Guest Article from R.J. Jaramillo, SingleDad.com
Holiday Survival Guide

For most newly divorced dads and moms, the holiday season without children can be the perfect excuse to gain a lot of weight, stay up late, drink too much, and fall into a tailspin of depression. Sound familiar? Well, here are some tips I have learned along the way to help you survive this holiday season as a Single Parent without your children.

Make sure the custody schedule is finalized

Most men are notoriously bad planners when it comes to a social schedule. The holiday season and your custody schedule should not follow this path of poor planning. Know your dates and times that you will be with
your children and don’t get caught off guard. Make it a pre-season habit of sending out your reminder email to your ex-spouse to confirm the times and dates of the holiday custody schedule in writing. For Example, if your custody exchange is on Christmas eve, but your ex-spouse has booked her time and air flights departing on the 23rd…you can see how this last minute detail can cause a “Ruckus like Dick Butkus…”
This “pre-emptive strike” of communicating the kids times and transfers is invaluable. Taking the initiative can minimize stress and last minute drama between both parties; trust me, you don’t want to neglect the details of the holiday calendar.

Plan Your Routine

Depending on how much time you have away from your children will also determine your single parent holiday schedule. Once you determine their time away, develop a routine of activities of your own that will help keep you
busy and focused on positive matters, which in turn will make time run by fast. There is only so much time in a day to watch, “Man vs. Food” marathons, so I would suggest keeping a schedule of activities that follow a routine in exercising three general areas: The mind, The body and The pay it forward…

Read (nights and before bed time)

Now if you are not much of a reader, I am not going to start encouraging it now; however, reading a good book or finding a series of good books from a well known author is going to bring out your inner “book worm”. My personal favorite around the holidays is any book from Jonathan Tropper. Something about sarcasm and a hot cup of cocoa makes the seasons complete for me. For most men, bringing back a few War and Action books is always a great idea, I highly recommend, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. With today’s, technology, you can treat yourself with an early Christmas present and enjoy these authors on a “kindle” or I-Pad. The point I am trying to make here is to activate your mind with the creativity of reading.

Gaming

I try not to openly encourage this, but if reading is not your fancy, another suggestion for exercising the mind and killing some time is to find the gamer within yourself.  I would strongly recommend “Call of Duty, Black Ops” on any of the current PS3, X-Box360 systems. The graphics and multi user platforms are taking the gaming world into another level. This is definitely an activity that can kill a lot of time, (no pun intended). For most Dads, once they get the hang of the control system, it’s over. Gaming is not just for kids anymore. I have met more Dads that are into series video games than ever before and I am afraid to say that I have been tempted a few too many times myself.

Journaling

Journaling is a lost art. Men don’t have diaries, they have journals. Jotting down a few thoughts and experiences produces a history for each father to pass down some day to their children or even just get a few thoughts out for yourself. I personally made it a goal to journal the entire 2011 year and I look forward to the challenge next year. For now, I rely on my video diaries with my Flip Camera and I too will pass down a library of video diaries to my children when I am stuck wearing diapers in a rest home some day…

The Body

There are three necessary elements of keeping your body healthy during the holidays. Eating & Drinking, Quality Sleep, and Exercising.

That’s right; Too much of a good thing can leave you with horrible consequences. Holiday parties are the perfect excuse to gain a few pounds and drink too much. Water is your best friend in both of these categories. It helps keep yourself hydrated and feeling full no matter how much you want to take another pass at the all-you-can-eat buffet. Your sleep patterns and quality of sleep will show an improvement if you keep your diet in check during the holidays.

Sleeping is one of the most valuable resources for a single parent over the holidays. From personal experience, I recall days of dreading going to bed when my kids were away. Let’s face it, there are those moments of evaluating anything and everything and sometimes we just find those moments when we are lying in bed…. Oh, the second guessing of life! Whatever you do, don’t rely on sleeping aids. They only lead to an addiction and the loss of quality sleep. My best sleeping aid advice is to have some index note cards on your bed stand and a pencil. When you find yourself spinning out of control with late night thoughts, “write them down, and go back to bed”… Your body will relax back to sleep once you clear your thoughts.

As for exercising, I can’t say enough of how important it is to have some type of routine to get your body moving. Just walking 3- 5 times per week provides a great opportunity to tire your body for a better night’s
sleep, or gain an appetite for a meal. I coach many single parents on SingleDad and one of the most common mistakes that divorced parents make is not exercising regularly. Regardless of your occupation or scheduling; your body needs to be balanced and healthy. Especially if you don’t have your children for the holidays, pick up a new activity and dare yourself to step out of your comfort zone and get exercise into your holiday routine this year.

Pay it forward…

There is something special about the holidays that bring the best in us as human beings. Despite the changes in the newly divorced world, the holidays provide the greatest opportunity to make a difference. There are so many people in our communities that need our help. Something as simple as giving our time and attention to others is priceless to others who have less. Churches, Community Centers, Senior Centers, Veteran Support services, Meals on Wheels, Homeless Shelters… you get the picture. The thoughts and love for children who are away can be transformed into the lives of others for the time being. It is a special time of year and it makes you realize that you are really not alone in this world, plus you may make new friends and gain a valuable lesson in life. For those Single Parents without children during the holidays, I encourage all of you to make a difference in the lives of others. There is an exchange that happens when someone volunteers their time and makes a difference to someone in need. Take that opportunity and embrace the connection on helping others and paying it forward. You never know how your actions will touch, move, and inspire others to do the same for you.

On behalf of SingleDad, Happy Holidays!

I hope you enjoyed my survival tips without your kids.  I welcome your comments and feedback: rj@SingleDad.com

Richard “RJ” Jaramillo is the Founder and President of
SingleDad.com. He is also a Single Father of three children and resides in San
Diego, Ca. With over nine years of experience helping other Single Parents with
advice, support,  and resources; RJ is
excited to share his company and personal mission on teaching both Men and
Women on how to “Make Life Happen…Again!”