Read these 23 Encouragement Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Single Parent tips and hundreds of other topics.
Single parents face all the problems normally faced by dual-parent families, and then some. Not only must they be a mother and father to their child or children, they also face financial challenges from only one income, which usually means they also work at a job full-time to feed their family. It requires a great deal of strength, creativity, and emotional support to do the juggling act that must be done to provide for your family, which leaves little time for single parents to just be themselves. Do not let yourself get so caught up in being the perfect parent, that you forget that you are a person too. Make sure you take care of yourself as well as your children. You have a big job ahead of you, but you CAN do it.
When spending valuable vacation or visitation time with your child, it is important that you provide some breathing room for the two of you. Many times non-custodial parents want to cram as much living as they can into a short span of time to make up for all the times missed. Plan some unstructured time during your vacation or home visits to just hang out and get to know one another. Spend the time taking a morning or evening walk, frolicking in the pool, enjoying an impromptu picnic, or a relaxing evening enjoying an ice cream cone on the porch swing. In short, be a parent, not Santa Claus dropping off presents and then disappearing. Spend time bonding with your child, something Santa does not have time to do.
Don't allow your children to manipulate you through guilt. You are all in this together-a team-and must work together. Don't let your kids' immaturity cause you to question your ability as a parent. Realize they are still kids growing up and don't fully understand everything. It may be years later, after they have grown up and left home, before they realize the strength and courage you possessed to undertake parenting alone. So straighten those shoulders and realize you are the adult who is making decisions based upon your child's and your best interests.
The first step is to realize everything will be alright. The world did not end, even though it may seem like yours has just come crashing down. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Then acknowledge the fact that you are in fact a normal human being going through life just like everyone around you. The world is full of single parents—look around you. Connect with someone else who is or has been a single parent and get a support system going. Having someone to share your concerns with will not only lighten the load, but will give you more options to consider when making decisions.
In dealing with life's lemons, be careful not to develop a victim mentality and expect everyone to take care of you. It is your mess, regardless of where the fault lies, and you ultimately are the one that has to live in it. It is your responsibility to squeeze the lemons (work at finding something good and useful in each lemon), add the right amount of sugar (love, kindness, and appreciation to other people), and add water (your time and energy). Don't sit back and expect someone to fix the lemonade for you and bring it to you on a silver platter. Get in the kitchen and fix it yourself (assume the responsibility).
There does not have to be negative aspects for children of single parents. Make it a point to provide good male (or female, whatever the case may be) role models. You can all be much stronger than might have been otherwise as you learn how to correctly respond to the challenges (not problems) of life. My children and I have learned not to be codependent on others, but to help ourselves as much as possible, and to lend a helping hand to others any time we can. We are all involved in reaching out to others. And as we reach out to help others, other people reach out to help us. "Give and you will receive."
Parenting is a difficult and challenging job, even more so for the single parent. Often parents feel overwhelmed and lacking in necessary parenting skills, but good parenting has more to do with the quality of parenting than the number of parents in a home. Regardless of the circumstances causing a single parent family, it is not the child's fault. Children often pay a price, unfortunately, as the single parent struggles to make ends meet financially, many times working two jobs to pay the bills. As a result, the parent may not be able to attend all the school activities, or have the time to chauffeur the kids to sports practice, dance classes, etc. Even though you are hurting and struggling physically and emotionally, take time to look at the situation through your child's eyes. Make sure the child understands it is not his/her fault the other parent is not around. And reassure continually how very much you love them and will always be there for them, and while you can't do everything they want, you will do the best you can. And the best is all we can ask from anybody.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.: “The truth is, great satisfaction and inner confidence comes from doing small things with great love. Whether it's allowing someone to be ‘right,' looking the other way when someone makes a mistake, giving someone a second chance, donating some time or money, sharing your love, being kind to a stranger or to someone who is lonely, or any of thousands of other thoughtful and kind gestures, being helpful, generous, considerate, patient, and kind nourishes your spirit and keep you hopeful. So, starting right now, think of small things you can do to bring joy to our world.”
This tip comes from an article written by Shellee Darnell on Single Parents Raise Good Kids Too! “Focus on success and not on failure. Set realistic goals as a family and work together to accomplish these goals. Decide what is important and prioritize accordingly. Have family meetings on a regular basis and allow children to have input. Learn to effectively communicate and solve family problems together while still demonstrating that you are the boss.”
Decisions—learning how to make them on your own.
Many single parents have never been totally responsible for making decisions. Earlier decisions were made by their parents and later by their spouse. Now its time to do it on your own and it can be scary. Just relax and realize that most decisions are not monumental and in many instances, the decision can be modified or reversed if needed. Some decisions such as whether or not to jump off a bridge can't be reversed once you decide to take a leap, but that is a decision I pray you will NEVER make. So what if Johnny misses an outing or Suzy can't attend dance classes. While those issues are important to them, in the long run, it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that you take control of your life and provide as much good guidance as you can to your children. Your future and theirs depends upon it.
Set aside a time each week for yourself when you can be alone or do what you want to do. Don't feel guilty for abandoning your children. The break will do both of you good. You will have had the opportunity to renew yourself emotionally and they will have an opportunity to see that they can survive without you for a few hours and maybe even enjoy it. You will come back refreshed and better able to tackle the daily stress again. Every one needs a break now and then, so give yourself one, even if only for a few hours a week. A happy, relaxed single parent is much better than a stressed-out single parent. You and your kids will be much happier.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.: “Optimism is contagious and it feeds on itself. It's self-reinforcing. When you're optimistic, you remain hopeful. And while you're at it, you'll be encouraging others to do the same. Rather than spreading fear, you'll be spreading hope. Being optimistic about the future doesn't mean you bury your head in the sand and pretend there aren't problems to deal with. To the contrary, optimists are usually more equipped and willing to do something about the problems of the world than are pessimists, who are usually too busy complaining about the problems of the world to do anything about them. The energy of optimism goes a long way toward encouraging us to not sweat the future.”
