Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
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Strong single parents consistently sacrifice their own needs and want to put their children first. But there’s more to being a successful solo parent than taking a back seat to higher priorities. Here’s a look at how you can develop some essential habits and thinking patterns in your own life.
Set Clear Goals
It’s important to have a clear picture in your mind of what you want for yourself and your kids. This is where the conviction, determination, and commitment you need to be a strong single parent come from.
So, what are these goals you should be setting for yourself and your family? Depending on where you’re at right now, they run the gamut from simple goals like creating a morning routine to make getting out the door on time easier to creating long-term goals—like going back to school, relocating to be near family, managing your money more effectively, or improving your co-parenting relationship with your ex.
No one juggles more than working single parents who share physical custody. You’ve got your own schedule to manage, plus your kids’ regular routines, homework, and then all the packing and transportation that goes along with managing joint custody schedules.
To get organized, try using an online calendaring system like Google Calendar or Cozi. Both of these tools allow you to create calendars, manage repeating events, and share calendars with family members—like your parents and your ex. Once you get comfortable using them, get into the habit of adding new items to the calendar as soon as they come in, like school events and your kids’ sports schedules.
One of the key benefits for co-parents is that a shared online calendar means that it’s your ex’s responsibility to check the calendar and stay up to date, versus your responsibility to call, text, or email when another flyer comes home from school.
And for the kids, a huge benefit is that you’ll both be at more of their events, because sharing the details about what is happening, and when, becomes so much easier.
No matter how organized you are, there will still be things that go wrong or turn out differently than you had planned. When this happens, be creative and look for alternative solutions. Can’t get to school to pick your child up from aftercare on time because of a meeting? Call a backup child care provider you trust, like a neighbor, to fill in. Is your ex on the line, asking to swap weekends with you next month?
As long as it’s feasible for you and the kids, try to be flexible and allow changes—with the expectation that he or she will extend to you the same courtesy and flexibility when an unexpected work trip forces you to request a favor on the fly. (Sometimes the simple act of responding to a request with grace is all you need to start a new pattern of mutual flexibility between you.)
Strong single parents also know that they need to demonstrate to their kids that they absolutely say what they mean and mean what they say. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever change your mind! But when you discipline your kids or issue age-appropriate consequences for misbehavior, you need to do so confidently.
It’s far easier to back off of a consequence than it is to let misbehavior or a bad attitude pass by ‘unnoticed’ and later expect your kids to make amends.
And in those moments when you’re just not sure what to do in response to something your kids have done, check out the next tip and phone a friend.
Know When to Be Independent and When to Rely on Others
This is a biggie. As a single parent, you’re probably used to being independent, whether out of necessity or preference. But strong single parents know that there are times when you need to go it alone, and there are times when you need to surround yourself with others just to get through the day.
Take this advice: tap into your network. You may be tempted to think there’s no one around to provide support and encouragement when you need it. But chances are, you’re not as alone as you feel. Take a good look around and uncover new opportunities to invest in relationships. From co-workers to neighbors and old friends, there’s a network of support there for you to tap into.
Believe in Yourself
This is one of the most important things you can do as a single parent. Your situation may not be perfect, but you are enough. Look back over the previous months and years (or days and weeks, if you’re a newly single parent). Give yourself ‘props’ for all you’ve accomplished and successfully endured thus far.
Acknowledge what you’ve come through and how much stronger you are today than you were on the day you started this journey.
And if you’re not convinced, grab a journal and start writing, even if it’s in a beat-up spiral notebook! Just start jotting down what’s happening, how you’re dealing with it, and what you’ve noticed about yourself along the way. Think of it as documentation for your own personal growth. The next time you wonder how far you’ve come, you’ll be able to look back and see it there in your notebook.
Know That Hardships Are Temporary
Strong single parents have perspective. They’re able to see that whatever is hardest right now isn’t necessarily the biggest thing you’ll be dealing with a month from now—or even a week from now.
To put some context around what you’re going through, add the phrase “for now” to your self-talk vocabulary. Embroiled in conflict with your ex over child custody? For now—because a resolution is coming. Frustrated that your four-year-old has been clingy and whiny? For now.
Keep sharing your abundant love, and his confidence will grow. When you recognize that your current struggles are temporary, you allow yourself to see the long term. And that’s where you’ll begin to glimpse all the hope and joy your future holds.
Finally, strong single parents know they’ve earned every morsel of strength and confidence they’ve built up over the years, and they’re generous about sharing their journey so that others can benefit.
