Tips for Single Parents

Solo parenting is very challenging. The physical, capsule emotional, pill psychological, viagra 100mg financial and mental exertion required to raise a child is demanding even when two people share the task. To have to manage independently or with minimal support is both difficult and exhausting. Nonetheless, a child in a single-parent home needs the same amount of love, nurturing and guidance as all other children; how can a single parent best meet the needs of his or her youngster?

To help you navigate child-rearing as a single parent, consider the following tips:

Enlist Support Wherever Possible
Take all the help you can get physically and emotionally. Get your immediate family members and your closest relatives and friends to be your support system in raising your children. Visit these people and invite them to be regulars in your home and at your table. Knowing that you’re not alone is in itself a huge burden lifted, especially as you through the more challenging times. Practically speaking, however, no one can do it all on their own. Hired help is great if you can manage it too – babysitters, “mother’s helpers,” students, cleaning and cooking help – whatever you can afford will be helpful in freeing you up to be a more relaxed and focused parent. Equally important, your children will have more balanced relationships: when it’s just one parent and one child, there can sometimes be way too much closeness for developmental comfort. Children need space in which to develop normally. Having other people besides the parent to deal with helps the parent take eyes OFF the youngster for a time, providing relief for both the parent and the child. No one likes living under a microscope.

Be Organized or Hire Help to Get There
Routines and systems will help keep your busy life running smoothly. The less you have to think, the better – freeing up important time and energy for your kids. Sit down ONCE and make a two-week dinner schedule. Then just repeat that two-week cycle for the next ten years! Your shopping routine will become easy and automatic because your meals are all planned out. Have specific days for laundry, banking, cleaning – whatever you need to do. In this way, everything will happen and you won’t have to waste time thinking about how to do it all. Less stress for you is more calm and stability for your kids. Do the same for your finances – if possible arrange for automatic banking, savings and investing routines that don’t require your regular personal attention. Consider hiring a professional financial consultant to help you put processes in place.

Draw on Emotional and Spiritual Resources
Parenting can be easier when parents feel emotionally supported. Consider joining and participating in a faith community that can help nurture your soul and give you the strength you need to do this big job well. Psychological support from a mental health professional can help ease stress and provide helpful guidance as well. There’s a slew of books and internet resources created by those who have traveled this path or studied it intensely – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel or do it in isolation. Consider joining a support group for single parents or just try to meet like-minded single parents for companionship and camaraderie along the journey. If possible, read up or take a course on parenting strategies – single-parenting is harder than family-style parenting. You need to have more tricks up your sleeve than average parents do and you need to be a bit more psychologically sophisticated as well; there’s just more to deal with. Parenting will be a lot easier when you have the necessary information under your belt.

Don’t Get Bogged Down
Remember to have some personal fun – it’s good for you and can help you do a better job of parenting. A sour, exhausted, bitter, resentful parent is, by definition, not a good parent. A happy, energetic, positive parent is more like it! Keep up good health and lifestyle habits as much as possible, which means exercise, eat healthy, socialize, laugh, relax. When you’re ready, go ahead and date (and re-marry!). You need to live a full adult life and show your children how it’s done. It’s up to YOU to figure out when and how you’re going to do all this, but do it you must. An emotionally and physically healthy lifestyle not only helps you thrive, but also provides an important model for your child to emulate.

Time for Children After Divorce

Visitation arrangements don’t always give kids the opportunity to see each parent 50% of the time. Practical considerations often make equal division of visitation impossible. For instance, in some cases, one parent works longer hours than the other. Or, one parent lives in a different state or country and the child must attend school for 10 months of the year in one location. Sometimes, there are different reasons for unequal visitation, such as financial considerations or a past history of abuse or the fact that a parent travels for work reasons. Whatever the cause of the discrepancy, children can feel the pain of loss. They usually love both parents and want to see each of them on a frequent, regular and consistent basis.

What is the best way for children to get enough time with each parent after a divorce or separation? Consider the following tips:

Consult a Parenting Coordinator
Even after the legalities have been settled, parents can sometimes modify arrangements in order to meet the changing needs of their growing children. If you don’t have a great working relationship with an ex-partner, then try to enlist the services of a professional parenting co-ordinator in order to find creative ways to add minutes or hours to visitations with kids. These may involve doing a carpool, taking a child to a swimming lesson, meeting the child at religious services or any number of other ways to see each other just a little more often. Of course, as the child gets older, more dramatic changes in visitation may become appropriate as well and can sometimes be negotiated legally.

