Parenting calls for sincere dedication, hard work, long hours of running about, less hours of sleep and rest, etc. Single parenting on the other hand calls for everything that parenting calls for, except multiplied by two! Being a single parent, be it a mother or father, can be quite nerve-wracking. It calls for taking crucial decisions single-handedly, without being able to rest the responsibility on another shoulder.
Moreover, being the bread winner, juggling between work and home can be quite a handful! Then there are times when the child misses the absent parent, and the single parent is left struggling to fill that void in the child's heart. All this can be extremely tiring; both physically and emotionally.
Tips for Single Parenting
- Try to give as much time as possible to your child. This may sound easy, but difficult for a single mom or dad to practice. However, to make this a reality, you need to get help. Take the help of your parents, relatives, friends, etc., to manage your house, so that you're left with time to spend with your child. Help your child with his/her homework, read stories, etc. Spending time nourishes your child's emotional health.
- Get involved in the child's parent-teacher meets. If your child has taken part in any extra curricular activity or sports event, make sure you are present to cheer and motivate your child.
- Run all the errands in one trip. Managing your chores efficiently will leave you with more time with your child. Or else take your child along, when you're making a trip to the supermarket, etc. Allow your child to help you; this will make him/her feel involved.
- Listen to your child. That's the most important thing parents miss out when raising children. Understand the needs of your child and act accordingly. Do not assume all's well even if the child seems 'OK' to you. Do not wait till the child falls into trouble. Try and share your feelings and emotions with your child. This makes the child feel confident about sharing his/her feelings with you. And above all, always have time to hear what the child has to say to you.
- Honesty is the best policy when dealing with your child. Speak honestly about the past, especially about your ex and the divorce. The child may have a number of questions regarding the other parent. Do not speak ill of the other parent unnecessarily, just to get back at him/her. Be straightforward and do not lie. Children have a way of getting to know the truth at some time or the other. Explain and answer their questions according to their level of maturity and age.
- There's nothing wrong in accepting help from your parents, relatives, or friends. Encourage healthy relations between your child and his/her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This helps them overcome their emotional barriers and makes them feel loved. It completes the family picture without missing the presence of the other parent.
- Develop interests of your own, for example, go the gym or take a dance class. Do this when your child is occupied at the school or with his/her friends. This makes the child feel everything is normal and part of life.
- Do not be over-protective. You should allow him/her to be independent, and allow your child to share in the responsibilities. Allow him/her to take certain decisions, so that he/she learns to take decisions in future.
- Make appropriate decisions regarding your finances. Do not make impulsive choices that can affect your financial stability. This may involve saying no to expensive toys, trips, etc. Plan your finances and build your savings. There are many single parent grants and financial aids offered by the United States government, which you can avail.
- Let go of the past and start living in the present. Stay happy and enjoy whatever life has to offer. This builds up a positive attitude in the child as well, and it will help you cope with the stress. Don't get overwhelmed by thoughts of the future. Take one day at a time.
- Forgive your ex and don't hold grudges. It is very difficult to forget the past, but harboring bitterness, only makes you a bitter person. Dwelling on your disappointments and sufferings, will develop negative emotions in your child.
- If you have more than one child, then give equal attention to them. Do not play favorites knowingly or unknowingly. This makes the other child feel left out and miss the other parent even more.
- It is not necessary to provide the child with all the things money can buy. This won't make him/her happier in life, but is sure to get the child inclined to materialistic things. Instead, shower your child with lots of love and affection. Simple things like taking a walk in the park, playing basketball, or even cooking together makes the child feel loved and cherished. These activities also nurture healthy child development.
- Do not set unrealistic goals for yourself. You're doing a great job, and you needn't beat yourself every time you feel things could have been handled better.
- Create a healthy atmosphere in the home and make the child understand that you are the boss. Involve your child in the decision-making process, but let the final decision be yours. This helps discipline the child and he will learn to stay within limits.
- Provide a stable home to make your child feel secure. Do not become a cigarette, alcohol, or drug addict. This sends the wrong signals to your child's tender mind. Speak to the child with respect and don't be rude. Do not abuse the child verbally or physically, even if you are under a lot of stress.
- Some children require more affection and attention. Behave accordingly. Children love to hear how much you love them and how proud you are to have him/her as your child. Speak positively to boost confidence.
- If your spouse is legally allowed to visit your child, give them their space. Let the child connect with the other parent. Your ex may be a better parent than a spouse. Do not argue or fight in front of the child. If there are any issues to be discussed, speak when the child is not around. And don't slander your spouse in front of your kid.
- Joining a support group will help connect with other single parents with the same issues you're facing. It can even help alleviate stress and guilt.
These were some simple but very important tips. The sole aim of a single parent is to raise a happy, healthy, and understanding child. It can be traumatizing for the child to hear words like he/she belongs to a 'broken home'. Thoughtless adults often use this term casually, but they do not understand the damaging impact it has on the child's mind. So before you judge single parents and their children, think twice.
I can relate to single parenting and give these tips confidently, as I was raised by a single mother. Although I have never met my father, I never felt the need to do so. My mother has been an excellent single parent who faced all the difficulties in life single-handedly, making me a happy, strong, independent, and adjusting adult. She has fulfilled all my emotional needs, not only as a doting mother, but also as a strict father.
My mother is my idol, and she has inspired me to be a better mother in the future. She was supported by her parents who helped her raising me. Therefore, build a support group with the help of your parents, siblings, and friends, as they provide moral support and motivation. Thus, personally I feel it's our perspective towards life that helps us face difficulties head on. Single parenting is no doubt tough, but its challenges can be met! So stand strong!