Single Parents

Whether you have gone through a rough divorce or have been a single parent from the start, the challenges ahead probably feel intimidating and unnerving. It is hard enough to raise children as a team; single parenting only doubles the responsibility. Although it may seem too challenging, you can successfully raise healthy, happy children on your own with the right information and dedication. If you can utilize the help of others and keep yourself fully aware of your situation, you will be able to raise your children while continuing to live the life you want to live as well.

Many single parents feel an irrational sense of guilt and therefore make their children the single focus of their lives. Instead of allowing yourself to fall into this category, realize that you can raise you children while also enjoying time for yourself. It is possible to enjoy all aspects of life, even as a single parent. Take some time to plan out your situation and have the patience to work through the difficult times with a positive attitude.

Support Group
Make a list of the five people who you can rely on the most. If you don't have five, write as many as you can. Either way, think long and hard about the people in your life who will be there for you no matter what. Also, think of friends who are good listeners. The goal is to create a support group of people that you can trust to be there when you need them.

Once you have created your support group, have a conversation with each person within it and explain your situation, as well as the group itself. You should try and communicate with members of your support group on a weekly basis. This will help you to express the thoughts you might not be able to express anywhere else and will let you vent some of your frustrations. They can also be there to help you through problems as they arise. While you should not lean on them as a crutch, keep your support group close so you can turn to them when it is necessary.

Create Time for Yourself
Another key to living a strong, happy life as a single parent is creating time for yourself. As a single parent, it is easy to lose track of your time. Once you have finished at work, picked up the kids, cooked dinner and cleaned up, you realize it is time for bed and then the cycle repeats. This may seem like a sustainable system at first, as many single parents just assume they will not have time for themselves, but the lack of "me time" will eventually catch up to you.

It is imperative that you PLAN AHEAD to make time for yourself. Even if it means you will have to get a babysitter, creating time for yourself will not only relieve your stress but will also make problems that arise feel easier to deal with. With so many things going on at once, single parents often forget what it feels like to just relax. Many single parents even allow their most passionate interests to just fade away into the endless cleaning and chores. Instead of letting this happen to you, CREATE time for yourself. Continue with hobbies and interests you have had and don't allow your single-parent lifestyle to define your personality.

Give Children your Time
The advantages of taking time out of your hectic schedule to spend quality time together as a family will help your children, but it will also be therapeutic for you as well. Most parents will say that the things they care about most in their lives are their children, so obviously spending fun, positive time with them will help to deal with the stresses and struggles of the single parent lifestyle.

Taking time out for family fun is also incredibly important for your children. Even though you are putting out a lot of effort for your children already, they will require some extra attention so they feel cared for. It's easy for children to overlook the many, MANY things you do for them, but that is not their fault most of the time. Even if you can take fifteen minutes or a half hour to read with them or talk about what's been going on in their lives, they will feel safer and more secure knowing their parent is concerned with their well-being.

Saying No
Many single parents have trouble saying no to their children because, as mentioned above, they feel a sense of guilt and think they need to give their children anything they need to make them happy NOW. However, never saying no will give them an unrealistic view of the world and life itself. It is important that children understand why they get certain things sometimes and don't get certain things other times. By learning to say no, it will mean much more to your children when you say yes.

Maintain a Positive Attitude
Being a single parent inherently involves a massive amount of stress and activity. While it's easy to let your attitude become negative and pessimistic, it will only affect your children negatively. They will see you in a bad mood most of the time and, as all children do, will replicate your behavior when they see it over and over.

Keeping a positive attitude will not only help your children. By consciously trying to keep your thoughts positive, you will be going a long way to help reduce your anxiety and allow yourself the mental freedom to truly enjoy each day.

Keep a Journal
As already mentioned, the stress of being a single parent can overwhelm anyone. During this hectic time, it is incredibly easy to forget about yourself. If your children are having troubles, it is sometimes impossible to think about your own emotions and issues. However, you yourself will be changing significantly during this time and should be aware of those changes.

Each night, take at least five minutes to jot some things down in a journal. After you repeat this a few times, you will notice how expressing your feelings and emotions is satisfying. When you see your issues laid out on paper, it somehow puts them in perspective. You will notice yourself wanting to spend more and more time each night with your journal. It can become a source of comfort and security, not to mention an emotional outlet, so give it a try! You don't need to write anything dramatic. For your first entry, simply describe your day and attempt to think of three good, positive things that happened. Write down any ideas you had throughout the day or any questions you might want to contemplate at a later time.

What you write in your journal is up to you, completely up to you. If you wish to describe your child's basketball game in great detail, go for it! If you'd rather describe your lunch at work, do that instead. Writing is therapeutic and will lead you to express your true emotions clearly and openly.

Dating Guidelines
Dating as a single parent is not something you should rush into, especially if you have just gone through a divorce involving your children. Although it is a healthy activity to pursue, there are some basic rules and guidelines you can follow to ensure the healthiest development of relationships between you and your new friend, your child and your new friend, and among all of your together. It is key to remember that you children are the number one priority and should always come before a date or friend.

One great way to ensure that everyone is comfortable with the relationship is to spend time together as friends before you move into a romantic relationship. Partake in public family activities that you, your new friend, and your children can enjoy together. This way, not only will you be growing closer with your new interest, but your kids can come to know them and get an idea of how they act and what their personality is like. If your children are feeling forced into accepting your new interest, they may feel threatened by that person or will feel as though their other parent is being replaced. By spending time together as friends, your children will watch you interacting as friends first and will not feel as threatened. Spending some public family time with your new friend is a fantastic way for children to feel more comfortable around that person. Last but not least, it is important to spend time together as friends first simply because in today's society, it is easy to hide your background. It will allow you to get to know this new person before you simply invite them into your home unsuspectingly.

Communicating openly and honestly will be a backbone for keeping everyone comfortable with the relationship. Once you and your new friend have gotten close, you can openly discuss rules and boundaries. Include the children, as well as your new love interest, and have a planned meeting where you can all sit down together and discuss issues, rules, and boundaries. If your child feels uncomfortable about something, be sure they know they can feel free to express those feelings openly to everyone. If they are matters of a personal nature, have him/her share in private. Either way, keeping lines of communication open amongst everyone involved is the best way to avoid hidden and festering problems.

Also be sure to communicate individually with your children as well as with your new friend. Discuss your children with your friend, and discuss your friend with your children, to find out issues you might not have known about if you hadn't approached them separately. The worst outcomes occur when everyone keeps to themselves, so be open and don't be shy to express your true emotions. Tell your family the same!

When people realize for the first time that they will be working alone as a single parent, it can feel like their life has been squeezed away from them. In reality, however, they are being given the opportunity to grow closer to their children than ever before. Depending on how you choose to look at the situation and approach it, you can have many different experiences. However, if you choose to make an active effort to successfully help your children AND yourself through the situation, there is no doubt you can. With patience, dedication, and endless love for your children, you can guide your family to a happy and healthy lifestyle.