5 Ways to Cope When Celebrating the Holidays Alone With Kids

Mom Moment 11

Holidays alone with kidsAs much as I love the holiday season, it also causes me a fair amount of anxiety because due to my husband's job as a commercial pilot and military officer, it usually means I'm going to be celebrating them alone with my four kids.

Even though I still feel a bit of dread each year, I'm getting a bit better about accepting our fate and figuring out ways for all of us to cope, but regardless, it's still stressful.

If have a spouse who travels or is away on the holidays, I bet these tips will help you too.


  1. Ditch the countdown and advent calendars: You'd think by now I would learn my lesson, but having an advent calendar when you may not be celebrating Christmas on December 25 is the worst idea possible. We started a book tradition, where we read a different holiday-themed book every day, thus eliminating the actual calendar part. This allows us to be more flexible if Santa has to come early or arrive late.

  2. Make an alternative plan and stick to it: The first year my husband was away for Thanksgiving, during the week prior we waffled back and forth about whether we should celebrate the day before or the day after, but never made a decision, hoping that he wouldn't get called into work. Well, of course he did and we were left scrambling. So even if you don't know for sure if your spouse will be gone, I suggest making an alternate plan, like "We'll be celebrating Thanksgiving on Wednesday this year!" and then sticking to that even if he or she happens to be off on the actual holiday.

  3. Alert family and friends: You don't need to send out "We're celebrating our holidays early" cards or anything like that, but I like to give family and close friends a heads up so that they know we're having our holiday on a different day than everyone else. By having them play along with our plans, it really helps the kids, who now know that we're doing something different than everyone else, have a bit of normalcy.

  4. Channel your disappointment: I'm embarrassed to admit that for a few years, I would be terribly disappointed when we'd have to change our holiday plans. These days, I use the energy I'd have spent feeling sorry for myself into other more productive ways, like decorating the house, picking out new recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, or making gifts, even with the kids. It's amazing how much energy you use feeling bad that you could switch around for good.

  5. You are the celebration: For the longest time, I was really upset when my kids weren't able to celebrate Christmas until December 27, or we had to eat Thanksgiving dinner a few days before. But now I realize that the actual day we celebrate isn't important, but rather, how we celebrate. Quite frankly, turkey and stuffing can be enjoyed on any day. And Santa can make exceptions and arrive early. It's that we're together that matters most.

How do you celebrate the holidays if you're alone with the kids?


Photo via Muffet/Flickr

holidays, thanksgiving, christmas


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we2an... we2angels

My husband will be gone both holidays this year as well, I am used to Thanksgiving solo; we just celebrate with extended family and a daddy holiday when we can; but the Christmas one we'll celebrate early. Girls know Santa will come a few days early this year.

cassi... cassie_kellison

My husband is in the Army so holidays w/out him are a given. We celebrate when we can together or spend time with other families who are missing their family member.


Lesley Rae King

My military husband will be gone for Thanksgiving this year, but should be home in time for Christmas. He also missed my birthday, Halloween, his own birthday, and our youngest daughter's first birthday. We had a family birthday celebration before he left. We did Halloween with the neighbors, and we're travelling to be with friends and family for Thanksgiving. The kids are still really young, though, so I don't know how much they understand about holidays. They just know Daddy is gone.


IKnow... IKnow0101

My husband works all holidays since he's a chef and we don't have a lot of family in the city.  My children are still young (3 & 5) so they still get excited about decorating above everything else.

LexRamp LexRamp

We are military as well and my hubs was gone and will be gone for all the major holidays....luckily a group of wives are all getting together with our kiddos for thanksgiving. Don't know what we will do for Christmas because our extended families are clear across the country. Yau'

DebaLa DebaLa

"Celebrating Alone With Kids."

Alone?? That's not a healthy outlook for you or your children. And your list... this just sounds sad. I hope you find a way to adapt and make fun, unique memories, not just cope.

nonmember avatar kaerae

A single parent and children is a FAMILY! Why is that so hard to grasp? You're not "ALONE with kids," You're with your family for the holidays, and it's nothing to COPE with, it's time to celebrate. What a pathetic article. I pity you. I also pity all those who are COPING through the holidays in unhappy marriages trying to put on a happy face for the kids. Poor you.

leona24 leona24

That's easy try getting through the holidays flat a** broke!!

toria... toriandgrace

Are you kidding me? When I started reading this article I thought it was about hubby really missing the holidays, not being a day way or late. My husband had been deployed every Christmas since 2009 and he leaves again Saturday. We have celebrated in November, January, February... The reality is you have to celebrate your holiday with or without him. Santa is coming on Christmas and my six year old is so excited.

toria... toriandgrace

And Kaerae, I don't know if you've experienced holidays without your spouse, but there is a certain amount of coping that must be done. In four years my husband missed 2 Thanksgivings, 4 Christmases, my birthday 3 times, our daughter's twice, our anniversary 3 times, Easter twice, 4th of July twice, Halloween, and the birth of our son (along with countless other important events). It's his job, we accept it but that doesn't mean it is HARD for our family. I put a smile on my face, visit Santa, spoil my children with presents, surround myself with friends and family and ENJOY my holidays, but I would be lying if I said that a few tears aren't shed at the end of the day. My family isn't complete without my husband and so my holidays aren't complete without him, and sometimes it's difficult to COPE with that.

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