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Encouragement for single parents
25% of households are run by single parents
As of 2011, approximately 1 in 4 households are run by single parents. Whether divorced, abandoned, or single parenting by choice, there are unique challenges single parents face. Not the least of which is guilt.
As a single parent, it is difficult to find a balance between work and family life. Being the sole breadwinner puts a lot of pressure on someone trying to be a full time parent as well.. Missing out on milestones, field trips, being there after school - these are things a lot of working single parents regret. A flexible work schedule is a plus; however, not everybody has that opportunity. How do you deal with the guilt at the end of the day, knowing you missed out on something special your child did, or having your child tell you how much they miss you.
Set aside one on one time
As difficult as it can be, try to set aside specific time for each child. Even five minutes at the end of the day, one on one, distraction free. A short conversation about the day before bed can be a valuable time to share. Have a child help prepare dinner; cooking is a great way to spend some time together and enjoy some casual conversation. If possible, try to eat dinner as a family. Depending on work schedules, this may be difficult, but even one night a week is beneficial. It is especially important in households with more than one child to ensure that each child has some amount of alone time with their parent.
Keep communication open
Depending on the age of your child(ren), try to keep communication open as much as possible. Older children have more of an understanding of the situation. Naturally, not every detail needs to be disclosed to a child, no matter their age or maturity; however, older children can have a clearer understanding of the correlation between working and keeping the household running. Younger children have a harder understanding of the fact that mommy (or daddy) needs to be gone for most of the day in order to earn the money needed to pay the bills. Younger children just know that their parent is gone much of the time. If your job and your child's school schedule allows, calling sometime during the day can help maintain a connection during those long hours apart. With older children a periodic text message or phone call during the day can let them know they are on your mind.
When coming home at the end of the day, some people need alone time to decompress before they can unwind with their family. If you are one of those people, make it clear to the children that you need to spend five minutes alone and then you will be fully there for them. Make contact with each child, let them know you are glad to see them. Tell them about your day, something interesting that happened at work, something funny you saw on the way home. Communication is a two way street. Sharing together helps build a bond.
Enlist the support of others
As a single parent, you may have a variety of support systems available to you. A grandparent, aunt or uncle, cousin, family friend, all of these are examples of people who may be important in you and your children's lives. Help your children build relationships with others, people who are trustworthy to you and care about the children. As children grow into teenagers, they may later on need someone to talk to that isn't a parent, and nurturing these bonds from early childhood helps build a stronger extended family and a network of trust for your child. These are the same people who can support you when you are feeling not-so-strong (everyone has those days!). Family doesn't have to be blood, it is a network of people who support one another, and if you aren't close with your family, friends can be a tremendous help.
Try to find and network with other single parents. In addition to support and understanding, you can work together by trading babysitting, splitting grocery shopping, play dates, and swapping advice. These can be invaluable relationships that you and your child will cherish for years.
Take time to care for yourself
As valuable and tight as your free time is, set aside time for yourself. An over-worked, over-stressed parent is no good for anyone. Explain to your children that, just as they have playdates or hang with friend, sometimes mom (or dad) needs to have some time with friends too. If you overwhelm yourself with the duties of work and parenting, you risk getting burnt out and losing patience with your children and yourself.
Remember your accomplishments
Being a single parent is hard work. Think about the circumstances that led to you being a single parent. Think about the obstacles that you have overcome along the way. What has made you stronger, both as a person and as a parent? Perhaps bad choices in the past led you to difficult times later on, but the important thing is that you are still going strong. Keep working at bettering yourself and doing what's best for your children. As they grow up, they will see you as a strong role model who has overcome hard times and tried to make their childhood a good one.