There is no denying; single parenting isn’t easy. There’s lots to consider and “juggling” is a word which springs to mind; single parents do this on a daily basis. If you were never great at multi-tasking, then you’d better get good! It’s essential for the smooth running of your home and keeping the kids in happy and in-check.
You may be single parenting as a co-parent – there is no real difference apart from the fact that you get more time-off. (If you have an ex who has the children at set-times). In this instance you get a short break and a little bit of time to pull yourself together for the next run. Wrong. You probably find that this “free” time simply means clearing up all the mess and laundry from your parenting time and getting ready for your next visitation rights.
We are told that children who are raised by single parents can be as happy as children who live with two parents. They can do as well academically and go onto lead a positive adult life. However, this doesn’t just happen. All children need a positive parental role model.
Experts say that if you spend good quality time with your child, they are less likely to have mental health issues in the future and be generally happier. Show your child that you are interested in life and that you grasp opportunities; more importantly prove that you want to be a part of your child’s life and interests. Regularly reading to or with your child, going to the park, walking in the woods and observing what’s around you, kicking a ball around the garden or even playing their favourite video game. All these things show your child that you are interested in what they like to do,
The most important thing when you are a single parent, is to build a strong positive base. Surround your children with positive role models; engage your child in conversations with friends and family about the jobs they do, how they help others and how they may be dealing with a tricky situation. What children hear, rubs off on them. Being part of a positive environment leads all of us to sunny thoughts, child or adult.
Routine is also key. As a single parent, life will be much easier if there are boundaries providing your child with a secure emotional nest and these rules will lead to trust. Think about a colleague who always changes his or her mind. Do you have confidence in them? Guidelines are great for kids; bedtime, cleaning teeth, putting their plate in the dishwasher after a meal, eating with manners at the table, please and thank you, gaming time limits. All these small things show that you are in control of the situation. There may sometimes be resistance, but stand by what you say and you will see the rewards in years to come. Children feel protected in this kind of environment. They know where they stand and what is expected of them.
Your routine is bound to be different to your ex partners, but don’t get wound up by that. Don’t fall for the “we are allowed to do that at Mum’s house”. Make it quite clear that you have one set of rules and Mum has another. Children are very clever at attempting to play parents off against each other. At the end of the day, different teachers have different rules… so from one classroom to the next, children know how to behave and what is going to happen and it works, so be consistent.
Of course, in times of stress and anxiety there will be changes in behaviour and at the very beginning of a separation you may have to deal with tantrums, baby talking, bedwetting and anger as your child is unable to express themselves in any other way. Try and stay calm and comfort your child, it’s not easy and you may also be dealing with your own raw emotions. Encourage good behaviour. Ensure you acknowledge that your child is sad or angry but also remind them that the behaviour is not acceptable. Teach them that it is better to talk about their feelings and get them out in the open than it is to bottle them up and have an angry outburst.
It’s not always easy to fit in time to talk when you are a single parent, so try and converse in the car on the way to school or have a chat at mealtimes rather than sitting glued to the TV in silence. Play word-games in the car and be interested in their life by chatting about a book they are reading or a video game they are playing.
Positive parenting involves you smiling lots and talking positively about life and don’t forget the hugs and kisses. If you have several children ensure you put time aside to have some quality 1:1. This could mean that you put each sibling to bed 15 minutes apart or you have a chat or go to a café when a sibling is doing an activity. Make each child aware that they are special to you in their own individual way, for their own qualities.
Tell them you are proud of the way they are coping and pleased that they told you when they were feeling sad.
Your children will witness you expressing your feelings more as a single parent than maybe they would if you were with your ex partner. It may be impossible to hide away in the bathroom and have a cry. If you do have an adult meltdown. it is ok to express that you, for example had a bad day at work and your manager was mean. If you shout at the children it is good to say you are sorry and that you made a mistake. You are only human.
If you are struggling, there is a wealth of help available and it is always worth looking under child services for your local authority to see if they run parenting courses. There are many highly skilled Parenting Coaches in The Hug Directory too who can give you tips on how to deal with tricky situations.
Coaching gives you a set time each week or month to focus on your parenting and can really help. You know what to do, but sometimes you just need to be consciously focused on what needs to happen. It’s very easy for the rules to slip. A therapist, psychologist or coach will give you the tools to help you to be the parent you aspire to be.
There may be other times in the future where you want to get some help
- Teenage years and the arrival of those dreaded hormones
- Introducing the children to a new partner
- Coping as an ‘only every other weekend’ parent
- Dealing with parental alienation
Build yourself up with a good support network, you won’t be the only single parent at school and if you currently are, you won’t be for long.
Ensure your child’s school is aware of the situation and if they have any concerns make sure they let you know immediately.
With a good plan in place, whether you do that by yourself or with the additional help of an expert Single Parenthood can be fun and rewarding.