We've all got something to give -- whether it's a $10 cash donation, our kids' now-too-small winter coats and boots from last year, a couple of cans of soup, or a shoulder to lean on.
And it's not just about setting a good example, either. It's about recognizing that we're all part of a larger whole. All around us, there are people with greater needs than our own -- and, frequently, people who are willing to help, as well.
So as the calendar year draws to a close, consider getting involved in any way you can. Search online for single parent charities in your area or other organizations you believe in and want to support. Then, contact them directly to find out their needs. Even if you can't contribute financially, many non-profit organizations need help organizing donated goods, wrapping holiday gifts, and mentoring other single parent families. So don't discount your ability to participate -- if you have a heart for others, there's a place for you make a difference in your community.
And if you are in a position to donate financially, be sure to do your homework and find out what programs your contribution will fund. For a list of 501(c)3 charities that work with single parents -- to provide housing, support, financial assistance, and more -- read Charities for Single Parents: Where to Give This Year.
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It's not uncommon to experience the blues during the holiday season, especially if you're coping with a recent loss or disappointment. In fact, just acknowledging that it's normal to feel down -- and that you're not the only one suffering through the holidays -- can help. Give yourself some leeway, too. It's perfectly okay to take a break from some of your past traditions for a year or two, or even to replace them with new traditions.
And if your kids are old enough to talk about it, have a conversation about what's really important to them right now. You might be surprised to find that they're ready to change things up a bit, too.
So how about you? When the holiday blues sneak up on you, how do you handle them? Let our readers know what helps you by participating in this week's poll or leaving a comment below.
Poll: What helps you deal with the holiday blues?
- Sharing my feelings with a friend
- Making plans to do something I enjoy
- Doing something completely different
- Giving to others
- Making an extra effort to take care of myself
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Stumped for holiday gift ideas? Here's a tip: give yourself permission to think beyond all the "stuff" on your kids' lists and choose something you can enjoy together.
If your daughter has always wanted to take guitar lessons, take them together! Or if your son loves sports, buy tickets for an upcoming game.
These types of "experience gifts" aren't just another fun thing to do together. They're also tangible signs that you get who your kids are and what they enjoy doing -- something they'll remember for a long time!
For more fun ideas, read Experience Gifts for Kids of Any Age.
- 7 Affordable Family Gifts for Parents & Kids
- 5 Ways to Curb Your Holiday Spending
- DIY Cheap Gifts for Everyone on Your List
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In the midst of all your holiday preparations, be sure to take some time for yourself.
Linger over an extra cup of coffee, journal about what you're grateful for this year, or do something else you enjoy. Carving out little pockets of "me time" will help prepare you for the busy month ahead!
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Are your kids too young to stay home alone while you head out to the stores in search of Black Friday bargains? Don't worry. With some careful planning you can save just as much money by shopping online. Here's how:
- Begin by making a holiday shopping list. Use our free Holiday Gift-Giving Planner to write down the names of all the people you'll be shopping for this year, along with how much money you plan to spend per person. Then, jot down some gift ideas for each person. Do this before you begin shopping!
- Use the Internet to comparison shop online. Start with stores that offer free shipping and see whether they have the items you'd like to buy. In addition, if certain items are available at multiple stores, take the time to comparison shop before you decide where to place your order. Take notes, too, either on your computer or on paper, so that you don't forget which stores offered the best deals.
- Purchase similar items together. Some stores offer free shipping deals only if you purchase $25, $50, or $100 in products, which means that you may have to combine some of your purchases to get the free shipping option. (Just make sure you don't buy something you don't need in order to get free shipping!)
- Use coupon codes. In addition, once you've found something you want to purchase, search for online coupon codes that can help you save even more money.
How do you save money with online shopping? Share your online shopping tips by leaving a comment below.
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When my kids were younger, I struggled with being a helicopter parent (a.k.a., hovering). It wasn't pretty! And for me, it had much more to do with all the "what if" anxiety I felt than any real danger my kids were in.
Now, as they're getting older, I realize that I just want to hold on to them! My youngest is 10. Will she be asking me to play our favorite board games every night a year from now? Perhaps not.
And as I look toward all the growing that lies ahead for her, I realize that much of that growth will be away from me. To some extent, that has to happen developmentally in order for our kids to separate from us and grow into themselves as individuals. But sometimes we try to control that progression by being our kids' best friends -- perhaps the adolescent version of helicoptering our children.
If you're struggling with the urge to hold on too tight, too, take a look at Why You Shouldn't Be Your Child's Best Friend. And remember that it's all about balance. You can still be close, supportive, and loving without compromising your authority!
Think about the baggage that weighs you down. How much of it is guilt that's really yours to own?
As parents, we have the responsibility to help our kids cope with the consequences of other people's decisions, but that doesn't mean that we're responsible for those decisions. So if you've been bearing the responsibility for someone else's actions, it's time to let it go. As a reminder, write "Guilt-Free Zone" on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror or someplace else where you'll see it often.
Try it this week and see if it helps to keep your thoughts focused!
For more tips, read How to Let Go of Single Parent Guilt.
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If you're scheduled to be the one making Thanksgiving dinner for your extended family this year, you already know that this responsibility can be quite expensive. Start your planning now and try to get most of your ingredients on sale. In addition:
- Ask your guests to bring a side dish or dessert.
- If you plan to serve alcohol, ask each adult to bring a bottle of wine to share.
- Pair up with a friend who's also making Thanksgiving dinner; agree to double one make-ahead recipe and swap the extra.
- How to Prepare an Affordable Holiday Dinner
- Make Small Holiday Dinners Fun
- How to Cook a Frozen Turkey
- Thanksgiving Dinner for First-Timers
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There are organizations all over the country that distribute toys to children in need during the holidays. So if you're not in a position to buy gifts this year, because money is just too tight, know that help is available.
And if asking for a "handout" feels too uncomfortable, remember that it's not for yourself, it's for your kids -- who deserve the experience of tearing off that wrapping paper and finding a surprise chosen just for them. Remember, too, that not every year will be like this one. When your situation improves, you'll be able to give back what you've received, and more.
So go ahead and make the call. Start with Toys for Tots, which is one of the largest toy charities in the country. Other sources of help include your local food pantry, nearby churches, and civic organizations.
And if you're not in need of assistance this year, do your part by making a donation. It may even become one of your favorite holiday traditions!
Additional Toy Charities
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Ever wish you had a magic "reset" button to push with your teen? Whether the topic is friends, homework, curfews, or social media, it can seem as though disagreements lurk around every corner -- especially when you're the sole disciplinarian.
Fortunately, it doesn't have to take much to get things back on track. Consider who your teen is, what interests her, and what you enjoy doing together. For fresh ideas, read 10 Ways to Bond With Your Teen.
Focus on common interests and shared experiences, and be intentional about scheduling some time to have fun together. Hitting "reset" may take some time and effort, but it will be worth it when you reconnect!
Your Turn: Leave a comment below to tell our readers how you bond with your teen!
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