There is no one way to parent, and being a sole parent has its own unique challenges.
When I was a sole parent the biggest challenge for me was not having a partner besides me to back me up, support me and take over when I was having my own melt down. Then there was the guilt that I had failed to keep a relationship together for the sake of my children.
Now I know that is a farce, to stay in an unhealthy relationship for the children’s sake, is damaging to all and not the way to model what a loving relationship can be like.
This is a large subject to cover; my intention is to share some valuable tactics and ideas that I have gained over the years through my own experience and that of many other sole parents I have counselled.
It certainly does take a village to raise a child; we are basically tribal creatures who thrive when supported with love, compassion and a community to help share any heavy loads, so reach out.
So here are some tips for single parents which I would like to share with you all:
- Swallowing one’s pride and asking for help is a major step. If your relationship with your family is supportive and they are respectful of your needs and parenting choices, then you are blessed.
- You may need to reach out to friends and community for support. To create the support you personally need; be specific with your requests and how you would like your children and yourself to be nurtured
- Taking the time to heal your own issues and wounds is crucial. During this healing time it is important to be mindful of our own fears and insecurities. When our children may express the same feelings of sadness or other emotions we can be present with them and not come from reaction because our own emotions are raw.
- Less reaction and more compassion when our children push our buttons is the better outcome. If you need to go into your bedroom and scream into the pillow, do it.
- Another way to shift stressful energy is to lie down on the floor and wriggle around and breathe deeply. It may sound silly but it is affective and you may end up laughing together
- Remember you can’t teach someone to swim when they are drowning so pick your times to address issues with your child. Make sure everyone is fairly calm, and not hungry or tired.
- Being a sole parent is taxing emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. Focusing on what your core values are and how you can remain in integrity with yourself is a good place to start.
- By simply taking the time to write a list reflecting on what is most important to you in raising a well balanced family, can assist you in focusing on what you do want instead of what you don’t.
- Keeping your cup full is imperative to being a well balanced parent. How can you keeping giving if there is no fuel left in your emotional or physical tank. Make time to do something for you.
- If you have challenges creating new habits, remember that mistakes are an opportunity to learn how to do things differently. Put the whip away
- You can allow yourself to have fun – discover ways to create harmony and peace of mind in your life
- Forgive yourself for any past misdemeanours, every day is a new start, leave judgement and guilt behind
- Focus on the magnificence of who you are, your positive traits and then build on them. Watch your children mirror them back to you
- The best tools for learning are laughter, play and fun, utilise them well. Your children are the best examples of how to cut loose and get crazy, watch and learn.
- Focus on being present when you are with your children. If you have to go out to work, then when you come home, be emotionally and physically present with them.
- Overcompensating behaviours with children can arise from feelings of guilt. For example having to go out to work, being angry and stressed out, or not being able to buy them the things they want. To compensate for feelings of not being there for their children some parents can let personal values drop, or let the child start calling the shots, be mindful that you steer away from this behaviour.
- You are not their best friend; you have the honour of being their Mum or Dad. They can find friends elsewhere they desire for you to be their role model and surround them with boundaries that help them feel safe and loved.
- Some children may try to take over the role as care giver to take charge and restore some kind of balancing or feelings of safety. Please Mum’s; never let your son be ‘man of the house’ until he has become a man.
- It is important to be aware that you do not place your child in a role where you may share affections and confidences that would be more appropriately shared with another adult. This can happen if you are lonely or feel isolated.
- Doing dishes, bed making, cooking, cleaning, helping to hang out the washing, does it take longer? Yes but the learning and intimacy created while chatting and having fun working together, is precious.
- Build confidence and empower your children with encouragement when a job is done.
- Ask for their ideas on contributing and how they can manage new skills. Have weekly meetings to reflect on how everyone can make positive changes, and celebrate the joy.
- Another fun and loving life skill is to teach your children about gratitude. Daily sit with your children and share a thought about what they can be grateful for in their day. Writing them down on a family blackboard, speaking and singing them is also powerful and helps focus on the positives in your family.
- Consider your parenting style:
- The permissive style is one in which parents are fearful that their children will not like them if they set limits. Children are not ready to make important decisions; this is the parent’s role. This type of parenting can lead to your child continually having tantrums or acting out as they feel confused about ‘who is the boss around here’?
- The democratic style of parenting is a respectful and parent led style and treats both parents and children as equals in terms of value. Choices are offered and this assists balancing freedom with responsibility and teaches children to learn what the consequences of their choices will result in. It has the effect of making children more co-operative and parents are able to discipline their children without the need of a reward and punishment system.
- Do your best not to compare how your child’s other parent or carer’s care for your child. You can explain that your rules are different from Dad’s/Mum’s. That in your home, you have different expectations. One parent’s rules are not better than the others, they’re just different.
- Your child can and will adjust to different households as long as your communication and expectations are clear.
- If communicating with your child’s other parent is difficult bring in a mediator or use a note book to communicate. Never use your child as a messenger.
- Our children are resilient and forgiving especially when a parent is big enough to apologise for not always handling situations well. As they say don’t sweat the small stuff
- Meet with other parents who are understanding of your situation and can be called on when to support you without judgement if you feel your losing it.
- You are the expert on your children and to enhance that expertise sometimes we need to look outside the box and try something new if there are too many bumps in the road. Do what feels best for you and your children.