Consider starting a single parent support group in your area so that other single parents can more readily find support, encouragement, and camaraderie. Whether you host it at your kids’ school or meet up at a local coffee shop once a month, you’ll be surprised how many single moms and dads in your town have been looking for a group to join!
Strong single parents know that this job isn’t an easy one, by any means. But they also recognize the deep value and privilege inherent in raising your children as a single mom or dad.
You’ll have days ahead—we promise you—when you catch yourself off-guard, surprised by how sure of yourself you felt in a moment that previously might have left you feeling anxious and unsure.
No matter where you are on this journey, know that the work you’re doing matters, and with each passing year, you’ll gain another measure of confidence and strength. Before long, you’ll see what others have been seeing in you for quite a while now: you rock!
When you become a parent, your entire life changes. Parenthood poses challenges for anyone, but if a parent is managing the family without another partner, it can prove particularly difficult. A person might be a single parent because their partner has died or because their spouse might be away for a period of time (such as hospitalization, military deployment, or incarceration). They also might simple have chosen to raise a child themselves.
Regardless of the reasons, single parenting is on the rise in the United States. There are twice as many single parent families as there were 25 years ago. Fortunately, the number of resources focusing on single parents has grown as well. There are plenty of unique challenges the single parent will encounter, but with the right mindset and support network, they are more than capable of raising happy and healthy children.
Frequent Single Parent Challenges
- Negotiating custody and visitation
- Navigating financial issues
- Obtaining health care
- Finding additional role models
- Helping children deal with loss
- Helping children cope with parental conflict
- Acquiring child care
All of these challenges can be conquered with the right mindset, plan, and support network. Let’s take a look at some winning strategies for the single parent.
Avoid beating yourself up. You may not be able to cook every meal or keep everything in the house spotless. Being a parent means readjusting your priorities. Spending time with your children and taking care of yourself should outweigh other details that might have caused you stress in the past. Making yourself worry about how having a single parent will impact your child or what extra wants you can’t provide for yourself won’t help. Focus instead on what you have and can do to keep your kid happy and healthy. No amount of toys, clothes, or technology will replace the value of spending time with your child.
Don’t focus on the negative. If your child does have contact with his or her other parent, you shouldn’t use them to deliver messages. You also should not criticize or complain about your ex-spouse or partner in front of them. Don’t focus on what “could have been,” the past relationship with your ex, or mistakes that you may have made along the way. Bitterness and anger will only distract you and possibly model unhealthy reactions for your child. And rather than sharing negative stereotypes, find positive role models for your child for the gender of the missing or absent parent.
Communicate and be consistent. Routines will provide stability for your child and traditions will give you both tasks and events to look forward to throughout the year. If your child has lost the other parent to death, or if the other parent chose not to be involved in your child’s life, they may fear abandonment. Allow them to feel comfortable expressing their own thoughts and feelings about family issues and non-family issues. It might be challenging to answer difficult questions, but open communications will strengthen your relationship. So demonstrate to your child that you won’t hide from tough questions or sweep them under the rug.
Take care of yourself. Pay careful attention to how you care for and neglect your mental, physical, and emotional health. You can’t be 100% there for your child if you don’t take the time to get rest, eat healthy, exercise, see your doctor regularly, and do things you enjoy. Also, don’t feel like you have to abandon your own goals. Motivated people are happier people, and they are better parents. Whether it’s finding time for a hobby or continuing your education, finding even just a few minutes a day to work on your own dreams and wants will improve your life.
Above all, the most successful single parents utilize their support networks. You will feel overwhelmed if you isolate yourself and try to do it all on your own. Involve friends, family members, and other members of the community in your life and your child’s life. Encourage your child to have strong relationships with other family members, their peers, teachers, coaches, and mentors. When leaning on your support network, try to be specific when you ask for help. Need an hour to run to the store or to go to the gym? Ask for it. Often people want to help but they end up doing very little or nothing because they don’t know what you need.
Single parenthood may have its unique challenges, but with an open mind and open arms to let others love you and your child, amazing things can happen. What steps can you take today to support your child and build a thriving single parent family?
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In This Article
Being a single parent is not always a choice. In most cases, it is always fate. It comes with its own share of fun and challenges.
Difficulties of single parenting can plague an individual , sapping them of their energy, confidence, and happiness.
What is a single-parent family ? A family consisting of children headed by a single parent.