Improve the Quality of Time Spent Together
The feeling of “not enough time” does not always relate to the actual amount of time a child gets to spend with a parent. Although it certainly helps to have more actual minutes and hours, it is even more important to have more quality time with a child, time in which there is meaningful interaction. While outings to amusement parks, movies and restaurants may be fun, direct interaction is more “filling.” Children need to see their parents in natural settings (at home doing the laundry, in the grocery store doing the weekly shopping, in the kitchen cooking). While “life is happening” they need to be able to share stories, ask questions, do their own version of “show and tell.” In fact, a child can get to know a parent better if they work on a household chore together rather than if they both sit passively watching a movie. So plan the interaction, not the destination!

Utilize Technology to Create More Involvement
If a child feels that he or she is not getting enough time with a parent, then consider tapping technology to encourage more parental involvement — even across the miles. For instance, a child can consult parents about homework through chats, or include them in a birthday celebration via web cam. Telephones can be used liberally for quick contacts. Old fashioned communication strategies like sending letters and pictures via regular mail, can be used to keep up the relationship. Depending on the age of the child, cell phones can be used in addition to computers to faciliate messenging and email correspondence. Children who know that they can reach their parents easily don’t suffer from intense “cravings” for contact. For instance, when a person knows he can have a sweet treat if he wants it, he doesn’t feel so deprived and he doesn’t need it so urgently. Similarly, a child who can easily reach either parent doesn’t feel deprived or “starving” for contact.

How to Discipline as a Single Parent

Raising a child is an enormous job, adiposity and parents need all the help they can get. Which is why single parents are modern day heroes. To accomplish alone a task that’s often too much for even two people, pill is an achievement that should make it into the record books!

Many single parents make it through the day because they’re able to navigate through the tricky issues of traditional parenting, particularly discipline. The following are just some of the discipline issues typically found in a single-parent home, and some tips on how to address them:

Being Both Good Cop and Bad Cop
In traditional two-parent tandems, a parent who disciplines a child is temporarily a “bad guy” while the other parent might be temporarily cast as the “good guy.” Roles switch, of course, according to who is disciplinarian at the moment. However, a single parent who disciplines cannot offer the child a “good guy” in the background. This often intensifies the negativity of single-parenting disciplinary actions. The one parent in the home is now perceived as “mean” or “hateful” when handing out negative consequences or even giving negative feedback.  The most powerful way to avoid the destructive effects of this perception is to become very skilled in the art of guiding and disciplining children. Aim for a ratio of 80-20 (or 90-10 with teens) of pleasant feeling interactions to unpleasant feeling interactions with each child. Think of the morning hour as needing to be 80% pleasant, the homework hour as being 80% pleasant and the bedtime hour as being 80% pleasant. “Pleasant” refers to what is coming out of YOUR mouth. Jokes, compliments, positive feedback and interesting sports scores are considered to be pleasant. Instructions, criticism, correction, threats and negative consequences are considered to be unpleasant . Applying this ratio throughout every day allows children to see their single parent as primarily loving. It helps to buffer the bad feelings that arise out of inevitable moments of discipline. It stops the child of a single parent from hating that parent. (See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe, for a complete program of healthy, relationship-preserving discipline techniques).

In addition, single parents who are skilled disciplinarians will avoid the most potentially toxic aspect of discipline: anger. When there is only one parent around and that parent is angry, it can be quite overwhelming for a child. Fortunately, a parent need not discipline with anger –  merely with firmness. Firmness goes hand in hand with gentleness and kindness. If kids can be trained at an early age to see discipline as something objective instead of personal, then a child is less likely to attack a single parent.

Can burn-out be a discipline issue? You bet it can! Single parents have a lot on their plate, which is why they can be more prone to temper tantrums than the typical mom and dad. They may also suffer from lack of patience and energy to deal with a child’s misbehavior. If you’re a single parent, it’s important that you are aware of how the demands of everyday living can affect how you discipline your child.

Self-care is the natural response to burn-out; single parents must know when to rest and take things easy. Get some extra help; you may be parenting alone but it doesn’t mean you can’t call friends and relatives to assist from time to time. Hiring a nanny to get some time off wouldn’t be amiss either. While it’s easy to feel guilty when you take some “me time,” remember that you don’t serve your children well when you are always harassed and stressed.

Kids are Resentful of the Time You’re Away
It’s hard to establish your authority in a household when you’re barely around. But much as a single parent would like to be there for their child 24/7, reality is: time for a single parent can be scarce. A single parent usually functions as sole breadwinner, and coming up with ways of keeping food on the table and sending kids to school can be challenge.

But studies have shown that kids from single parent households are more likely to take on responsibilities willingly, if they understand that their parent cannot realistically do it all him or herself. Understanding the unique situation single parents are in can make a child more open to self-discipline. As along as parents can establish rules and guidelines early on, along with routines for independent functioning, children from single parent households are less likely to rebel from lack of attention.

