Co-Parenting During the Holidays: Help From a Few Favorite Carols

Shannan Younger

I’ve been divorced from my daughter’s father for eight years now, which means that I’ve shared my daughter on a lot of holidays. The knot in my stomach and the lump in my throat should be old friends by now, but I’m always a little surprised when they make their appearance as we approach the end of the year and I look at the calendar to start figuring out holiday plans.

I thought I would get used to sharing her, or not seeing her on Christmas morning, but I haven’t. What I have done, however, is figure out how to make it easier on my child, and on myself. Some favorite holiday carols offer some instruction on surviving the holidays as a co-parent.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the haphappiest season of all.”

– It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Look at the holidays as a season, not a day. That perspective shift can make a tremendous difference. Christmas morning or the first night of Hanukkah are not the only times during which holiday memories are made. There is magic all around this time of year. It can come in the giggles from working in the kitchen together or as you wrap presents together for others or watching the holiday concert at school. Those warm fuzzy feelings will last a lifetime, regardless of the date on the calendar.

For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder/Grown a little sadder, grown a little older/And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder/I need a little Christmas now.”

– We Need a Little Christmas Now

Auntie Mame reminds us that the years are not always kind or easy, but perspective can make all the difference. I remind myself that I am not the only parent flying solo in the holiday sleigh each year and that others face far greater challenges than I do.

Even if you have to pour it for yourself, seeing your glass of eggnog as half full, focusing on the positive, and doing what makes you happy can be the ticket to a better holiday. You’ll also be setting a great example for your kids in the process.

“Faithful friends who are dear to us, Gather near to us once more.”

– Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

One of the hardest holidays for me was when I didn’t have my daughter and couldn’t make it home to be with my family. I was planning to volunteer Christmas morning and then spend the rest of the day alone. While I’m sure that would have been okay, I’m very glad that I accepted a gracious invitation to join a friend and his family for Christmas dinner. I was really hesitant to go, but had a great time. I was very touched by their kindness.

I thought about that experience when reading that a Canadian single mother and toddler reached out on Craig’s List looking for somewhere to go for Christmas, in part because her daughter’s dad has her this Christmas. I’m not saying you should go that route though I’m thrilled that it worked out for that mom. But my takeaway is that it’s okay to say that you don’t want to be alone and to ask for company. If you can, give your friends a chance to be there for you.

That also means talking about sharing our kids at the holidays. It is not nor should it be a taboo subject. There more we discuss it, the more normal it will seem to both us single parents and our children. Given that millions of children are in the situation, why wouldn’t we talk about it, normalize it, and share tips on how to make the best of it? is doing just that with a new video sharing seven tips for co-parenting at the holidays. I was thrilled to contribute my two cents and even more excited to get valuable tips from Karen Cahn, Mandy Dawson, and Andrea Gribble, moms who have all been down the co-parenting road. Hearing what others parents do to making the best of a less than ideal situation and remind parents that they aren’t alone is hugely helpful.

“And wild and sweet the words repeat. Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

– I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

You probably knew it was coming, but I have to say it. Even if you have to dig down deep, have and demonstrate good will towards your ex and your former relatives. Whether or not they deserve it is irrelevant. It isn’t easy, but you never know if maybe that kindness will be what makes their hearts grow three sizes.

Most importantly, showing your children that you can be kind to adults on the other side of their family will go a long way toward bringing peace to them and their hearts, and what a true and lasting gift that is.


Coparenting during the holdaus can be tough, but these tips might save the day

Shannan Younger is a recovering attorney living in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and teen daughter. She blogs at Mom Factually, ChicagoNow's Between Us Parents and as part of the Chicago Parent Blogger Network. Her writing has appeared on the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, Mamalode, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, Mamapedia, and In the Powder Room, and her essays have been included in two anthologies by The HerStories Project. She is also freelance writer for regional magazines. Shannan was in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother, despite the fact that her daughter often fails to do so. She's been cited by the show "24 Hours" and quoted by the BBC but hopes they come back soon to talk about more than Justin Bieber.