Single parent’s problems include having to adapt to a drop in income, a compromised lifestyle, and even a change in house or neighborhood.
Challenges of single parenting, especially being a single mother, are overwhelming. It requires a single parent to combine the roles of two people with raising the children and running the house.
The parenting problems surpass the rewards, making it the most challenging situation for any parent. The single parenting challenges differ from both males and females, worsened by the inclusion of children in the mix.
Death, divorce , and separation rob parents of the joys of companionship and sharing of responsibilities.
Here are a few single parenting issues and single parent’s struggles, along with some single parenting tips and solutions to single parenting.
You have to deal with the loss of a partner and the gap they left in your life.
One of the challenges of single parenthood is that there is no one to offer a shoulder to lean on. There is a part that your partner solely played in your life – Emotional fulfillment.
The grass isn’t greener on the other side, either. It is also emotionally challenging when your partner has to live with the kids. And you have to come back to an empty house; this drains you emotionally.
Who will run to you after work?
The reality of all the memories of the good moments you shared with your spouse and the children dawns on you.
Replace negative thoughts in your mind with positive thinking to give you room to find yourself for the benefit of the children.
Redirect your energy to more productive activities. If you are in the custody of the children , then spend time with them. Remember, they look up to you for their emotional needs.
Similarly, the partner with no children must go the extra mile to socialize and engage in community activities to pass the time rather than wallow in pity.
2. Instilling discipline in children
Single parenting is full of challenges. A partner with children may find it difficult to instill discipline.
Because of the emotional stress, some of the children engage in truant activities as a gesture to get the attention of both the parents .
Being a single mother can leave you wondering how to navigate the unknown avenues of single parenting . One of the problems faced by single mothers is a lack of discipline.
Such struggles of being a single parent often deplete the parent of all energy to pursue their own interests.
Children may also give a solo parent an emotionally tough time, especially when they realize that you do not communicate with your partner.
They give you parallel information for their own selfish interests. You need to brace yourself for these single-parent issues and not let single parent stress crush your spirit.
Moreover, another downside of single parenting is financial responsibility.
The extra financial burden may also limit your time with them; children left on their own with no proper guidance may develop defiant behavior, which inhibits disciplinary measures from a single parent.
Prior to the divorce, set your boundaries and agree on the best way to handle discipline and co-parenting . Regularly communicate to your partner to teach discipline to the children before you fail to instill the right morals.
Being a single parent due to your spouse’s death can come with additional responsibilities. But don’t let the challenges of being a single parent exhaust you.
After the death of a spouse, a single parent can engage their extended family to act as an authority figure to counter the absence of the other parent. This is only effective when there is a close tie over time.
Relationship counselors and psychologists also come in hand y to deal with emotional instability in the children that brew indiscipline as an after-effect of single parenting.
3. Low self-esteem
One of the problems faced by single parents in society is bearing the brunt of harsh societal judgment. Sometimes, society judges separated spouses instead of giving them the right support at this time.
Negative family members and friends give them a hard time coping with the situation, making them have self-doubt and low confidence as single parents.
One of the solutions to single parenting is not to let single parenting erode your self-confidence . Engage in activities that will help you regain your lost sense of self-worth.
Surround yourself with people who believe in you and understand your predicament without any judgment. Single parenting can be daunting. Engage in activities that build your confidence and get rid of self-doubt.
4. A sense of guilt
It is common for single parents to go on a guilt trip after a bitter divorce. Single parenting poses several questions in the mind of an estranged spouse.
What if I could have been patient with my spouse? How will the children judge me when they grow old? How come I have lost friends after the separation?
These unanswered questions of single parenting rob your innocence and only add to the difficulties of single parenting.
Trying to look at your fault and self-blame is not healthy for single parents . Accept the situation and be confident you made the right decision so as to look at the positive angle of the situation to forge ahead.
5. Financial burden
In a close family unit, each partner had a financial role in meeting monetary obligations. You may be in agreement on how to manage your finances , but the fact that you have to run two houses with the same finances is an uphill task.
Overbearing financial responsibilities is the most frustrating challenge for single parents.
You are now on your own; you have to spend more hours at work to meet all your financial needs.
If you have children, sit down with them, and agree on how to cut back on some of the luxuries so that you do not strain too much on trying to maintain the lifestyle at the expense of spending time with them-they need your presence at this trying time.
The faster you accept your situation as a single parent and adjust , the better it is for you and the children. You will heal faster if you allow a new partner in your life.