Tips for Dealing with Separation or Divorce

When parents separate, adiposity children can experience many different emotions. If separation means the end to a violent or intensely conflicted home-life, children may experience relief. In most cases, they experience sadness – especially when they are strongly attached to both parents. Often they feel confused, lost, upset. It’s not unusual for kids to feel tremendous anger as well; they are losing their home, their stability, their security. Sometimes they are resentful, feeling that they shouldn’t have to shuffle back and forth between homes or move out of their old home or otherwise deal with difficult conditions. Other common emotions include feelings of abandonment, fear, worry, depression and even trauma. Sometimes children will benefit from professional help to sort out all their feelings, but in many cases the parents themselves can provide the necessary emotional support.

If your family is going through marital separation, consider the following tips:

Welcome Your Child’s Feelings with Emotional Coaching
If your child expresses worry, anger, depression, abandonment or any other emotion as a result of the divorce or separation, try using emotional coaching. Emotional coaching is the naming of feelings. In this scenario, you may say things to your child such as “I know you’re sad that we won’t all be living together in the same house anymore.” or “I know you’re upset about having to sleep in two different beds,” or “I know you miss Daddy so much.”  You can talk about whatever feeling your child has about any aspect of the separation or divorce.  . Through acknowledging and accepting your child’s feelings about what is going on, you can help him release those feelings a little. If your child believes that his situation after the divorce is terrible, don’t try to downplay his feelings (i.e. by saying “it’s not really so bad – there’s lots of advantages to having two homes”). Accept and acknowledge your child’s feelings the way he feels them, not the way you want him to feel them.

Continue to Provide Appropriate Limits for Unacceptable Behaviors
Just because kids are hurting doesn’t mean it’s O.K. for them to become rude, aggressive, disobedient or otherwise badly behaved.  Your continued use of boundary-setting tools, rules and expectations will actually help increase their sense of security and emotional equilibrium. Be loving and respectful but firm. Follow the Relationship Rule as explained in the book Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice. The Relationship Rule states “I do not give, nor do I accept, any form of disrespectful communication. I only give, and I only accept, respectful communication.”  This means that you don’t yell at or insult your child and you do not allow the child to yell at or insult you! Do not accept the excuse that your child is frustrated or traumatized by the break up of the family. While it is understandable that children will feel hurt, confused, overwhelmed, angry and grief stricken, it is NOT O.K. for them to act out these feelings with rudeness to their parents.

Offer Professional Support
If your kids are hurting, they may benefit from extra time with the school guidance counsellor or a mental health professional. There are also support groups for children experiencing divorce (which may be offered by local family service agencies). Your child may need someone to talk to who won’t be hurt by his anger or sadness. Allow him or her to talk to a therapist – or even a neighbor or relative – without asking him or her to tell you about the conversation. Privacy can give the child the opportunity to really clear out troubling emotions.

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease emotional distress and even prevent it from occurring in the future. The flower remedy Walnut can help your child adjust to the many changes that may occur in his life after the divorce. Honeysuckle can help him not dwell on his former life, painfully longing for a return to the past. The flower remedy Willow can help ease any resentment the youngster might be experiencing as a result of the divorce. Star of Bethlehem can reduce feelings of shock, trauma and grief. If depression manifests as a result of the divorce, the flower remedy Gorse can help. When your child worries about his future and new life, Mimulus is the flower remedy to turn to. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the emotional distress dissipates. Start treatment again, if it returns. Bach Flower Therapy cannot erase the pain of divorce, but it can sometimes help reduce the duration or intensity of initial distress that the child suffers.  Bach Flower Therapy is just one tool that adults or children can employ to help cope with stress. Using it may help reduce side-effects of stress such as sleeplessness, illness, behavioral problems and other stress-related conditions.

Be Aware of the Impact of Your Own Mood
Going through separation and/or divorce is really hard on parents. You may be distracted, traumatized, grieving, upset and overwhelmed. It’s hard to parent in this state. If possible, get professional support and/or join a support group (even if it’s just on-line) for divorcing parents. Make sure you have time to yourself each day. Single parenting is exhausting and difficult – if you don’t take good care of yourself, you’ll soon have insufficient patience for your child or children. Exercise and feed yourself well. Try to sleep. Learn mindfulness meditation and research stress reduction techniques. Be aware that your children are watching you carefully; they need you to be healthy for them.

Minimize Conflict with Your Ex
On-going conflict between separating and divorcing spouses is the factor that causes the most maladjustment in children from broken homes. Your children have the best chance of developing in a normal and healthy way when you have a friendly, cooperative and respectful relationship with their other parent. If the other parent is impossible to deal with, try to never speak about this fact when the kids can hear you. Bad-mouthing their parent (even when everything you say is the absolute truth) severely harms the children. You might hate your own mother, but you don’t want other people insulting her nonetheless. Insulting your child’s parent is an insult to the child him or herself. Moreover, the conflict itself is traumatizing. Children often end up in decades of psychotherapy to recover from the effects of witness their parents’ post-divorce conflict. Save your children from this fate by being determined to act respectfully toward your ex-spouse and never speaking badly about him or her.

