A single parent’s guide to Christmas


2020 is like the year that’s been paused, and we’ve all had to adapt to a new ‘normal’. Things will be a lot different for most people this Christmas as we try to look after ourselves and our loved ones.

Elf on the shelf might have been quarantined in a balloon when he appeared in your house, or you might have found this a good excuse to get rid of him. Whatever you’re doing we’re sure that you will be doing your best to adapt and think of ways to make this Christmas special for your little ones.

While the kids excitedly count down how many sleeps till Santa comes,  many  single parents  worry about how  much there is  to organise and  the number  of presents to buy.  It can be difficult juggling money and time  while  balancing  stress levels.  This will be more difficult for most families this year due to restrictions of being indoors with other households and difficulty travelling due to COVID-19.

However, this can also be an opportunity to do something different, with less rules and expectations – just you and your children.


Last year we  asked  single parents their tips  to  help  you  enjoy Christmas  and avoid some  of the  stress.  We feel these tips are now more important than ever.

Here is one an example of a quote from a parent. With your help we want to gather many more quotes, tips and advice to share with single parents about Christmas.

We would love to hear more from you with:

  • Tips for coping as a single parent at Christmas
  • What you’re doing to adapt to Christmas during Covid
  • Joyful messages you would like to share with other single parents

#BeAnElfSpreadCheer. Share your message:

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Facebook Frame

You can also let your friends see your support for single parents and spreading cheer by adding our frame to your Facebook profile picture. This will appear with your own profile picture and will return to your usual picture after Christmas. You can change frames from your own Facebook page: click on your profile picture > ‘Change profile picture’ > ‘add frames’ > search for “#BeAnElf”.

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  • Set a budget and stick to it. Look at your finances and decide what you can afford to spend. Don’t forget to factor in the extra you may need for food, fuel, phones, social events and travel.
  • Don’t put yourself under pressure to buy more than you can afford. The memories you create and fun you have together on the day will be remembered more by your children.
  • The Scottish Government has announced funding to support low-income families over the Christmas and Spring holidays. Find out more about the Winter Support Fund.
  • Christmas 2021 may be the last thing on your mind but it’s a good idea to start saving now for next year.
  • Look out for bargains and discount codes which can be found by  Googling  the  name of  the  gift you’re looking to buy or  the  shop you want to use followed by ‘discount code’.  Subscribing to your favourite shops’ email list will notify you of any sales or discounts.
  • Lots of supermarkets have loyalty cards that you can redeem to buy gifts including experiences and magazine subscriptions not directly linked to the shop.
  • Kidstart  is linked to many big shops and offers discounts and special deals to members while also donating a small % of what you spend either to your kids’ savings account or a charity of your choice.
  • If you have any generous friends or family asking for  gift  suggestions for your kids, you might want to consider gifts that would help you spend less, such as  clothes, cinema tickets, sports equipment, subscriptions or things they need for their favourite hobbies.
  • Plan ahead. Shops have been closed due to tiered restrictions for COVID-19 and this could also impact delivery times of online shopping.
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Christmas dinner

  • Using the ‘scan as you shop’ or ordering online could help you keep track of your spending and stay within budget.
  • If it’s too expensive or time consuming to make a traditional Christmas dinner, why not change it to something that suits you and your family?
  • If you  are struggling to buy food over the holidays you can get help from your local  food bank. You may have to be referred by your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice Bureau but contact the foodbank directly for more details.
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Benefits over Christmas

If you would  normally  receive a benefit or tax credit payment on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Day, you should be paid the last working day before, which is Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.

When your payment is due When Universal Credit will be paid When other benefits will be paid (not Universal Credit)
Thursday 24 December Thursday 24 December Wednesday 23 December
Friday 25 December Thursday 24 December Wednesday 23 December
Monday 28 December Thursday 24 December Wednesday 23 December
Friday 1 January Thursday 31 December Thursday 31 December
Monday 4 January Monday 4 January Thursday 31 December
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  • Arrange any extra childcare needed for over the holiday period well in advance.
  • If your childcare costs increase a lot during the holidays you may be entitled to extra working tax or universal credit. Contact  HMRC  report this change for tax credits or, if you get universal credit, report it on your online account.
  • If you don’t have any childcare, you could meet up with friends and go to the park together, have a day out  or visit each other so that you can have some adult conversation while the kids play.  Please keep up to date with the COVID-19 guidelines for where you live if you are planning to meet people from another household.
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Contact arrangements

  • If your children usually spend time with their other parent, try to agree how this can work best for everyone during the holidays.
  • If you are concerned about the safety of your child when they are with their other parent or worry that they may not be returned after a visit, get specialist advice. Our advice pages on child contact might be helpful, including our page on what to do when contact arrangements aren’t working.
  • If you’re concerned about your child not returning from another country contact a service like  Reunite International  for advice.
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Some parents have told us that they feel lonely and miss their children so much during the time they’re with other family that they’re not able to relax and enjoy the time to themselves. This is understandable, especially if this is the first Christmas you’ve been separated.

Check out ‘My Life and Me’, our online single parent wellbeing resource, with tips and support for self-care, including how to cope with feeling anxious or lonely.

  • You might want to enjoy the time at home watching a film, relaxing in a bath, or meeting up with friends.
  • You might want to get dressed up for Christmas, or you might prefer to have a relaxed and fun pyjama day.
  • You might want to find new people to talk to or spend time with, reignite an old hobby, or learn something new. There are websites such as  meetup.com  that you can search for groups in your area with similar interests.
  • You can also chat online with other parents on  Netmums  or  Mumsnet.
  • Some people find having time to themselves looking at social media a good way to relax.
  • If you can’t be with the people you would like to be with this Christmas you might want to have a chat, drink, quiz or some sort of fun via video chat.
  • Just remember  social media isn’t a reflection of reality. We’re not all carving up the perfect homemade  Christmas.

Different people find different things work best for them and their family – you’re the expert of yourself. Most importantly, try to relax and enjoy it.

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One Parent Families Scotland opening hours

The Lone Parent Helpline is closed from 24 December 4pm.

We re-open on 4 Jan 2020 at 9.30am.

Local services will be closed between dates and times below:

  • Braes Children and Families Centre, Falkirk: 23rd Dec – 7th Jan
  • Glasgow: 23rd Dec – 4th Jan
  • Lanarkshire: 23rd Dec – 4th Jan
  • Dundee Family Support Services: 22nd Dec – 5th Jan
  • Edinburgh: 23rd Dec – 5th Jan
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If you need immediate help over Christmas

  • If you are in immediate danger call  999
  • For health advice when your GP  and  dentist is closed call  NHS 24 on 111
  • For personal crisis support, call the Samaritans  on 116 123
  • If you are feeling low or depressed call  Breathing Space  on 0800 83 85 87
  • If you are, or have been, affected by domestic abuse, call  the Domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline on  0800 027 1234  or find your nearest Women’s Aid service
  • For housing issues, contact  Shelter  on 0808 800 4444 or  webchat