Becoming a single parent comes with its trials and triumphs. Single parenting doesn’t need to be a tumultuous experience. With persistent efforts and steely resolve, you can surely turn single parenting into a positive life experience.
One of every four American children today lives in a single-parent home. And though the circumstances may vary (some parents are divorced, others are widowed, and others are single parents by choice), the reality is that solo parenting is often stressful, demanding, and hectic. If you are a single mom or dad, there are 10 things you can do to help minimize the stress in your life — and bring back the joy of parenting.
Get a handle on finances: Raising a family on one income, or relying on an ex-spouse for child support, can be one of the hardest aspects of parenting alone. That’s why it’s important to take steps to budget your money, learn about long-term investments, plan for college and retirement, and, if possible, enhance your earning power by going back to school or getting additional job training.
Set up a support system: All single parents need help — whether it’s someone to watch the kids while you run out to do errands or simply someone to talk to when you feel overwhelmed. While it’s tempting to try to handle everything alone, ask friends and family members for help. You could join a single-parent support group, or, if finances allow, hire a trusted sitter to help out with the kids or someone to assist with housework.
Maintain a daily routine: Try to schedule meals, chores, bedtimes, and other family functions at regular hours so that your child knows exactly what to expect each day. A consistent routine will help your child feel more secure and help you feel more organized.
Be consistent with discipline: Children thrive when they know which behaviors are expected of them and which rules they need to follow. If you are divorced or separated, work with your spouse to create and observe consistent rules and methods of discipline (there’s nothing more stressful than having one parent undermine the other). If your child has other caregivers, talk to them about how you expect your child to be disciplined.
Answer questions honestly: Inevitably, questions will come up about the changes in your family, or about the absence of one parent. Answer your child’s questions in an open, honest, and age-appropriate way. Make sure that your child gets the help and support he needs to deal with difficult emotions.
Treat kids like kids: With the absence of a partner, it’s sometimes tempting to rely too heavily on children for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. But children have neither the emotional capacity nor the life experience to act as substitute adult partners. If you find yourself depending on your kids too much, or expressing your frustrations to them too often, seek out adult friends and family members to talk to. Or seek counseling if necessary.
Abolish “guilt” from your vocabulary: It’s always easy for single parents to feel guilty about the time they don’t have or the things they can’t do or provide for their children. But for your own sense of well-being, it’s better to focus on all the things you do accomplish on a daily basis and on all the things you do provide — and don’t forget about all the love, attention, and comfort you’re responsible for! (If you ever question your day-to-day achievements, just make a list.) If you’re feeling guilty about a divorce or other disruption in your home life, think about joining a support group for other divorced parents. Focus on helping your child (and yourself) get the help you need.
Take time for your children: Even though the piles of laundry and dirty dishes may beckon, set aside time each day to enjoy your kids. (After all, isn’t that what parenting is all about?) Spend quiet time playing, reading, going for a walk, or simply listening to music together. And most important, focus on the love between you and on your relationship as a family.
Take time for yourself: Likewise, it’s important to schedule time for yourself. Even if it’s something as simple as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or having a chat with a friend, setting aside a little personal time will give you a chance to refuel.
Stay positive: It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and demands of single parenthood. On top of that, you may be experiencing the pain of divorce or the death of a spouse. Despite all of your own feelings, though, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude, since your children are affected by your moods. The best way to deal with stress is to exercise regularly, maintain a proper diet, get enough rest, and seek balance in your life. If you’re feeling sad, it’s okay to share some of your sentiments with your children, but let them know that they are not the cause of the problems — and that good times lie ahead for all of you.t
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; CompleteMom.com; Parents Without Partners; Single Mothers by Choice; the Women’s Institute for Financial Education
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
Parents and caregivers make sure children are healthy and safe, equip them with the skills and resources to succeed as adults, and transmit basic cultural values to them. Parents and caregivers offer their children love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance. They provide the most intimate context for the nurturing and protection of children as they develop their personalities and identities and also as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.
Babies whose needs are met quickly and warmly (e.g., feeding, changing, holding/cradling, and soothing them) achieve a crucial developmental task – attachment. This bond of affection between parents and children is necessary for a healthy parent-child relationship, and also extends to relationships between children, their siblings, and other family members (e.g., grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc) and caregivers. When infants attach successfully to their parents and caregivers, they learn to trust that the outside world is a welcoming place and are more likely to explore and interact with their environment. This lays the groundwork for further social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Research has found that relationships between parents and caregivers and youth that:
Are warm, open, and communicative;
Include appropriate limits, and
Provide reasoning for rules for behavior
are associated with higher self-esteem, better performance in school, and fewer negative outcomes such as depression or drug use in children and teenagers.
