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 the circumstance, a single-parent faces unique challenges that two-parent families may not. However, this does not mean that children raised in single-parent households 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 by packing a small cooler full of fresh veggies, fruits and yogurt. Drink lots of water and forgo the sodas.
- Exercise regularly: This doesn't mean you have to make time to get to the gym every day. 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 the 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. Although being a single-parent is difficult, it is doable. You set the tone in the household. If you are gloomy, defeated, and angry, your children may react the same. Remind them that although sometimes life is difficult, it will get better.