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Single Parenting

Single-parent families are becoming more and more common in today’s society. One out of every four children in the United States lives in a single-parent household. Not all of these situations are the result of divorce. Death, single-parent adoptions, and unplanned pregnancy, can also create families with only one parent.

Whatever circumstance, a single-parent faces unique challenges that two-parent families may not. However, this does not mean that children raised in single-parent homes are doomed to a life of hardships and unhappiness. The qualities that are vital for happy well-adjusted children in single-parent homes are the same ones in two-parent families—support, guidance, quality time, and unconditional love.

However, success does depend greatly on the emotional and physical well-being of the parent. It is important to keep in mind that it is very difficult to give children the nurturing and attention they need if you neglect yourself. It is not selfish for any parent to take time to do things that are necessary to remain healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. These suggestions are not luxuries but necessities.

  • Get plenty of rest: Trade off child care with another parent to catch a nap or a night of uninterrupted sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Single parents by nature are constantly on the go. It is easy to grab some fast-food and eat in the car. Try to avoid this packing a small cooler full of fresh veggies, fruits, and yogurt. Drink lots of water and forgo the sodas.
  • Exercise regularly: There are many ways you can incorporate physical activity into your daily routines. For instance, park farther away from your destination and walk. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Take the kids to the park and join in the fun. Put on some music and dance with your children. Just get moving. It reduces stress and will actually give you more energy.
  • Do things that you enjoy: Just because you are a single parent does not mean that you should not enjoy activities that you once did. Get together with friends, see a movie, play cards, go to a concert, or visit your local library and find a good book that interests you.

Taking care of your children:

  • The very best thing that any parent can do for their children is to spend one on one time with them. Even if it is only for 30 minutes a day, sit down with your child and play a short game, read a story, ask them about their day, listen attentively, and let them know that you are always there for them.
  • Reassure them that no matter what the circumstances were that caused the current situation, whether it be the death of a spouse, divorce, or an unplanned pregnancy, they are not to blame! You may have to reassure your child frequently of this fact. Remember that all healing takes time.
  • Be sure to keep structure in your lives. Regular routines help your child to feel secure. Set a bedtime and keep it. Don’t give in to your child because you feel guilty about their circumstances. Give them chores to do and let them know how valuable their contributions are to the family. They need you to set firm limits and keep them. An unstructured environment leads to chaos and rebellion.
  • Never turn to your child for emotional support. Kids are not qualified or capable of being your support system. Find a counselor or trusted friend to talk to. Expecting your child to take on this type of responsibility is dangerous to their emotional and mental well-being.
  • Try to maintain a positive attitude. You set the tone in the household. If you are gloomy, defeated, and angry, your child may react the same. Remind them that although sometimes life is difficult, it will get better.

There are numerous ways children can experience physical abuse- shaking, jerking, slapping, pinching, pulling hair, and harsh spankings or beatings. Most often parents revert to these tactics because of extreme frustration, stress, and/or lack of appropriate parenting skills.

  • Shaking – All infants cry, some much more than others. Parents who feel frustrated and helpless to stop the crying may shake the baby. This can result in brain damage or death. When violent shaking occurs the brain “bounces” around within the head causing it to bleed. It is also possible to break the infant’s neck. In a single moment of anger a parent can unintentionally kill their own child.
  • Jerking, pinching, hair pulling – When there is tension and emotional turmoil in the home children may not understand everything going on. However, they do feel the stress and react in the only way they know how- with unruly behavior and tantrums. Although these behaviors are extremely frustrating it is never acceptable to jerk a child’s arm. It could pull the arm out of the socket causing tremendous pain. Pulling of hair or pinching is not only hurtful, but humiliating as well.
  • Spankings and beatings – Harsh spankings or beatings are extremely dangerous to a child’s health especially if a paddle or belt is used. This could result in damage to the kidneys, spleen, liver and other major organs. Furthermore, spankings only stop unwanted behavior temporarily. Hurting a child does not teach him to solve a problem. It just makes him feel bad about himself, angry and resentful towards his parents, and increases his own aggressiveness.

What to do instead:

  • Educate yourself about the development of your child and take classes about appropriate parenting strategies.
  • Seek out a professional who deals with anger management, stress, and abuse issues. Oftentimes, parents who experienced abuse as a child instinctualiy react to their children in the same manner as their parents treated them. Sometimes parents do not even realize their behaviors are harmful.
  • Learn to recognize your limits and get in touch with your body’s signals such as fist clenching, teeth grinding, and elevated heart rate. When you feel yourself getting extremely frustrated take a‘time out’. Make sure your child is in a safe place, go to another room, breathe deeply as you count to yourself and return when you feel you have regained control.
  • Ask for help. Call a friend or family member to talk or ask them stay with your child while you get away for an hour or so.
  • Look for the good in your child. Use praise whenever you notice your child behaving as you wish.This let’s him know how to act and your expectations.
  • Call Alabama’s Parenting Assistance Line (I-866-962-3030). A Parent Resource Specialist will be available to talk, offer support, and help you find useful resources.

There are numerous ways children can experience physical abuse- shaking, jerking, slapping, pinching, pulling hair, and harsh spankings or beatings. Most often parents revert to these tactics because of extreme frustration, stress, and/or lack of appropriate parenting skills.

  • Shaking – All infants cry, some much more than others. Parents who feel frustrated and helpless to stop the crying may shake the baby. This can result in brain damage or death. When violent shaking occurs the brain “bounces” around within the head causing it to bleed. It is also possible to break the infant’s neck. In a single moment of anger a parent can unintentionally kill their own child.
  • Jerking, pinching, hair pulling – When there is tension and emotional turmoil in the home children may not understand everything going on. However, they do feel the stress and react in the only way they know how- with unruly behavior and tantrums. Although these behaviors are extremely frustrating it is never acceptable to jerk a child’s arm. It could pull the arm out of the socket causing tremendous pain. Pulling of hair or pinching is not only hurtful, but humiliating as well.
  • Spankings and beatings – Harsh spankings or beatings are extremely dangerous to a child’s health especially if a paddle or belt is used. This could result in damage to the kidneys, spleen, liver and other major organs. Furthermore, spankings only stop unwanted behavior temporarily. Hurting a child does not teach him to solve a problem. It just makes him feel bad about himself, angry and resentful towards his parents, and increases his own aggressiveness.

What to do instead:

  • Educate yourself about the development of your child and take classes about appropriate parenting strategies.
  • Seek out a professional who deals with anger management, stress, and abuse issues. Oftentimes, parents who experienced abuse as a child instinctualiy react to their children in the same manner as their parents treated them. Sometimes parents do not even realize their behaviors are harmful.
  • Learn to recognize your limits and get in touch with your body’s signals such as fist clenching, teeth grinding, and elevated heart rate. When you feel yourself getting extremely frustrated take a‘time out’. Make sure your child is in a safe place, go to another room, breathe deeply as you count to yourself and return when you feel you have regained control.
  • Ask for help. Call a friend or family member to talk or ask them stay with your child while you get away for an hour or so.
  • Look for the good in your child. Use praise whenever you notice your child behaving as you wish.This let’s him know how to act and your expectations.
  • Call Alabama’s Parenting Assistance Line (I-866-962-3030). A Parent Resource Specialist will be available to talk, offer support, and help you find useful resources.
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