11/06/2013 01:56 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Holidays: Don't Feel Like a Loser

Ok, your husband has re-married and he has the kids for Christmas or New Years or whatever. You haven't re-married yet.

When we wrote our book Love for Grown-Ups (it's all about meeting, dating and marrying as a mature woman) we interviewed women who had spent many years alone, either as single women or between marriages. They all had stories about how they handled (or didn't handle) a holiday which is traditionally celebrated with the whole family. Here are some ideas based on their experiences.

If you are divorced with kids, find out ASAP what days you WON'T have the kids. You don't want to find out as you're popping that holiday roast into the oven that the kids aren't coming to your house and they are due at your former in-laws home for a big holiday gathering with all their cousins. The sooner you have this information, the better.

Shopping for the holidays. If your children have step-siblings or your husband has had children with his new wife you want to give this some thought. If your kids spend Christmas with their father and they all exchange presents it might be nice if your own kids took something (modest) for their step-siblings. And if it's a half-brother or sister, they definitely should. No matter how angry you might be at your ex, you want to make the day as pleasant for your kids as possible. If there are presents for your children at his house, don't make it awkward for them.

Remember you aren't playing Santa Claus to your ex and his new wife. Sending gifts over for the kids doesn't extend to the parents. If your children are teenagers and old enough to want to give presents to their dad and step mom, they should handle that themselves.

Don't let your ex use you as a baby sitting service. You have a visitation schedule for a reason and it's important to stick to it. When your ex calls to say, "Oh we decided not to take the kids Saturday night, we've been asked to a Christmas party. Can you take them?" Take a deep breath and say "no." You have a life and you need to make and keep a schedule too.

Once you know when you have the kids, make plans. If it turns out that you are celebrating the holiday not on the actual day, that's fine. The important thing is to have fun together. Don't try to duplicate the holidays you had when you were married. Make new traditions; don't bring up old and painful memories. Maybe you all go skating and open presents in the evening. Or if they can't wait, open them in the morning and go out for a great breakfast and then off to a holiday movie. If you're a single mom, try to do something that won't require your being in the kitchen for hours, chopping and basting. Make meals something that's easy to do and spend time with your kids. If you don't want to go out, play a board game together. This is one day when you really don't want the kids doing solo activities like video games!

If you don't have kids or they're away for the holiday and you'll be alone on Christmas Day or New Years Day, you may think "Whew, a day alone in peace and quiet hooray." Wrong! No matter how much you think you want to be alone, don't spend the entire day by yourself. Here are some ideas we pass on to you from women we interviewed.

Have an elegant breakfast. Hotel dining rooms are always open and you can go alone -- and in a hotel dining room you won't be alone! Get a ticket to a show. Something special that you've been meaning to see. Ask a friend to take a walk and look at the holiday windows. Even if the friend is part of a traditional get together later in the day she will be happy to get a little time alone with you. Lend a hand. There are many charities that need help serving food to the homeless on holidays. Call and volunteer. The children's ward in a hospital always needs someone to come in and read to the little ones. Give some thought to how you want to spend the day.

At the end of the day, you can come home, luxuriate in that bubble bath, have whatever you feel like for dinner and watch you favorite DVD. Being on your own isn't the same thing as being alone. You're in charge of your own life.

If you're going to be on your own for a holiday what would you like to do?

Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Ryan Lampl and Tish Rabe are relationship coaches and authors of Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life, a guide based on interviews with women who married over the age of 35. The book tells you how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who all got married later in life. They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.