Very few people go into a relationship expecting to be a single parent, but with the high rate of divorce in our society this has become all too commonplace. In addition there is an ever growing increase in the number of non-wed mothers.
One study found that four out of ten kids are born to unwed mothers. Statistics from “Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support 2009” (U.S. Census Bureau), report that there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States. This represents about 26% of all children under the age of 21 or about 22 million children all together. Although many continue to clamor that this number has steadily increased, it has pretty much been at this plateau since 1994. Single mothers account for 82.2% of these single parent households whereas fathers only account for 17.8%.
Single parenting will probably be the toughest job you ever encounter. Regardless of whether you are a single mom or dad you will face some challenging times. As a single parent you will face emotional trials as you try to balance your own needs with those of your children. Single parents have a lot of the same problems that two parent homes do; it is just more difficult because there is only one of you to deal with it.
I will start by listing some of the stresses that single parents face followed by tips that should help you deal with these challenges; hopefully this will help you have a more rewarding time being a single parent.
- Less time that parents and children can spend together
- Extended family relationships become disrupted
- Effects of continuing stress between divorced parents
- Financial strain
- Children’s grades and personal relationships affected by strains
- Visitation and custody conflicts
- Problems caused by parents dating
Don’t Feel Guilty. In an attempt to assuage their guilt single parents often times spoil their children. There is no need to blame yourself for being a single parent. Accept the situation as it is and do your best not to spoil your child.
Develop a Routine. Having a routine where mealtimes, wake-up and bedtime hours are well structured will not only help your kids feel more secure but will help you get done what you need to do each day. Although it may be tempting after working all day to let them stay up late so you can spend more time with them, in the long run this will just undermine your authority and get the children in the habit of expecting favors all the time. Remember that kids usually need more sleep than they get, and you need some alone time to unwind at the end of each day.
Set Limits. It is important from the beginning that your child knows what is expected of him/her. Let them know how much TV they can watch or how much screen time they are allowed. It is also important to teach them to be respectful of adults and others, as well as what behavior is acceptable in public. The challenge here is that because you are probably going to be using other people to help with them, you need to make sure these caretakers are on the same page.
Find Quality Child Care. If you are working you will probably need someone to watch the kids. Make sure you find someone who is well trained and will stimulate the kids. Make sure they are aware of what you expect out of your kids and that they will enforce your rules. Don’t rely on an older child all the time to take care of the younger ones; this is not fair to the older one nor the younger ones.
Join or Form a Childcare Co-op. If there is a co-op in your neighborhood where you live, join it so you can cut down on the cost of childcare. If there isn’t one, start one up yourself. There is nothing more helpful than a group of parents who get together and share the responsibility for child care. This would give you the much needed rest that you deserve and will need to recharge. Joining a co-op will also be a big money saver.
Make Time to Play. Single parents are often times so overwhelmed by all the time they spend working and taking care of the kids that they don’t take the time to play. It is important that you do; if need be set up a play date with the kids. This is something they will learn to look forward to.
Seek and Accept Support. Without a spouse you are going to need help. It is important that you build up a support network consisting of friends and family. Your network can help you with such things as carpooling, childcare and just general all around help around the house. Some people on your list should be your “middle of the night friends” so if something were to happen in the middle of the night you could call them so they can come your aide. Also make sure that some of the people on your list are people you can have fun with.
Take Care of Yourself. Remember that you are going to have to be there for your kids. You can’t do this unless you take care of yourself. Make sure you devote some time to yourself. Have your parents or friend take the kids for a couple of hours so you can do something for yourself. Take some time to visit with your friends, get a massage, or go to the library of shopping. Whatever you do you need to take some time for yourself so you can recharge for the next week.