As a single parent, you have a lot on your plate. You want to provide everything that your child(ren) will need, but you get overwhelmed and the stress can get the best of you. Do you feel like you’re often a few steps behind where you’d like to be? Do you wish that you had more quality time with your kids, and more time to get things done? Each day brings challenges, and it can seem too complicated or too impossible to make a change.
Although there may be challenges along the way, shifting daily habits and routines can make a huge impact when it comes to your overall productivity, joy, and fulfillment in your life as a single parent. Whether you are new to single parenting or if you’ve been a single parent for your child’s entire life, building up these habits will help get your life rejuvenated and on track as a single parent.
Single Parent Family Habits that Save Time and Reduce Stress
1. Get time on your side. Be the boss of your routine. Regular sleep schedules, eating schedules, and homework schedules can cause some push-back from your kids at first, but it provides structure that they crave as developing children. A regular schedule also allows children and teens have reasonable expectations about consistency within the day, so that you can stay on the same page with your children. You’ll be able to count on them to work with you on sticking with the schedule, and be able to enjoy the extra time that you plan for together.
Single parents often take on more than they can handle, and even more than they need to. Find ways to shorten the time spent on activities by collaborating with your kids to get things done. The first few times, it may be a learning process and be a bit unorganized, but you’ll be saving yourself time in the long run by engaging your children and helping each other out. Plus, it’s an opportunity to spend time together. Cook together, fold laundry together, and run an errand together. Help your child clean his or her room (never do that one by yourself), and then he or she helps you set the table. The key here is consistency with your expectations.
2. Be honest with your kids in a responsible way. You are human, and modeling for your child healthy ways of dealing with emotions is important. While it’s imperative that you stay positive (never let your child be the one that you complain or vent to), it’s also important to let your child know what is happening around him or her. A single parent can often make the mistake of sharing either too much or too little with his or her children. Keep that balance as much as possible.
For example, if you are sad or angry, try to move past it before it impacts your child, but be honest about your feelings if your child is aware of them. It’s crucial to never argue in front of your kids or let your anger out on them, but it’s also not always possible or healthy to keep your feelings a secret from your child. Preventing an outburst actually requires that you sometimes share that “I’m feeling sad today, but it’s going to be okay. You know what it’s like to feel sad; for a little while, you may need to be quiet and rest, but soon you feel okay again.” If you notice that your sadness or anger is more persistent or frequent, please seek professional help so that you can adequately care for your children.
For another example of healthy honesty, when it comes to finances, never tell your child that you can’t buy things because you “can’t afford it.” Especially for young children, this triggers a safety concern within their brains that can cause anxiety. Instead try something like “In our family we save our money to make sure we always have it for what we really need. Sometimes that means we have to wait for a holiday to get something extra like a game or a toy. That will make it extra special.”
3. Team up with teachers, parents, coaches and other resources that are connected to your child. Get to know your child’s world. Find a support parent or group of single parents to support you. A support parent is an accountability partner parent whom you can trust to be honest with you about your strengths and weaknesses as you aim to be a better parent. Together you can make small yet meaningful goals: anything from experiments to improve your child’s behavior to monthly budget plans. Having a single parent support buddy like having a work out buddy; he or she will help you “show up”, look at yourself in a realistic way, and will lovingly keep you motivated. Plus, it will feel good to be able to offer that support to the other single parent in return.
4. Play the role of coach, not martyr. A single parent who models to his or her children how to make healthy choices will also feel more hopeful and grounded. Parents who fall into a martyr role, the ones that feel they sacrifice all of their time and happiness “for their kids”, are helping no one. They eventually get burnt out, grouchy, and feel unappreciated. Plus, they aren’t putting the effort in to teaching their children valuable skills. Instead, think of yourself as a coach. You teach your children by doing and by coaching them to do their best as well. You guide them through an activity so they can improve, offering challenges without placing unreasonable expectations on them. A single parent has a unique opportunity to teach a child about personal responsibility and how to enlist resources that are available.
5. Don’t forget the fun! It will save you a lot of headache in the long run. A child’s mind needs to be stimulated, and a bored child is a troublesome child. You don’t always have time to entertain your children, but you can always make the time to inspire them in an activity. Make sure you put play time with your kids as a top priority in your busy day. A single parent will often forget to plan for fun in the daily schedule because it seems that there’s not room for it, but making room for fun will help the rest of the activities go more smoothly. As a single parent, you need all the help you can get, and the more your child’s mind is kept engaged, challenged, and excited, the more he or she will be able to collaborate with you throughout the day.
Sometimes it may seem like single parenting and exhaustion are one and the same. Challenge yourself to make small changes, and allow yourself to see them making a difference. Cherishing small moments and small successes will help to stay connected to your child’s needs as well as your own, which is vital for your child’s healthy development. You’re not alone, and it’s not too late to become the best single parent you can be.
If you have any questions or thoughts about how to make these tools truly work for you and your family, don’t hesitate to contact me. I work collaboratively with families like yours to find the unique tools and habits that can can improve daily life.
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