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Being a parent can be one of the most difficult jobs there is. Add being single to it, and you just doubled the potential stress that can come with it. The challenges are seemingly endless, however there are ways to ease (if not eradicate) the sense of burden.
Whether you are a co-parent with an ex or doing it on your own, trying to be everything to your kids is a difficult path to tread. Many parents attempt to play the mum and the dad role, at least when the children are present, and you’re in charge. You have to keep your kids fed, clean, dressed and educated, not to mention maintain an emotional and financial stability – it’s like juggling a dozen eggs at once and sometimes it feels like you drop a few on the way round. At times there can also be extra pressures from outside – those who judge you for the seeming “failures” each time you drop or crack one of those eggs your juggling. Of course, in truth, there are no failures – simply lessons to learn and understanding to provide the space for making the changes needed to support ourselves on a deeper level.
Remember that the most important thing is you and your children’s wellbeing, not other people’s impression of you as a parent. If your kids are well cared for and feel loved, you’re on the right track.
Some days, you aren’t going to feel like you’re doing anything right — and that’s perfectly normal. Saying that, it’s important to take head of the signs that are signaling to you opportunities to change how you can manage the juggle in a way that help you and your children to thrive.
Here are some simple tips for raising children as a single parent:
1. Lean on others: You’re not alone. Single-parent families are growing in number. As such people’s awareness (even coupled families) of what it is like to single parent is growing as more people talk about the realities of what it is like raising a child this way. This means it’s quite likely that you’re surrounded by people who are willing to help you out. If you have friends, family members, members of your faith community, or even friends from work, you could ask them for help. Perhaps they can keep the kids for an hour or two while you run an errand, or maybe they will just be there to talk through some of the challenges. Cultivate those relationships and remember ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Both you and your kids can learn much about community from accepting the support.
2. Create a routine: Children thrive on routine. If they know exactly what is supposed to happen and when, they are happier and feel more secure. They will also be easier to manage in the morning and at bedtime. They’ll feel like they are in better control of their own lives, and be more willing to get things done on their own, such as brushing their teeth, getting dressed and more. In this remember their brains are still developing and they very much work in space rather than time – so, as long as we are maintaining a strong connection with them, helping them learn along the way, practicing patience and not expecting them to do it alone they generally work with you in getting what practical things need doing done.
3. Stay organised: It seems kind of obvious, but being organised is the key to managing your kids’ events, appointments, school activities and more. A great communication tool you could use with another parent or family member is an online calendar app and share it. This way, you don’t have to call or remind anyone of events such as ball games or parent-teacher conferences. Also, don’t be afraid to delegate by teaching kids how to be responsible (relative to their age) for tasks and chores around the house. Keeping your home organised, and encouraging your children to help it stay that way, helps cut down on stress but also teaches them self-respect, accountability and that what they contribute means something to the team. It takes a united force to create harmony in the home!
4. Enjoy the ride: When life gets overwhelming, remember that you don’t need to be a martyre. As important as your children are to you, your number one job is to ensure that you are well and healthy otherwise it will be difficult to be a good role model. Take some time out of your busy schedule to spend quality time with them. Let the laundry go for a bit, and sit down to play a game. Have a dance party in your kitchen. Cuddle them while watching a kids’ movie. These are the moments that you’ll want to hold onto when they’re grown. Remember too that even in the seemingly mundane chores or sitting down for dinner can be great opportunities to connect – in fact, every moment, if only for a short time of the day – is an opportunity to get to deepen your relationship with you kids.
As a single parent, your life may be chaotic at times. Managing that chaos and addressing why you may be feeling overwhelmed will help you get through the day with less stress and more quality time with your kids. Seeing their smiles and feeling a strong connection with them will remind you of why you’re choosing to commit to this parenting thing. It will also help you get through the day. Just remember that they won’t be young forever. Enjoy this time with them, and appreciate the awesome job you are doing.
By Daniel Sherwin, Founder of Dadsolo.com