The number of kids living in a single parent family has doubled in recent years. In fact, statistics indicate that single parent families represent 30% of U.S. households, while 25% represent two parent households. Based on current trends, there are predictions that upwards of 70% of kids born since 1980 will spend (or have spent) some time living in a single parent home before their 18th birthday. These kids are not doomed to failure.
The following strategies are offered to the single parent who is determined to raise a good child despite the myths of doom and gloom:
1. ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT— Adults and kids do better when single parenthood is perceived as a viable option and not as a pathological situation. Start with a positive attitude and focus on the benefits of single parenting, such as less conflict and tension in the home. Many single moms and dads treasure their newfound autonomy and independence and feel hopeful about the future.
2. CREATE A STABLE, NURTURING HOME— Nurturing is a high priority, but kids also crave stability and security. While this is important for all kids, it is especially crucial for kids who have suffered 8 loss of stability due to divorce or death of a parent. Kids need to feel secure and protected, and it is our job as moms and dads to create a nurturing environment where they can thrive. Your kids need to hear how much you love them and how proud you are. Some kids may require more affection and attention than others, so know your youngster, and take your cue from him/her.
3. DEAL WITH OVERLOAD— The single parent frequently feels overwhelmed by the responsibility, tasks, and emotional overload associated with raising kids alone. It is extremely important to manage time wisely and to ask for help when necessary. Assign kids appropriate chores and tasks. Arrange car pools when possible, and ask other moms and dads for help when needed. My kids would not have been able to continue in club soccer were it not for the kindness of other parents providing rides to practices and games.
4. DEVELOP A RELIABLE SUPPORT SYSTEM— Develop a wide network of people who can provide you with emotional support, companionship, help in emergencies, child- care, reality checks, etc. Be selective and choose caring, reliable, trustworthy people who will be there for you in times of need. Single moms and dads with healthy support systems usually feel better mentally and physically and demonstrate to their kids that it is OK to ask for help. Support groups for single moms and dads offer an excellent opportunity to socialize and share with others in similar circumstances.
5. DO NOT TREAT YOUR CHILD AS A PEER— Do not confide in your youngster as though he/she is your peer, regardless of how mature the youngster appears to be. This is a common mistake made unintentionally by many single moms and dads who turn to their youngster for emotional support and don't realize they are hurting the youngster until after the tact. Allow kids to be kids, and find other adults for companionship and support.
6. ESTABLISH SCHEDULES AND PREDICTABLE ROUTINES— Part of creating stability and security in the home involves establishing predictable schedules and routines for your kids. Of course, we must not be rigid and inflexible, because kids need to learn that life is not always predictable. Find a healthy balance.
7. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS— Focus on success and not on failure. Set realistic goals as a family and work together to accomplish these goals. Decide what is important and prioritize accordingly. Have family meetings on a regular basis and allow kids to have input. Learn to effectively communicate and solve family problems together while still demonstrating that you are the boss. Give your kids credit and give yourself credit.
8. RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE ONE PERSON AND YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN— No matter how loving and competent you are, you are still only one person and you are doing a job most agree is meant for two people. Do not allow your kids to manipulate you by making you feel guilty about the situation. Remind kids that you are a team and have to work together. Give yourself credit for a job well done. You may have to wait until your kids are grown before you get any credit from them. This is where a sense of humor comes in handy!
9. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF— It is critical for your kid's well-being for you to take care of yourself. There are times when you feel like you need a break. Ask other single moms and dads to trade babysitting or hire a mother's helper. Pay special attention to diet, exercise, stress management, and getting a good night's sleep. Learn relaxation, yoga, meditation, visualization, or whatever healthy coping skill allows you to relieve stress and tension. Take a walk, read a book, call a friend, take a nap (my personal favorite). A stressed out parent results in stressed out kids.
10. YOU ARE THE BOSS— Establish firm, clear boundaries that leave no doubt that you are the boss in the home. Single moms and dads (and two parent households) often make the mistake of allowing kids to become equal partners or peers, and too many kids are running the show. This loads to serious individual and family problems. Kids need limits. Use consistent discipline that provides clear expectations and guidelines for behavior and rely on natural and logical consequences. Learn to say, "I love you enough to say NO to you.”
If you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or stressed, get professional help. A competent therapist can help you find the light at the end of the tunnel.
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