Holiday Stress When You Are Single

Holiday Stress – Singular Style

Rarely are there occasions in the year that are at once so joyous and yet so “oy-ous” as the Christmas holiday season.

Holiday Stress When You Are Single

Tom Wang / 123RF Photo

My darling Singularians. It’s that time again when expectations run high and the potential for crashing under the weight of this holy and unholy burden increases by 3,000 times in debit card applications alone. Even those of us who adore the season, may find we’re not at peace or feeling much good will if we feel depressed, anxious, stressed or on overload. Let’s look. 


Dear Marnie: My husband and I recently divorced. We have two children. The divorce was not easy for any of us. And now we have the problem of holidays. Who gets whom when! I want them on Christmas but so does he! We’ve been arguing for months over this. It’s not fair for either of us! What to do? — Humbug

MARNIE SAYS: My dear Humbug. Well, you’ve described what you want. You’ve described what he wants. You’ve described the massive “unfairness” to both of you. Ummm … I think you left out a part. WHAT DO THE CHILDREN WANT AND NEED?

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* Sadly, it’s easy to lose little ones in the grayish cloud of our own misery. Yet, little Ones have Big Feelings.

– The Way It Was. No matter how or with whom they celebrate, they’ll be missing “what was.” Change is tough for adults. For children already forced into the Big Change, the holidays magnify mourning and the traditions of yore.

– Prisoners of War. When holidays are a battleground, children become emotional hostages that feel they have to choose sides and risk losing the affection of one or the other parent. Simply enjoying the day with one parent may seem like a betrayal.

* Making holidays work for children requires putting them first, which has to do with how you negotiate, behave and prepare them. 

– Decide holiday sharing in private – adults only. Do it in advance and in writing.  Young children don’t get a vote.  It’s not their job to choose sides because the adults they love are too, well childish to be the adults.

– Discuss with your ex how holidays will be spent on their watch. Be consistent with your ex about gifts, phone contact, rules and keep the gift budget in fair proportion.  Competition leaves crawl space for damaging manipulation. Divide don’t duplicate gift lists and special events.

– Listen to your children and let them talk. They will have sad feelings about holidays gone by but offer them the gift of change and support. If the kids are traveling, talk to them about the new experience and let them bring a favorite comfort item.

– Get creative about dates. If we can fiddle with Presidents’ birthdays, you can celebrate the next day, or week. 

– Get creative about ideas. Start new traditions. Yes, things will be different, maybe just as terrific. Go someplace new – a meal plus movie, for example. Include gram, gramps, and goofy Uncle Henry if you have extended family nearby.    

– Give your children permission to enjoy the day with your ex. Reassure them you’ll be fine. Your ex is part of your family history, your children’s present and future. 

Finally, remember. You’ll be grandparents together. The very best present you can give them is the right and the freedom to love you both by modeling peace, fairness and goodwill.


Dear Marnie: I’m a bachelor who moved to a house in the country two years ago. I love Christmas. I put up a tree in every room. Over the years, I’ve collected many ornaments and decorate under the tree with miniature snow-covered houses, and more.  I also have a life sized Santa that sits beside the tree holding a book that can recite “The Night Before Christmas.” Plus, I also collect Christmas plates and yes, toys. (I have a terrific train set that I’ve been adding to for years.) I enjoy having people over to see the scene, but I have one huge problem. My niece comes over with her three-year-old and it’s godawful! She doesn’t correct the child when she walks under my tree, bats the glass ornaments, kicks over the trains and knocks the book off Santa’s lap. All I do is run after her saying, “Watch out!” I do love kids but what can I say or do? – Annoyed Uncle

MARNIE SAYS: My poor collector. Invite your niece over for tea. Tell her, “My dear, we need to lay some laws for little Lulu during visits. While I love sharing the spirit with you both, I decorate in heirlooms, not footballs.” She must agree to your rules – in advance of any future visits.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:


– Create a small, safe play circle for the child near enough to the goodies so she can see, but far enough away so she can’t fold, spindle or mutilate. Create boundaries with colorful string, a hula hoop – anything to “border” the tot.   

– Stock the area with fun, inexpensive items from the dollar store. Call the play area “Lulu’s Magic Christmas Circle.”

– In her circle little Lulu is queen. She can rip through wrapping paper and play, thereby diverting her attention.

* THE LAWS: Set fair laws with kindness (read: no guilt).

– She may leave the circle to look/touch your stuff only if she’s holding your hand.

– Limit the child’s visit to a half hour. 

– If the rules are violated? Boom, she gets one warning … next violation? She goes home.

This M.O. may teach the tot respect, boundaries and the pride of collecting without sacrificing good cheer and great fun – which is ultimately the stuff of great memories. And that’s one terrific gift package – for life.


For some years I’ve worked with a college girl who lost her twin sister in a tragic accident. She recently wrote the following … which I’d like to pass on to you.


“Dear Marnie … please share this.

“As you know, my identical twin sister was killed in a drunk driving accident. She was coming home from a party when a drunk driver hit the car she was in, head on, killing my sister almost instantly. The driver sustained minor injuries, but permanently destroyed my family. There is a hole in our family now and I feel like less of person without my twin by my side. When people drink and drive, they don’t only run the risk of hurting themselves. They run the risk of hurting innocent people, people with dreams and family. They run the risk of destroying countless lives, lives that are forever altered in a way that nobody should have to deal with. Please remember my sister the next time you get behind the wheel after a party or dinner. She could have easily been your sister, your daughter, your mother, or your wife.”
Holidays are about … hope. 

And that’s what I wish for you, my dear Singularians. The hope that dares us to dream the improbable. To face each day, without fear, joyous and satisfied in the trying, so that ultimately we can face our last, knowing we’ll never say … “I wish I would have …”

Peace and love to you this Holiday Season … from my world, to yours. I’m so glad we touch.



Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC

Marnie MacauleyAdvice guru Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with  hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications.  She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work.  In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 
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