In addition, cross-cultural differences in parenting are strongly related to the attitudes, beliefs, traditions, and values of the particular culture or ethnic group within which the family belongs. These parenting practices are also related to the social and economic context in which these families are situated. For instance, a recent study comparing the parenting practices of immigrant Chinese-American parents with that of White American parents found that the Chinese-American parents exhibited greater control of their children’s behavior, which was linked to fewer behavior problems in their children.
As children reach adolescence, parents and caregivers face a whole new set of tasks that require new approaches to deal with the changing needs of children. Children are changing on a physical as well as cognitive and social basis. Parents and caregivers must prepare for the upcoming changes in the parent-child relationship; teens will begin to detach to a greater degree from existing family bonds and focus more on their peers and the outside world. This quest for greater independence and autonomy is a natural part of the developmental process in adolescence. Parents and caregivers must find the delicate balance between maintaining the familial bond and allowing teens increasing autonomy as they mature. Teenagers who feel connected to yet not constrained by their families tend to flourish. Research has found that parents and caregivers that maintain a warm, communicative and reasoned style of parenting raise teenagers who have higher rates of socially competent behavior, take fewer drugs, and exhibit less anxiety or depression.
Parental, family, and caregiver support is very valuable in helping children and youth cope with adversity, especially if they encounter stigma or prejudice associated with factors such as their race/ethnicity, gender, disability, sexuality, weight or socioeconomic status.
For example, research has found protective outcomes for children of color when their parents and caregivers educate them about racism and prejudice and transmit positive cultural values and beliefs to them about their racial and cultural heritage. This process of racial socialization has been shown to boost self-esteem and academic achievement and reduce depression in ethnic minority youth.
In a similar manner, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who receive caring and acceptance from family members and caregivers are more likely to exhibit healthy development in adolescence, e.g., participating actively with peers, showing personal autonomy, and looking forward to the future.
The role of grandparents in the rearing of healthy and happy children should not be overlooked. A recent study concluded that spending time with a grandparent is linked with better social skills and fewer behavior problems among teenagers, especially those living in single-parent or stepfamily households. This study found that children and teenagers whose parents have separated or divorced see their grandparents as confidants and sources of comfort. In fact, supportive relationships with other family members outside the immediate family may lead to better adjustment for all children and teenagers.
Family rituals are also instrumental in the healthy development of children and teenagers. Family routines and rituals are an important part of contemporary family life. In fact, there is emerging evidence that children’s health and wellbeing is compromised when family members spend less time with each other. For instance, good communication between family members at family mealtimes are associated with reduced anxiety symptoms and respiratory conditions. Family mealtimes may also provide the settings in which to strengthen emotional connections. Lastly, how the family conducts its mealtimes, the regularity of family mealtimes, and the value that the family places on regular family mealtimes may improve nutrition habits and healthy weight in youth.
Families are often the first to notice mental health problems in children due to their intimate involvement in and monitoring of their children’s lives. Parents and caregivers in particular serve as critical advocates and essential partners in the prevention and treatment of children’s mental health concerns. Psychologists treating behavioral problems in children and teenagers always make engagement of the family a priority as this has been shown to boost positive outcomes for children and families as a whole.
American Psychological Association Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice for Children and Adolescents. (2008). Disseminating evidence-based practice for children and adolescents: A systems approach to enhancing care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved May 29, 2009.
American Psychological Association Task Force on Resilience and Strength in Black Children and Adolescents. (2008). Resilience in African American children and adolescents: A vision for optimal development. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved May 29, 2009.
Attar-Schwartz, S., Tan, J., Buchanan, A., Griggs, J., & Flouri, E. (2009). Grandparenting and adolescent adjustment in two-parent biological, lone-parent, and step-families. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(1), 67-75.
Ho, C., Bluestein, D., & Jenkins, J. (2008). Cultural differences in the relationship between parenting and children’s behavior. Developmental Psychology, 44(2), 507–522.
Huntsinger, C. & Jose, P. (2009). Relations among parental acceptance and control and children’s social adjustment in Chinese American and European American families. Journal of Family Psychology, 23(3), 321–330.