Keep Routines Normal
Resist the temptation to sleep with your children once your spouse has moved out. You don’t want to have to kick them out of your bed when you decide to remarry. Normal routines increase stability, so keep life as normal as possible and the same way it was before the divorce.

Kids Need Laughter
Even if it’s a stressful time in your life, remember that kids are kids – they need lightness and laughter. You can bring this into their life with funny bedtime stories, silly games, outings, movies or other amusing activities.

Parenting After Divorce

Mothers and fathers often disagree on matters pertaining to parenting. It happens when the parents are operating within the context of an intact family home and it also happens when parents have gone their separate ways through separation or divorce. However, dosage unlike their married counterparts, order divorced couples lack the trust and friendliness that is  at the foundation of marriage.

Power Plays
Let’s take an example. Nine year old Liam is terrific at karate. He’s been active in this sport for several years already and has won competitions and prizes along the way. The recently divorced parents differ on their view of this activity. Mom thinks karate is fantastic and encourages their son to practice frequently and reach for the top. Dad thinks that Liam should put his energy into league sports (as he himself did at that age): hockey, baseball, soccer, basketball and so on. In order to encourage Liam in this direction, Dad tells him that “karate is for sissies; only weirdo’s do it.” Liam, not wanting to be a sissy or a weirdo,tells Mom that he wants to quite his lessons and do team sports.

Mom is furious. She thinks Dad is playing “team sports” with her, trying his hardest to win Liam over to his side. “If he was really thinking about Liam’s welfare, he’d let our son continue doing what he’s good at. Why does he have to make Liam feel bad for doing something that he clearly loves?” For his part, Dad claims sincere best interests for his son’s welfare. “Boys have to be on teams,” he says. “I don’t want my kid being a social misfit. He’s gonna need that karate just to beat up the kids who make fun of him.”

Working Together
As previously mentioned this sort of dispute can happen just as easily within marriage as without. How would happily married folks solve the dilemma?

First of all, there would probably be a conversation between the partners. Ideally, Mom would express her view and Dad would listen and ask lots of questions about it. Then Dad would express his view and Mom would listen and ask lots of questions about it. This “listening and questioning” technique would likely uncover some common ground, such as wanting their child to be successful, happy, accepted, busy, productive and so on. Because the conversation would be mutually respectful, good will would prevail. The good will would allow for some sort of reasonable compromise. “Why don’t we continue to let him do karate, but cut down his lessons once or twice a week, and sign him up for basketball on the other nights. He could try both activities and either pursue both indefinitely or choose his own favorite.”

The very best thing for divorced families to do is to imitate the processes found in happy intact homes. The parents don’t have to love each other in order to conduct respectful conversations for the wellbeing of their kids. They just have to care enough about their kids to do it.

The Divorced Child
When one or both parties cannot or will not communicate respectfully, it is the child who is at risk. Let’s say that in our current example, neither parent is willing to change their point of view. Mom is the one who has been taking Liam to karate – should she continue doing so or stop?

Mom needs to ask herself which action on her part will contribute most to her son’s mental health. If she battles it out with Dad because she so firmly believes that karate is the best choice of leisure activity, then Liam suffers from witnessing yet more parental conflict. Moreover, if he sees that Mom is vehemently pro-karate while Dad is vehemently anti-karate, he will be torn down the middle, wanting Mom’s approval, wanting Dad’s approval and knowing that he cannot have both. In addition, both parents will be modeling a strong case for stubborn behavior, something that they will not be happy to see in Liam later on. Taking the issue to court would be costly and traumatic to the family and by the time it was settled, Liam would probably be an adult! In this scenario, Mom may choose to lose the karate battle for the sake of her child’s wellbeing. Now that Liam feels self-conscious about karate, she can empathize with his feelings using emotional coaching: “It makes sense that you wouldn’t want to do a sport that’s for sissies Liam. If you feel you’ve had enough of karate for now and want to try something different, that’s fine. It’s good to have variety and try different things.” In this way, Liam’s passion for karate is sacrificed for the sake of his overall mental health and development. He gets to feel good about himself and safe in his little divorced world. When he gets a little older, something may rekindle his interest in karate and he may decide to pursue it at that time. Whether this happens or not, however, his mom will have done the very best for him by reducing conflict and divided loyalties.

Divorced parenting involves many such sacrifices. The big picture must always take priority over the particular small issue. This requires tremendous maturity and self-control on the part of divorced parents. It hurts to feel cornered, trapped and powerless in one’s parenting. Despite the pain, wise divorced parents put their child’s needs FIRST. They do what’s best for the child. Supportive counseling can help divorced parents work through their own feelings of frustration, anger and loss that inevitably occur during parenting conflicts.