Single parent guide to Christmas


While the kids excitedly count down how many sleeps till Santa comes, many single parents worry about they have to organise and the cost of presents to buy.

Christmas can be full of expectations, highs and lows, memories, reflecting on loss and pressure from children and media. For some it can be the most magical time of year, and for some the loneliest time of year. How we celebrate, varies greatly across the world and each household. Here we have gathered tips and information from the most asked questions we get from single parents about Christmas.

We would love to hear from you about how you will be spending this Christmas, tips for navigating the festive season and any messages you would like to share.

Send us your Christmas message

You're doing the best you can. Your children love you and want to spend time with you, and finding these treasured moments of quality time together is the best thing you can get them for Christmas. My best holiday memories were spent around a table with my mum and my brother, or watching silly films together on TV. As an adult now, what was under the tree isn't what stuck with me. What you're doing is enough, being loving and present is enough. I wish you and your family only the best of things this Christmas and next year.

- Single parent,

Christmas topics that single parents ask us about...

First Christmas as a single parent

You could be feeling relieved, lonely, excited, or overwhelmed at the thought of your first Christmas as a single parent. Acknowledge that things will likely be different, and you cannot do the job of two parents.

  • Think about the things that will be important for your children to feel consistent, especially if they need support to feel safe, secure and loved due to changes.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be super mum or dad. Your children will be happy spending time with you.
  • Create new traditions, to make the time you have with your children special.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you have friends or family. Maybe you could have Christmas with another single-parent family to share the work, and for the children to play together.
  • If your children will be spending time with other family, plan ahead with arrangements. See ‘child contact’ section below.
  • Remember self-care is important, especially if you will be spending time without your children. We have some tips below about time without your children at Christmas.
  • If you have recently bereaved, there is support and advice available from WAY (Widowed and Young) and Cruse.

Christmas without your children

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, but it is important to look after yourself.

Try to stay positive and encouraging to your children about spending time with their other parent. Avoid telling them you are going to be lonely or upset without them and saying how much you will miss them. Instead focus on looking forward to what you are going to do together when you will see them again.

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.

Try to spin it as an an opportunity to do whatever you feel like doing for yourself, such as;

  • Watch a film, relax in the bath, or pamper yourself.
  • Meet up with friends, or if they live too far away arrange a time to chat.
  • Get dressed up in your favourite outfit, or you might prefer to have a relaxed and fun pyjama day.
  • Find new people to talk to or spend time with,  There are websites such as that you can search for groups in your area with similar interests.
  • Go for a run, or do some exercise.
  • Reignite an old hobby, or something you enjoy but don’t usually have time for.
  • Chat online with other parents on forums such as Netmums, Mumsnet or Dads Forum.
  • Some people find having time to themselves looking at social media a good way to relax.
  • Volunteer in your local community, find opportunities via Volunteer Scotland or check with local organisations.
  • Enjoy having a long lie.
  • Some parents have told us they like having the time to clean and tidy their house when their children are not there.

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 your child free time.


  • 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 than the gifts they receive.
  • 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 2022 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.
  • Our helpline advisors have answered some of their FAQ’s about family finances which might be useful for you.
  • If you are struggling you could speak to your housing officer if you have one, look out for local services and charities offering help in your area or contact us on local Facebook pages, community centres and churches.

Christmas dinner

  • Using the ‘scan as you shop’ or ordering online could help you keep track of your spending and stay within your 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 eating with family or friends, ask visitors to bring some food to contribute to the meal so that you do not have to buy and cook everything yourself.
  • 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.
  • Help do your bit for the environment by tackling food waste and getting yourself a bargain from major supermarkets via Too Good To Go app.
  • Find your local food pantry for community led quality food available for a reduced fee.
  • Check notice boards in your local area, and Facebook community groups for food initiatives in your area such as Urban Roots in Glasgow. Some community organisations and churches organise free Christmas meals for people to come together and eat, which you could attend or volunteer at.

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 do not have a court Order regarding contact arrangements, you might like to create a ‘parenting plan’. Scottish Government has a guide on how you can make a parenting plan.
  • If your children are old enough to express their views, encourage them to say how they would like to spend their school holidays, and who they would like to spend time with.
  • 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.

Benefit payment dates over Christmas

You could receive your Universal Credit or benefit payments early over the Christmas period if you are due to be paid on a public holiday.

When your payment is due When Universal Credit will be paid When Tax Credits and other benefits will be paid
Monday 27th December Friday 24th December Friday 24th December
Tuesday 28th December Friday 24th December Friday 24th December
Wednesday 29th December Wednesday 29th December Friday 24th December
Monday 3rd January Friday 31st December Friday 31st December
Tuesday 4th January Tuesday 4th January Friday 31st December



  • 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.

Crisis support

  • 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 0808 2000 247 or find your nearest Women’s Aid service here.
  • For housing issues, contact Shelter on 0808 800 4444 or webchat.

One Parent Families Scotland Opening Hours

Lone Parent Helpline
Will close at 1pm on 24th December 1pm.
Helpline will reopen on Wednesday 5th January, at our usual time of 9.30am until 4pm.
Free phone 0808 801 0323 or use our online webchat or Ask a Question services here.

Head Quarters
The HQ reception line 0131 556 3899 will close at 1pm 24th December.
HQ will reopen at 9am on 3rd January 2022.

Last day open before holiday will be Wednesday 22nd December.
We will have staff at the end of the phone for Edinburgh parents from 9am– 4pm on Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th December. If you need support, please call us on 07570 106 789.
We will reopen as ‘normal’ (though working from home) on Monday January 3rd 2022.

The office will close on 23rd December and reopen 5th January.

We will close at 4pm on Thursday 23rd December.
We will reopen on Wednesday 5th January 2022.

Falkirk                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              We will close at 1pm on Tuesday 21st December.
We will reopen on Wednesday 5th January 2022.

We will close on Thursday 23rd December.
We will reopen on Wednesday 5th January 2022.