what to avoid future arguments.) Let each child have the privilege of placing his/her own special ornaments on the tree. Later in life when your child marries and leaves home, they will have a collection of ornaments to take with them as a reminder of all the wonderful holidays your family spent together. Make Christmas special and memorable!
To make Christmas special and more enjoyable, always plan to attend church services somewhere. If your church does not offer Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services, find a church that does and attend with your family. Denominational preference doesn't matter, it's better to attend church somewhere than leave Christ out of it altogether. I am not Catholic but attended Christmas Eve mass several years with family and friends before my church began offering a candelight Christmas Eve service. Take time out from the hustle and bustle and remember what Christmas is all about and why we give gifts, because we were given the greatest gift of all--Jesus Christ who died that we might have life. Remember Jesus is the reason for the season.
Cookies freeze well, so bake those holiday cookies early and freeze until needed. Plan a baking day and do all your holiday baking in one day while you have all the ingredients and cooking utensils out. While one batch is baking, you can prepare the next batch. The kids and I like to do this the day after Thanksgiving. While the rest of the world is fighting traffic and crowds at the mall, we are at home baking cookies for gifts. Let your kids help choose the cookies to bake. Prepare a shopping list of needed ingredients, and have everything ready for the big day. It's great fun and you only mess up your kitchen once but the results will be rewarding. You and the kids will have spent a fun day together and you will have a big head start on Christmas gifts with very little expense. And more importantly you will be making memories your children will treasure when they think back to their childhood and making holiday goodies.
Involve your kids in your holiday preparations. Let them help with decorating the tree after it is assembled and lights strategically placed. Forget the fancy decorator treesˇXthat is for people who do not have children. Your tree should be a reflection of you and your family, with an assortment of decorations representing your lives together down through the years. It does not have to win the Best Decorated Tree award, but it should win the Best Loved Family award.
Get in the holiday spirit early and keep it going. Don't wait until the last minute to decorate the tree and buy gifts, frantically trying to get everything done at the last minute. When you and the kids are gone from home all day being at work or school, it doesn't leave much time to enjoy the holidays. And the closer it gets to Christmas, the busier it gets. Years ago we started the tradition of decorating for the holidays on Thanksgiving weekend when we were all home and everyone could help. That way we could enjoy it for several weeks after all the trouble we went through getting it together. On free evenings, spend time together wrapping Christmas gifts for grandparents, friends, school, etc. Children love to help with the gifts even if it is only choosing the holiday paper for each gift. Don't do the holidays FOR them, do it WITH them and take time to enjoy it, making warm memories together.
If you know of someone who will be spending the holidays alone, invite them to join you in attending church and for Christmas dinner. If they will be present during the stocking or gift exchange, prepare a stocking or gift for them also. Reach out and show love to others just as God showed love to us in sending us His Son.
Make your child's birthday special by letting them create a special crown to wear that day. Before the big day, cut a strip of posterboard about six inches wide and a few inches longer than the circumference of your child's head. Cut points along one side of the strip for the top of the crown. Let your child decorate the crown with colored markers or pencils, beads, play jewelry, stickers, cutouts, etc. After the crown is finished, tape ends together to fit the child's head. On that special day, "crown" your child king or queen for the day! You can present the crown at breakfast or wait until the party begins, even if it is only the two of you. Have a decorated cake, ice cream, or whatever your family enjoys to celebrate. It is not the amount of money you spend on a child, it is the love and time you show them that they will remember. Make their birthday special and show them just how special they are to you.
Holidays are about families getting together and spending time enjoying each other's company. It is about giving your time and energy to make the world a better place for someone else. This holiday season go out of your way to make a positive difference in someone else's life. The adage, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" is true. Try it.
Add jingle bell door knob covers to outside doors to alert you when someone comes in. Pick up some inexpensive holidays soaps for the bathroom, add Christmas guest towels, and add a wreath to the door. Make or purchase an advent calendar for your children to place on their bedroom door. They will enjoy counting the days down to Christmas. Let the holiday spirit of love and peace infiltrate your whole house and it will spill over into you and your family's lives.
To keep Christmas from being so chaotic and over with so quickly, stretch it out and savor the moment. For the past several years we have spent the entire day celebrating Christmas. The gifts are opened one at a time, with each one taking a turn and everyone watching while the gift is lovingly opened and admired, then it is time for the next person to take their turn. It teaches young children patience and heightens their enjoyment since it can last for hours rather than being all over with in 5 minutes and everyone's gift mixed in with everyone else's that you don't know who got what. Take time to appreciate each gift and enjoy the wonder and joy on each face as they open their gift. Hold the stockings back until after your Christmas meal, whether brunch, lunch, or supper. Save some excitement for later. Then do the stockings one by one. Don't forget to plant a clue for the treasure in the bottom of stocking to add even more fun!
Do not let the Christmas spirit stop with the fully-decked out Christmas treeˇXspread it throughout the entire house. And yes, dads, this tip is for you too. Your kids will appreciate your effort. Put a wreath or bow on the front door. Add bows and greenery to an inside entryway. Replace silk flower arrangements with poinsettia bushes. Place a Christmas angels in the bedrooms of your children. Find other ways to spread Christmas throughout your entire house, not just your tree.
Try not to focus on what presents you can afford to give your children, but instead focus on how much of yourself you can give to them. That is what they need the most. Years from now they may not remember the gifts they received this Christmas, but they will remember how special Christmas was that year because you took the time to make it special for them.
Why not make Christmas gifts for friends, neighbors, and coworkers this year. For years I have made goodie bags for people I work with and friends. Some times I make an assortment of Christmas cookies, (8-10 varieties) arrange 2-3 of each on a decorative Christmas plate, cover with plastic wrap, and add a bow. Everyone loves homemade goodies. At other times I prepare homemade caramel corn, store in plastic gift bags, add a ribbon, and instant joy!
When your kids are away, it is important to keep busy, but not so busy that you exhaust yourself. Use this time to pamper yourself. Take that long (uninterrupted) bath, read that book that has been gathering dust on your nightstand. Little things that you do JUST for you can rejuvenate you and when your children arrive safely back home in all their chaotic glory you can embrace the noise rather than wonder why you missed them!
When you cannot be with your children during the holidays, depression can enter very quickly into the picture. Do NOT isolate yourself. If spending time with friends or family is not a possibility, you might consider donating your time to the local soup kitchen during the holidays. This will give you a great feeling of giving and help to keep those depressive feelings at bay.
Decorate your table as if you were having a party with VIPs. Get out your holiday tablecloth and dishes. (Disposable holiday dinnerware will work too!) Use holiday napkins and centerpieces. Set out an assortment of holiday cookies for snack time later. Let your children help decide the menu. Wrap an ornament as an extra gift that can be opened early and place in center of each person's plate. Before or after the meal, enjoy your usual Christmas activities, and you may consider adding a few new ones such as going Christmas caroling in your neighborhood, playing fun Christmas games, etc. Seize the moment and enjoy your special time together!
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|