As families become more and more complex, it may sometimes seem impossible to keep it together during the holidays. What happens if your children have to be with their “other family” during the holidays? Does that resign you to a miserable time alone?

Spending a holiday without your kids doesn’t have to be an exercise in misery. Not at all. With a little advanced planning and effort, you can make the holidays more enjoyable for both yourself and your children — even if you’re not with them on the exact “special day.”

Margorie Engel, Ph.D., past president of the Stepfamily Association of America, offers these suggestions for making the most of a holiday apart from your kids.

  1. Plan a holiday event with other people in the same boat.

    Arrange a potluck dinner, a night on the town or a festive party for other temporarily childless parents. Enjoy the opportunity to dress up and stay out as late as you want.

  2. Take a trip.

    If the house doesn’t seem the same without the kids, then get out. Visit relatives or friends, or take off on that vacation you’ve always wanted.

  3. Undertake a big project.

    If you’ve never been able to get the house painted or the floors refinished with kids underfoot, here’s your chance to get things done.

  4. Give yourself a holiday present.

    Indulge in a meal or treat that you wouldn’t ordinarily have. Take a long, hot bath. See a movie or read a book. Holidays are for adults, too.

  5. Help someone who is less fortunate.

    If you find yourself in a funk, try doing something for someone else. Taking the focus off yourself for awhile can give you fresh perspective and remind you to count your blessings.

  6. If you don’t feel up for anything, then give up … for awhile.

    Sometimes we just need to lick our wounds. Everyone needs some downtime, and it can be therapeutic to curl up in bed and hide under the covers for a spell. Just don’t get caught up in it, Engel warns. Coping with holidays will be part of your life from now on, so don’t waste time resenting the situation. Deal with it.

The key to making the holidays a success is advanced planning and effort, and taking care of yourself and your own needs too. Self-care is important to ensuring that you come out on the other side of the holiday stress-free and happy to see your children again.