For major decisions, gather as much information as you can regarding the pros and cons of the situation and make the best judgment as to what would be the right thing to do. Is it right, fair, legal, honest, etc.? Is it in your children's or your best interest? What are the consequences of deciding the opposite? Look at the long-term implications of the decision, don't just live for the moment. Some decisions can have devastating effects that can take a long time to overcome, such as should I quit my job because I can't stand my boss? The easy answer is “yes, quit,” but the right answer would be “no.” Remember you have a family to support, bills to pay, and an obligation to do your job the best you can. If there are major conflicts, then start looking for another job, but don't quit until you have another secure job in hand. Think logically, not emotionally.
Even though you may prefer to have a man do any necessary repairs, sometimes there just may not be a man available. This past year my garage door broke twice. The first time, my daughter and I repaired a broken spring. The second incident involved a broken chain and I was lucky enough to find a man willing to come and fix it. However, my daughter and I helped so we would know how to fix it ourselves if it happened again. Rather than have a pity party and complain about things, we have learned to find solutions. Sometime it involves doing things we do not particularly want to do, but there is a good feeling of accomplishment when we discovered that we too can do some "male" things. Not only have I learned how to make repairs, my children have learned that women can also repair things. It is not just a male thing. Of course, my personal philosophy still remains—a woman has to do what she can not get a man to do!
Many single parents feel they have been handed a handful of sour lemons. If you are feeling pretty sour with all those lemons, it is time to start making lemonade! Take stock of your assets (in other words, count your blessings)—your life, health, job, children, parents, friends, church, etc.—anything that you have been blessed with. Be thankful for what you do have and do not be afraid to ask for help if needed. Many people are willing to help and encourage you if you will let them know you need help.
So your job is a lemon. Be thankful for it and that you have a means of support--meager as it is. Do your job with all you've got--give it 100%. You never know who might be watching and what opportunites might come alone. You will be pleasing not only your boss, but yourself and God. Not to mention the peace of mind you will have when you end your day knowing you have done your best. Having a good sense of accomplishment refreshes you mentally and opens the avenues for creative juices to flow. So mix in some sugar with that lemon and enjoy your lemonade!
Go shopping with a friend (without the kids along). Go out on a date or to the movie with a friend. Guys may want to go fishing, hunting, or golfing with a friend. Just make some social time for you without the children in tow. You may want to get your hair done, a facial or massage, or maybe just sit quietly in the park or by a lake for a few hours and just enjoy the beauty of nature. It will help get some perspective back in your life. It is amazing how much clearer your thinking can be in a stress-free environment.
Sometimes if we will change our attitude about our job and those around us, we will begin to act differently ourselves (nicer, happier, kinder), and negative work situations can get turned around into positive ones. The more focused you are on the negative aspects of your job, the more you will dislike it. Look for the good aspects such as regular hours or flexible hours, benefits such as health insurance, dental insurance, vacation pay, etc. The grass is not always greener on the other side. All jobs have their downsides, and they usually have their upsides. Focus on the good things and do what you can to change the negative things.
If you are a non-custodial parent taking a trip or vacation with your young child, you may want to consider providing a traveling companion for your child that is in the same age bracket. Invite a niece, nephew, or neighbor's child along to play with your child or ask your child to invite a friend to come along. This will provide valuable companionship for your child and give you a break from being the only source of entertainment. It may also provide an opportunity for your child to get better acquainted with other family members or make a new friend.
Children need the day-to-day nurturing of their father as well as their mother. Too often nurturing is designated as the mother's territory, but it is important that fathers also learn how to nurture their children. A father is more than a paycheck, someone to pay the bills. Fathers have much more to give their children, they need to learn to give of themselves. Spend time talking with your child, playing sports with them, or teaching them life skills they will probably never learn from their mother, such as how to change a flat tire, fix a leaky faucet, or build a birdhouse. Girls as well as boys can learn these things.
Fathers often enter the evaluation process with a negative view. They know that it is difficult for fathers to get custody, but the evaluation is not the place to state this view. This negative view is often the only lasting view the evaluator ends up with, and the recommendations reflect this. Go in with a gender neutral attitude that it is two parents who are going to relate to their child and their child's needs. This attitude will allow the evaluator to view you as a parent, not a gender, and that is what you are, and want to be.
Don't think of yourself as a victim, consider yourself a victor! Take a positive attitude and focus on the benefits of being a single parent, such as less conflict and tension in the home that resulted from a bad relationship. Look at all the good aspects--now there is peace and harmony where there was once discord and strife. Ignore the bad aspects, they have a way of rearing their ugly heads anyway. Realize there is now only one of you and you cannot do a job meant for two people the same way, so don't even try. Just do the best you can and forget the rest.
Whether traveling by car or plane with your child, be sure to bring along something to provide for entertainment for your child. There are numerous travel games available as well as word puzzles, crossword puzzles, activity books, crayons and coloring books, etc. If your car has a tape or CD player, you may want to pick up some music they will enjoy. And if you have an SUV or van with a TV and VCR, bring along a selection of movies he or she might enjoy. The time will pass more quickly if your children are kept busy and will eliminate the “Are we there yet?” question being asked every 30 seconds.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|