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Avoid Single Holiday Stress

——For single or divorcing parents, holidays can create additional anxiety and tension. And with nearly 36 percent of all families in Los Angeles County headed by a single parent, the usual pressures of coping with the festive season combined with conflicting emotions over families and loved ones can make Christmas one of the toughest times of the year.

“For single parents the holidays can be especially exhausting, and the first Christmas without a partner can be a very traumatic experience,†said Evelyn V. Martinez, executive director of First 5 LA, a child advocacy and grant-making organization. “Many people experience mixed emotional feelings, such as loneliness, isolation and sadness, especially when the children have gone to bed or they’re away with the other parent.â€

But one of the best ways to avoid holiday stress, according to Barbara Andrade DuBransky, professional social worker and senior program officer with First 5 LA, is to redefine how you celebrate the holiday. “Continue to use old family traditions if they still work for your family, but also consider creating new traditions that might have more meaning for your family’s current situation.â€

Dubransky suggests that you go over all of the upcoming holiday plans with your children and whenever possible involve them in the planning. Also, choose to spend time and celebrate the holidays with people who lift your spirits and with whom your youngsters have fun being around.

Here are some additional tips from First 5 LA to help single parents and their youngsters enjoy the holidays season:
• Consider spreading out your holiday celebrations with several scaled-down events rather than celebrating only the “big times” (e.g. Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and first day of Chanukah).

• Budget some “alone time” to satisfy your own needs — a long walk, lunch with an understanding friend or just listening to music.

• Plan celebrations for you and your children with friends and other single parent families.

• Discuss and plan visits and gift giving with your former partner well ahead of the holiday season, and try to agree on gift selection and cost. If your ex-partner chooses to lavish inappropriately expensive gifts on your children (especially if you cannot afford such gifts), don’t place your children in the middle of your arguments over spending excesses.

If your children are going to be spending the holidays with their other parent, First 5 LA’s Dubransky added that you should not display sadness, disappointment or anger when you send them off. Instead, encourage them to have a good time and tell them you’ll be looking forward to seeing them when they return. This could also be an opportunity to create a new tradition of celebrating their return home.

For additional tips on handling the holidays as a divorced parent go to http://divorcesupport.about.com/od/holidayblues/qt/ChristmasSurviv.htm.

About First 5 LA
First 5 LA, a child advocacy and grant-making organization, was created by California voters to invest Prop 10 tobacco tax revenues, supports programs for improving the lives of children from prenatal through age 5 in Los Angeles County.

For more information on First 5 LA’s programs for parents and children call the parent helpline at 1-888-347-7855 or visit www.first5la.org.

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