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Reducing Stress In Your Single-Parent Family

If you're raising a son or daughter on your own, you're in good company. Single-parent families are more common than ever. Child-rearing can be difficult under any circumstances, but without a spouse/partner, the stakes are even higher.

As a single mother or father, you probably have sole responsibility for most aspects of day-to-day child-care. This can result in added stress and fatigue. If you're too tired or distracted to be emotionally supportive or consistently discipline your youngster, behavioral problems can arise.

Single-parent families also generally have lower incomes and less access to health care. Juggling work and child-care can be financially difficult and socially isolating. You might worry about the lack of a male or female parental role model for your youngster, too.

How to reduce stress in your single-parent family:

1. Contradict negative stereotypes about the opposite sex. Share an example of a member of the opposite sex who doesn't fit the stereotype. Include in your life members of the opposite sex who aren't romantic partners. Seek out positive relationships with responsible members of the opposite sex who might serve as role models for your son or daughter. Show your youngster that it's possible to have long-term, positive relationships with members of the opposite sex. Look for opportunities to be positive. Point out accomplishments or positive characteristics of members of the opposite sex in your family, the community, or even the media. Avoid making broad, negative statements about the opposite sex.

2. Take advantage of local resources. Many communities offer play groups, after-school activities, and parenting classes. These can give you and your youngster a chance to have fun, learn, and make new friends.

3. Don't blame yourself or spoil your youngster to try to make up for being a single mother or father. Feeling guilty about the divorce only makes a challenging situation even more challenging.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

4. If you need regular child-care, look for a qualified care-giver who can provide stimulation in a safe environment. Don't rely on an older son or daughter as your only baby-sitter. Be careful about asking a new friend or partner to watch your youngster.

5. Explain house rules and expectations to your youngster (e.g., speaking respectfully), and enforce them. Work with other adults in your youngster's life to provide consistent discipline. Consider re-evaluating certain limits (e.g., your youngster's screen time) when he/she shows the ability to accept more responsibility.

6. Don’t forget to play and have fun. Take a break from your busy routine to plan something special for you and your youngster (e.g., a trip to the zoo, going out for ice cream, etc.).

7. If you're dating, consider the impact your new romantic partner will have on your son or daughter. Look for a partner who will treat both you and your youngster with respect. Consider waiting until you've established a solid relationship with someone before introducing him/her to your youngster. When you're ready to make the introduction, explain to your son or daughter some of your new partner's positive qualities. Don't expect your new partner and your youngster to become close immediately, however. Give them time to get to know each other.

8. Invite a positive and responsible family member or friend to spend time with your youngster. Young people tend to do very well later in life when they have an involved, caring mentor during childhood. If you don't have a family member or friend available, groups like Big Brothers/Big Sisters can help.

9. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Eat a healthy diet, and get plenty of sleep. Arrange time to do activities you enjoy alone or with close friends. Just be sure to take care of yourself.

10. It's OK to be honest with your youngster if you're having a difficult time after a divorce, but remind him/her that things will get better. Try to keep your sense of humor when dealing with everyday challenges. Stay positive as much as possible.

11. If you don’t get to spend enough time with your son or daughter, look for creative solutions (e.g., find out if your job lets you work flexible hours).

12. Remember to praise your youngster. Give him/her your unconditional love and support. Set aside time each day to do something together, or simply sit with your youngster.

13. Structure (e.g., regularly scheduled meals and bedtimes) helps your youngster know what to expect. So, create a routine and stick with it.

14. Accept help. If friends and family offer their help, take it! This can mean having someone play with your youngster while you run errands or having someone to call when you need to talk.

15. Many single-parent families are the result of divorce or separation. If this is the case in your family, talk to your youngster about the changes you're facing. Listen to your youngster's feelings and try to answer his/her questions honestly — avoiding unnecessary details or negativity about the other parent. Remind your youngster that he/she did nothing to cause the divorce or separation, and that you'll always love him/her. A counselor might be able to help you and your son or daughter talk about problems, fears or concerns. Try to regularly communicate with your youngster's other parent about your youngster's care and well-being to help him/her adapt.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

16. Work out a carpool schedule with other parents. Join a support group for single moms and dads, or seek social services. Call on trusted loved ones, friends and neighbors for help. Faith communities can be helpful resources, too. Learn to lean on others.

17. If you're a single mom, you may have to deal with a male parent who isn't very involved in your youngster's life. No matter what you do, you can't force your youngster's dad to get onboard. However, how you explain the situation to your youngster is crucial. Although having a father-figure is valuable, it's not everything – you don't NEED an adult male to help raise your youngster. But, don't talk negatively about your youngster's dad (don't glorify him, either). Leave the door open for responsible contact between your youngster and his/her dad, but know that if you try to force a relationship between father and child, your child is bound to feel disappointed and rejected.

18. If you are a single father, be sure to communicate regularly with your kids. There are too many dads who do not talk enough about “feelings.” This doesn't imply that they are not involved or care less; in homes where the dad is playing both the parents, sometimes there is very little time for a sit-down conversation about the day’s events and how the children feel about those events. Try to keep a track of what's going on in school. Take interest in your youngster's studies and know how he or she is faring in tests. Showing interest in your kids’ education gives them the feeling that you are involved. Also, try to show your softer side. The gentler you are with your kids, the more capable they will be in dealing with the absence of their mom – and they will be more comfortable in sharing their matters with you. And lastly, get in touch with other single dads. Talk to them and share your experiences. Sharing your feelings with other fathers who are in the same position as you will make you a better parent, because you will probably get some crucial parenting tips from the other single dads who have been single longer than you.

19. Allow yourself to have some “alone-time.” You need to relax once in a while too! This can be as simple as taking 10 minutes to read some in a good book after your youngster goes to bed.

20. Lastly, never forget that being a single mother or father can be a rewarding experience. By showing your love and respect, talking honestly and staying positive, you can lessen the stress of single parenting and help your son or daughter thrive.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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