One of every four American children today lives in a single-parent home. And though the circumstances may vary, the reality is that solo parenting is often stressful, demanding, and hectic. Being a single parent can result in added pressure, stress, and fatigue.
Child rearing can be difficult under any circumstances. Without a partner, the stakes are higher. As a single parent, you might have sole responsibility for all aspects of the day-to-day childcare.
Below are 7 tips to help you cope with being a single parent.
- Set up a support system: All single parents need help — whether it’s someone to watch the kids while you run out to do errands or simply someone to talk to when you feel overwhelmed. Lean on others. Work out a carpool schedule with other parents. Join a support group for single parents or seek social services. Call on loved ones, friends, and neighbors for help. Faith communities can be helpful resources, too.
- Maintain a daily routine: Try to schedule meals, chores, bedtimes, and other family functions at regular hours so that your child knows exactly what to expect each day. A consistent routine will help your child feel more secure and help you feel more organized.
- Be consistent with discipline and set limits. Explain house rules and expectations to your child—and enforce them. Children thrive when they know which behaviors are expected of them and which rules they need to follow. If you are divorced or separated, work with your spouse to create and observe consistent rules and methods of discipline. If your child has other caregivers, talk to them about how you expect your child to be disciplined.
- Abolish “guilt” from your vocabulary. Don’t blame yourself or spoil your child to make up for being a single parent. It’s always easy for single parents to feel guilty about the time they don’t have or the things they can’t do or provide for their children. But for your own sense of well-being, it’s better to focus on all the things you do accomplish daily and on all the things you do provide — and don’t forget about all the love, attention, and comfort you’re responsible for! Don’t try to be the perfect parent. Accept the fact that you cannot be both parents. Just do your best.
- Take time for your children: Even though the piles of laundry and dirty dishes may beckon, set aside time each day to enjoy your kids. (After all, isn’t that what parenting is all about?) Spend quiet time playing, reading, going for a walk, or simply listening to music together. And most important, focus on the love between you and on your relationship as a family. Remember to praise your child. Give him or her your unconditional love and support.
- Take time for yourself: Likewise, it’s important to schedule time for yourself. Even if it’s something as simple as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or having a chat with a friend, setting aside a little personal time will give you a chance to refuel. Include physical activity in your daily routine, eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep. Arrange time to do activities you enjoy alone or with friends. Give yourself a “timeout” by arranging for childcare at least a few hours a week.
- Stay positive: It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and demands of single parenthood. Despite all your feelings, though, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude since your children are affected by your moods. It’s OK to be honest with your child if you’re having a difficult time but remind him or her that things will get better. Give your child an age-appropriate level of responsibility rather than expecting him or her to behave like a “little adult.” Keep your sense of humor when dealing with everyday challenges.
Being a single parent can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By showing your child love and respect, talking honestly, and staying positive, you can lessen your stress and help your child thrive.
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