Kreppner, K. (2000). Parent-child relationship: Adolescence. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed). Encyclopedia of psychology, Vol. 6. (pp. 50-55). Washington, DC; New York, NY: American Psychological Association; Oxford University Press.
By: Danielle Hill
28 November, 2018
In 2004, about half of all U.S. children could expect to still be living with both their biological parents by the time they reached age 15, according to the Social Science Research Network. With the increase of divorce rates throughout the United States and elsewhere in the world, single-parent homes are a major segment of all households with children. Accordingly, it’s a point of intense interest to educators and parents how a single-parent environment affects children’s learning.
Typically, single parents have to manage far more tasks than the mothers or fathers in two-parent households, simply because of practical limitations on the division of labor. At least until children are old enough to take on household chores, all the housekeeping responsibilities fall on one person, as well as wage earning and parenting. As a result, it’s possible for single parents to have less time or energy to encourage their children’s learning by reading together, overseeing homework or planning educational, entertaining and fitness activities and outings for the family.
Education and Behavior
The Effects of a Single Parent Home on a Child’s Behavior
Aside from the direct influence of household structure on academic achievement and learning, a single-family home environment may influence a child’s behavioral performance in school, which can indirectly affect learning and interest in school. According to Adoption.com, when single parents are working full time and therefore have less available time for their children, the situation may lead to either behavioral issues or lower academic achievement.
In the late ’80s, when single-parent homes were less common than at present, a study carried out at the University of Illinois at Urbana, reported by “The New York Times,” found that children raised by one parent were less likely to continue their schooling through high school and into college. From a sample of 2,500 children, the longer kids were in single-parent households, the shorter their educations. Since the early 1990s, however, a new model has become the standard for statistics measuring academic performance in children of varied household types. Instead of using a Family Deficit Model, which presupposes that single-parent households are incomplete and nonstandard, contemporary statistics instead use a Risk and Protective Factor Model. The model views family structures based on multiple risk factors, including positive and negative life events and general characteristics of the family unit.
Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
Hearing about the negative effects of single parenting on kids, from economic hardships to abandonment-related trust issues can feel overwhelming. But what about the positive effects of being raised by a single parent? In the midst of raising your kids on your own, you might not think of your situation as a bonus, but there are some overwhelmingly positive effects of single parenting that deserve attention. Kids raised by single parents tend to:
Develop Stronger Bonds
Spending quality one-on-one time with your kids allows you to develop a unique bond that may actually be stronger than it would have been if you were not a single parent. Certainly, this is true for many custodial parents, but it’s also true for a number of non-custodial parents who have the opportunity to play a unique role in their kids’ lives.
- Never diminish the importance of your role.
- Realize if your bond isn’t where you want it to be today, you can work to strengthen it.
- Your connection with your children won’t end when they turn 18; the bond will continue to evolve into your children’s adult years.
Experience Authentic Community
We’re all familiar with the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” Kids raised in single parent families are often surrounded by a village of supporters, literally. In many cases, members of the extended family will step up and play a significant role in the children’s lives. And single parents who don’t live near family may choose to participate in community groups—including single parent support groups, churches, and synagogues—which champion the entire family.
- Join a single parent support group.
- Seek out civic groups that will help you plug into your local community.
- Get involved in your child’s school.
Children raised in single parent families don’t just have “token” chores to do in order to earn an allowance. Instead, their contribution to the entire family system is necessary. A genuine need for their assistance helps your kids recognize the value of their contribution and take pride in their own work.
- Praise your kids for helping out around the home.
- Let them know you recognize their efforts.
- Expect them to contribute and be specific when asking them to help out.
Learn How to Handle Adversity
Children in single parent families witness conflict mediation skills in action. They get to see their parents working hard—despite their differences—to collaborate and work together effectively. In addition, the kids are forced to deal with their own disappointments early in life.
- Respond with your kids’ disappointment with support, encouragement, and empathy.
- View these experiences as valuable growth opportunities, helping them become sensitive, empathetic, caring adults.
- You can’t always prevent your children from feeling sad or disappointed, but you can help them to express and cope with their emotions.
Learn How to Juggle Competing Priorities
Children who are raised in successful single parent families know that they are the main priority in their parents’ lives, yet they are not treated as though they are the center of everyone’s universe. This healthy approach helps to prepare kids for the “real world.”
Here are some guidelines for single parents to make the most of your family life and situation. They might seem general at first glance and it will be up to you to find practical ways to put them into practice in and for your family.
Tip # 1 : IT IS A GREAT THING!
