Shared Custody at Christmas – 4 Tips to Surviving Christmas without Kids

As a divorced parent, you get what is called a custody schedule. That schedule typically dictates that you alternate holidays. Meaning my sweet baby girls wake up at their dad’s house every other Christmas morning (insert sniffle here). Shared custody at Christmas is hard.

Today I am typing this because in a few days it will be Christmas morning and my girls will be waking up at their dad’s. After 10 years of divorce, I am still anxious about it spending Christmas without kids. My girlies are now 16 & 14 and I’ve done this a few times, so I can report that it still feels uncomfortable.

Below are some strategies that I found helpful for coping with Christmas without kids.


As a benefit of having your children wake up at the “other” house, you get to sleep-in undisturbed. Take advantage of this precious time since it is a hectic day. Sleep, then shower to get ready for the festivities. You will have the time to set the scene, prepare for your annual traditions and make your home festive and welcoming for when your babies arrive.


Your children will be super stoked about their presents at dad’s and will call you to report on their bounty. Be ready with smiles and good cheer. Don’t make them feel bad that you are alone (divorced kids don’t like their parents being alone). If you have a beef with your ex, today is the day to let it go (even when you see Dad’s new girlfriend in the background). Your issues are not your children’s so don’t bring that into the magic of Christmas.


In all likelihood your children will want to come over sooner than planned since they are excited about their presents (2nd Christmas is a benefit for children of divorce). This will also happen in the following year – they will want to leave early to go to dad’s to open his presents. Be flexible. You will reap the benefits in years to come. This is a busy holiday and being flexible allows a give and take with your co-parent.


Since you might be alone on Christmas morning, prepare ahead of time with your to-do list. Check the time of Zoom church; pop into your parent’s house for breakfast; burn off extra energy by baking The Great British Bakeoff’s Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns; walk the dog on a local trail; mediate; or throw on Spotify’s Christmas Coffeehouse playlist while sipping your holiday hot cocoa and relishing in the quiet before the Christmas chaos. 

Figuring out how to do holidays as a divorced or separated parent takes time.

For the first few years of being divorced at Christmas, my ex and I were able to be at each other’s houses to share in the morning present exchange. It was nice to not miss out. Then later, when I experienced my first Christmas without kids I made plans to have Xmas lunch with my boyfriend’s family. It felt all wrong so I left. I could not be that far away from my house and my children’s impeding arrival. I just needed to be at home and wait. Period.
You’ll find what works for you. It will take a few Christmases to figure out how to best cope, but that uncomfortable feeling never really goes away. Shared custody at Christmas continues to be hard. Sorry. The good news is, once your children arrive at home, you’ll forget all about that yucky feeling and everything will be right in the world! 


If you are really stressed over the holidays due to divorce, sharing custody, and life – please check out these resources from mom Devin “Frustration, Grief and Mental Health”.

Wishing you all the magic of Christmas!
Previous articleChristmas Traditions: Fun Ways to Make New Memories Together
Next article10 Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas for Teens
Hi, I'm Brinn. I am an imperfect mom who strives to do better every day at caring for the people and pets in my life. Together with my husband, 4 daughters and 2 dogs, I live in Exeter (but have lived all over the Seacoast). I've spent the last 20-years working in the Recreation biz and currently manage of the Portsmouth Senior Activity Center and the Portsmouth Holiday Parade. Before Portsmouth, I worked for Rochester Recreation & Arena...Some of your children might have been taught to skate by me! 25 years ago I started my career in Boston at the New England Aquarium and pretty much love all animals. In my free time I volunteer for the Marine Mammal Rescue Team at the Seacoast Science Center as well as kayak and paddle board. Follow me at @brinnieloohoo on Instagram to learn more about my ever so imperfect attempt at life and motherhood.


  1. Much is demanded of all parents at Christmas but divorced moms and dads struggle to keep it about the kids. This is an excellent reminder that planning, flexibility, and kindness will make Christmas easier for everyone. Well done.

Comments are closed.