Successful Single Parenting
Successful Single Parenting
Households where one parent is managing the family without another present are becoming increasingly common. In the United States, the number of single parent families has doubled in the past 25 years. There are many reasons for single parenting. Some examples are the death of a spouse or partner, when two partners chose not to marry and only one raises the children, or when one parent is away for a period of time (military service, extended long-distance business, illness, incarceration, etc.).
Unique Single Parent Family Challenges
There may be challenges and drawbacks specific to single parent families. These can affect relationships, emotions, physical health and finances. Single parents may:
- Help children cope with the loss or absence of the other parent
- Help children deal with past or present conflict between parents
- Handle custody and visitation issues
- Have less access to healthcare
- Experience less time with their children
- Struggle with financial resources
Single Parenting Strategies
Single parents and their children can grow up to be healthy, happy, and successful. The following relational, communication, and personal tips can help single parent homes flourish:
Support team- Single parents who isolate themselves and try to do it alone feel overwhelmed. Involve your friends, extended family, and other community members in your life and your child’s life.
Asking for help- When you do need help, try and be specific in your requests. For example, if you need an hour to go to the gym or run to the store, ask for it. Many times people want to help but don’t know how. They might end up doing very little or nothing unless you ask for their involvement.
Child care- Finding quality childcare is a top priority. You should never ask a stranger or someone you barely know to watch your children. Likewise, it’s best to avoid enlisting your oldest child to watch the younger ones.
Role models- Look for positive role models who are the same gender as the missing or absent parent. Avoid sharing negative stereotypes about men or women. For example, “All men are liars, just like your father,” or “Women are money-hungry, like your mother.”
Reassurance- The fear of abandonment is common for children when one parent is uninvolved or has died. Remind your children you will always be there for them and that you will never stop loving them.
Open dialogue- Keep the doors of communication open. Children should feel comfortable expressing their thoughts regarding family and nonfamily issues.
No messengers- If your child does have contact or interaction with their other parent, never use him or her as a messenger. Avoid criticizing or complaining about your ex in front of your children.
Stay present- Do your best to avoid living in the past. Focusing on what “could have been,” past mistakes, or your relationship with an ex will not help. Bitterness, anger, and resentment will only distract you and possibly model unhealthy emotions for your children.
Guilt- Worrying about how a single parent home will impact your child or about the extras you can’t provide won’t help. No amount of toys, clothes, or technology could replace your love. Guilt is never a useful emotion. Instead, focus on what you do have and how you can keep your child happy and healthy. Spending time with your children is the most valuable thing you can give.
Goals and dreams- Motivated people are happier people and make better parents. Don’t give up on your personal goals and dreams. Whether it’s finding a few minutes a day for your favorite hobby or continuing your education, pursuing your dreams will improve your life and help you be a role model for your child.
Routine and traditions- Establishing new traditions and routines provide stability for your children. Holidays and special traditions give each family member ownership and events to look forward to throughout the year. These can be as simple as a special plate at meal times or a favorite story at bedtime.
Re-prioritize- Don’t beat yourself up about every aspect of parenting. You may not be able to cook every meal or maintain a spotless house. Being a parent means readjusting your priorities. Spending time with your children and taking care of yourself should outweigh other details.
Dating- Should you choose to date, consider waiting to introduce your children until you’ve established a solid relationship. The person should respect both you and your children. Sometimes children need time before they warm up and trust a new person you’re dating.
Finally, being a single parent doesn’t exclude you from taking care of yourself. Keep yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy to the best of your ability. You can’t be completely available to your children if you’re not getting proper rest, good nutrition, and regular exercise. When you engage in activities that give you energy and bring you joy, you model the self-compassion that will help you and your children succeed in life.
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