- Value being and having a single parent
- Rediscover and redefine your family life, roles and responsibilities.
- Tackling the new and uncertain future ahead together with gusto.
- Make it a partnership and dynamic team effort. DO NOT BE A LONER OR ISOLATE!
Tip # 2: LIFE GOES ON!
- Foster closeness, bond and connection
- This goes for you and your child/children
- Estranged spouse, divorced parent, family, friends, new role-models, support groups, school etc.
- Set the rules and stage for success, socializing and contact with others – you are not an island – DO NOT GO IT ALONE OR EVEN TRY TO! IT IS NOT WORTH IT… ASK FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT!
Tip # 3: FOSTER CONFIDENCE, NOT POWERLESSNESS
- Enable and empower yourself and your family to succeed
- Individually and as a new family unit
- Everyone allowed to deal/cope with situations at their own pace, time and in their own way NO TWO JOURNEYS ARE THE SAME
Tip # 4: MAKE EMOTIONAL RECOVERY A PRIORITY FOR ALL OF YOUR, INDIVIDUALLY AND TOGETHER TO MOVE FORWARD
- Single parenting is a skill-set that develops and refines over time
- Make it a priority to be the caretaker of all areas and aspects of family life, including feelings and emotions – they are real and should not be denied!
Tip # 5: BE ENGAGING, INVOLVED AND FAIR
- Spend time with your kids as often as you can and make every moment count!
- Enter boldly un-chartered waters where you and/or your kids have never been before and embrace your new status and life as a new family
Tip # 6: ALWAYS ACCESSIBLE AND AVAILABLE
- Remember the old, without dwelling on it, embrace the new, discovering it together
- Be the helping hand when your kids need it (even when they/you think they do not!)
- Connect with other peers and adults, family and friends
- Be spontaneous, honest and have some FUN together
Tip # 7: BE THE ROCK AND PILLAR OF STRENGHT (TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST, SO YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF OTHERS (BETTER!)
- When things are rough, changing and unfamiliar, dangerous, engaging and tune in to the needs of you personally and those of your child/children (whether only child or multiple children).
- Everyone in the family matters – make it so!
Tip # 8: TRY AND SEE THIS FROM DIFFERENT ANGLES AND FROM YOUR CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE AS WELL
Tip # 9: REESTABLISH LASTING CONNECTIONS, BONDS AND TIES THAT DEFINES WHO THIS FAMILY IS AND WHAT THIS FAMILY WANTS, SET PRIORITIES AND HAVE A PLAN
Tip # 10: Encourage confidence and have some fun, rebuild and strengthen one-step at a time, laugh together, empower and engage your family
Tip # 11: Sometimes follow your kids’ lead, let them take on roles and responsibilities and share the load
Tip # 12: Take charge when necessary and discipline accordingly, consistently and fairly
Tip # 13: Learn to love what you hate and try new things together, set boundaries and guidelines that make sense to all of you
Tip # 14: Accept that emotions, roles and people change and that strong feelings, even disagreements are part of life (their and yours)
Tip # 15: Sometimes rethink and revisit what you are doing as a single parent – rethink the way you are disciplining, cool off, use good judgment
Tip # 16: Always tell the truth! Be honest, trust and respect each other.
Tip # 17: Respecting each others being, preferences, sharing and socializing with others are all important lessons to learn in the family and at home to prepare better for life
Tip # 18: Recharge your own energies and load your batteries, take time and space for yourself to better help and support others
Tip # 19: Make the most of every opportunity to show your family that you love, care, support and champion their best interests
Tip # 20: BE YOURSELF! Nothing more is required. You do not have to be a super-single parent, hero, warrior or champion… just you. The loving parent that your kids want and deserve to have!
You will surely be able to come up with a couple of your own rules, guidelines and family-set of play/game-rules, add your own identity and family flavor to. MAKE IT A TEAM EFFORT! It does not all have to be an uphill battle. Being and becoming a new family is an exciting journey, even if it starts out a little rough… make time for each other and remember that you are never traveling down this path alone. Many have come before you and many will still yet come.
Co-parenting is the shared parenting of children by their parents or parental figures who are non-married or living apart.
Co-parents may be divorced or may have never married. They don’t have any romantic involvement with each other. Co-parenting is also called joint parenting.
Co-parents share not only the typical caretaking of their children, but also confer on major decisions about upbringing, including:
- medical care
- religious schooling
- other matters of importance
Co-parenting is common. A 2014 review estimates 60 percent of children in the United States live with their married biological parents. The other 40 percent live in a variety of situations, many of which involve co-parenting.
