If you’ve been a single parent for any time at all, you know how difficult it is. You’re the sole source of love, encouragement, strength, and discipline. That makes it stressful, especially if the wounds of the separated home are still fresh.
No matter the reason you’re a single parent, you have a lot to look forward to in the lives of your children. However, that doesn’t mean that every day will be breezy. It just means you get to soak up every moment of the bad and the good.
So if you are in need of some tips for single parents to help you through your parenting journey, look no further.
1. Consistency is key.
It doesn’t matter why you’re single or how you got there. Your child is being raised by you alone, so sticking to a routine will give them stability and something they know they can count on.
Establishing a schedule and sticking with the same mealtimes and bedtimes every day will show them that you are a constant in their life. They can count on you to keep order and maintain the home they trust and love.
If they know their other parent but don’t see them much, you are likely the only source of consistency in their life, so this routine is important.
2. Take care of yourself.
This is important for all parents, single or not. Taking care of yourself will help you stay positive and rested. You can’t keep your child healthy and happy if you’re not healthy and happy yourself.
Part of that is not feeling guilty for taking time for yourself, even when it means you have to task your child with something else to keep them busy for a while.
When your child sees how you respect yourself, they’ll learn how to respect you as well. The other benefit to this is that as they grow, they’ll learn how to respect themselves, which makes life better for everyone, and may be something they very much need if they’ve just lost a parent to divorce or death.
3. Establish rules.
As hard as it is to be the ‘fun’ parent and the disciplinarian, consistent discipline is one of the most important things you can provide for your child. They need to know where they limits are and what happens if they cross them.
In fact, kids thrive when they know what’s expected of them, so setting ground rules for the house and sticking to them will show your child you love them in more ways than just telling them you do.
4. Ask for help.
Admitting you can’t do it all on your own is not a sign of weakness. When you need help, ask for it. There are people in your corner who would be happy to step up when you need a break or there’s something you don’t know how to do.
Carpools, support groups, church families, and social services can be excellent resources for single parents who need guidance, advice, or a recommendation.
That goes for childcare, too. If you need daycare or after school care for your little ones, look for a caregiver who can offer the most help to you. A safe environment, stimulation, and love from another caregiver will go a long way to raising a happy, healthy child.
5. Play with your kids.
Not only does your child need discipline, but they also need quality time. Don’t let being busy get in the way of making time to play with your kids, give them some extra attention, and make memories.
Turn off the TV, silence the phone, and play a game or go for a walk. Even if it’s only once or twice a week, showing your kids that they are your priority for a couple of hours without any distractions will give them an extra boost of confidence.
6. Do chores together.
Find ways to accomplish everything that needs to get done by doing it together. You’re already way too busy, so teamwork will help you accomplish more, faster.
If you’re stressed about the cleaning, the laundry, the cooking, and everything else, ask your kids for help. They’ll learn what it takes to keep a household running, they’ll feel accomplished, and there will be less for you to do on your own.
As they get older, they may even take on chores without being asked, because they know what’s expected and they’re used to doing it. Forming this habit early will make life easier later on.
7. Show love.
Everyone needs to know they’re loved. Kids who come from divorced families or families who have dealt with death need a little extra attention and praise. Make sure you encourage them as often as you can.
Let your kids know that they have your unconditional love and support, no matter what. Your discipline is important when they do something wrong, but a firm loving hand is still required to let them know that they can come to you for help.
As they get older, they’ll learn right and wrong, but they’ll also know that if they’re in trouble, no matter the reason, they can lean on you for your guidance without judgement.
There are plenty of ways to show love. Reading, sitting quietly, playing games, exercising, grocery shopping, chores, and other activities you do together will show your child you value spending time with them.
8. Be positive.
Life is tough for you as a single parent, but it can be even hard for your child who doesn’t quite understand how the world works yet. Be honest with your child if you’re having a hard time. It’s important for them to see that you’re not perfect either.
However, also make sure they know that there’s always hope. They’ll always have something to look forward to, even when they’re discouraged. Keep a sense of humor, and use age-appropriate explanations when dealing with these sensitive issues.
9. Talk about separation, divorce, or death.
These subjects are tough, but it’s always better coming from you. Don’t leave these talks for someone else. No matter how you think you might botch the conversation, your child needs to hear the truth from you first.
Talk about feelings and changes now. Be open about what’s happening and why, with age appropriate language again. You know how best to avoid unnecessary details and negativity while still addressing your child’s emotional needs and questions.
Always remind your child that they didn’t do anything wrong, no matter what happened to the other parent. They need to know that you’ll always love them, even when things don’t work out the way they expect.
10. Don’t be afraid to let your child talk to others.
If your child feels like they need to talk to someone else about their feelings, don’t dismiss that. It might hurt your feelings a little, but it’s perfectly normal for them to want to process what happened with a counselor.
An objective party can help give your child a different perspective and help them through difficult and confusing feelings with less embarrassment. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to you.
It just means they may need some extra time and encouragement before they feel comfortable opening up to someone so close to the situation. Your child likely feels very vulnerable, so your support and encouragement, even when they can’t talk about it, is very important.
11. Make sure your child has role models.
You will always be one of the best role models for your child. However, they need more. Even if your child has lost the other parent as a role model, ensure that you build strong relationships with other adults that your child can look up to.
If your child has both male and female role models and sees you interact in a healthy way with these individuals, it will help them develop a healthy view of how adults should treat each other.
They’ll learn respect and love from someone other than you and they’ll begin to understand that they still have a community of people who love and care for them, even in light of losing a parent.
It’s also a great opportunity for you to contradict any stereotypes about the opposite sex. Just because your relationship doesn’t mean you can have healthy friendships with people of the opposite sex, giving your child a chance to see that.
12. Consider the impact your actions have.
Whether you got a sitter to go out with girlfriends on a Saturday night or you’ve decided to start dating again, think about how that will impact your children. It’s important that you have friendships and take care of yourself, but it can be hard, and sometimes devastating for a child to see their parent with another partner.
The best thing you can do is find a partner who is willing to accept the responsibility of dating someone with a child. You and your child should always be treated with respect, and it’s important that your child feels heard and sees you in a healthy relationship.
Don’t expect your child to be happy or accepting of the new partner right away, but do give them an opportunity to get to know each other. Include your child in the relationship so they don’t feel like they’ve been replaced.
Moving forward as a single parent from whatever your situation was before won’t be easy. While it may get easier with time, there will always be rough patches. That’s what parenting is all about. However, keeping these tips for single parents in mind will help you navigate the tough times and come out safely on the other side.