Read on to learn more about co-parenting, including tips, things to avoid, and more.
Successful co-parenting benefits children in a number of ways.
Research published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Science found that children who are raised by cooperative co-parents have fewer behavior problems. They’re also closer to their fathers than kids who are raised by hostile co-parents or a single parent.
Here’s how to increase your chances of co-parenting success:
1. Let go of the past
You won’t be able to successfully co-parent if you have nothing but contempt for your ex. You can still vent your frustrations with friends, family, or a therapist, but never vent about the other parent to your children.
2. Focus on your child
Whatever may have happened in your relationship in the past, remember, it’s in the past. Your present focus should be on what’s best for your child or children.
Good co-parenting depends on good communication. Here are some guidelines:
- Be clear, concise, and respectful. Don’t criticize, blame, accuse, or threaten. Your communication should be businesslike.
- Be cooperative. Before you communicate, think of how your thoughts will come across. Will you sound unreasonable or like a bully?
- Keep texting brief. If you’re texting or emailing your communication, keep it brief, polite, and to the point. Set up boundaries with your co-parent on how many emails or texts are appropriate in a day.
- Communicate directly. When you go through an intermediary like a stepparent, grandparent, or significant other, you run the risk of things getting miscommunicated. You can also make your co-parent feel marginalized.
4. Actively listen
The other part of communication is listening. To help your co-parent feel understood and heard, consider the following:
- Take turns speaking.
- Don’t interrupt.
- Before you take your turn to speak, repeat in your own words what your co-parent said, and ask if you understood it correctly. If not, ask the co-parent to rephrase it.
5. Support one another
Recognize that the best parents are ones who work together. When you see the other parent do something you like, compliment them. Positive reinforcement is a key ingredient to positive co-parenting.
Likewise, follow through on mutually agreed-upon rules. If you’ve agreed on a set curfew, bedtime, or screen time limit your child has to follow regardless of which parent they’re with, stick to those rules when your child is with you.
6. Plan for holidays and vacations
Holidays and vacations can be a tricky time for co-parents, but communication and planning can make these times easier. Here are some tips:
- Give as much advance notice as possible.
- Provide your co-parent with contact information of where you’ll be.
- Keep children in their usual holiday routines. If before you split you usually spent Thanksgiving with your side of the family and Christmas with your ex’s, keep the routine the same. Again, consistency is good for children.
- When you can’t share holidays, try alternating them.
- Try not to plan a vacation around a time when the co-parent has care of the children.
No parent sees eye-to-eye, whether they’re together or apart. When you can’t agree on an issue, try to work out a solution you can live with.
For example, if you think it’s really important that your child attend church services when they’re with a nonreligious co-parent, see if your co-parent would be amenable to dropping the child off at the service and then picking them up afterward. Or maybe you could agree that the co-parent will get the child to services every other time.
To co-parent effectively, keep these six guidelines in mind:
- Don’t talk negatively about your co-parent to your children.
- Don’t ask your child to take sides.
- Don’t keep your child from their co-parent out of anger or spite. The only legitimate reason to withhold a child is for their safety.
- Don’t as your child to “spy” on the co-parent.
- Don’t be inconsistent with the mutually agreed-upon parenting plan.
- Don’t let promises fall through.
Setting ground rules and being explicit about expectations will help ensure a smoother co-parenting experience.
If the plan you originally develop doesn’t work well, don’t be afraid to work with your co-parent to adjust it as needed. And remember that a plan that works well when your child is younger may need to be adjusted as your child grows older.
Here are some points to consider when developing a plan:
- Know when your child or children will switch homes, where and when they’ll be picked up, and what kind of behavior is expected at each home.
- Arrange with your co-parent whether your children will call or text you when they’re with the co-parent. If they will, then set a specific time.
- Make sure everyone is clear about their child care roles. For example, you might want to accept all responsibilities when your child is with you. Or, you and your co-parent may wish to split or otherwise delegate some daily responsibilities, like taking the children to school, getting them to extracurricular activities, etc.
- Follow similar routines at each respective home. For example, homework at 5 p.m. and bedtime at 8 p.m., or no television on school nights. Kids function better with consistency.
- Agree on what and how you’ll discipline. Set mutual household rules, such as curfews and what chores need to be done. Display a unified front when enforcing them.
Be prepared to change and adjust your parenting plan as your children age and circumstances change.