Being a parent or guardian can be a tough job for anyone, but being a single parent can be particularly challenging.
Here’s how to be an excellent single parent
Taking on the sole responsibility for a child’s welfare, health and happiness is a daunting task, and it’s normal to worry that you may fall short. However, children can and do thrive in single-parent families, and with the right skills and support, you can create a secure, stable and loving environment for your child to grow up in.
Creating a routine
Structure can be reassuring for children of all ages, and having a regular routine will help you manage the day-to-day tasks you need to complete. When all members of the family know what’s happening and when it’s happening, there are clear objectives, boundaries and guidelines in place.
For children who spend time with both parents, having a routine regarding contact can be beneficial too. If your ex-partner is present, your child should feel able to contact them regularly and interact frequently. However, a routine provides stability, so it’s important to maintain this as much as possible. Whilst older children may feel more comfortable with a variable timetable, it’s particularly important to introduce young children to reliable routines as early as you can.
You can build a routine around your everyday schedule and include the following things:
- What time to get up
- What you’re having for breakfast
- What you need to take to school and work that day
- What time you need to leave
- What lessons your child has that day
- What after-school activities are taking place
- Who is picking your son or daughter up
- What you’ll have for dinner
- What book you’re going to read that evening
Prioritize family time
Being a single parent can quickly lead to tiredness and fatigue. With no-one to share the everyday burdens that come with being a parent, you may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. However, scheduling family time is essential.
As well as showing your children how much you value your time with them, family time gives you an opportunity to relax and have fun as a unit. In addition to this, children often share confidences and worries during this informal time, so it’s a great way to uncover any issues they may be experiencing.
Whether you head out to a restaurant for dinner, watch a movie at home or play football in the park, regular family time is beneficial to children and parents alike.
Build a network
They say raising a child takes a village, and having a network to rely on can make life as a single parent much easier. Collaborating with other families, carpooling and sharing hosting duties can help to spread the load. As well as ensuring your children get to spend time with friends and take part in fun activities, you can enjoy time alone while your child at play dates. Similarly, you can return the favor and host other children and families at your home from time-to-time.
Plan your work
Whether you work in the home or out of it, try to negotiate for as much flexibility as you can. Whilst some job roles allow you to work from home or do flexi-hours, others are a little more rigid. However, having a supportive group of colleagues can help to add flexibility to your work schedule, even if it’s unofficial. If you and your colleagues are willing to swap shifts, for example, you’ll be able to modify your work schedule when it’s necessary to do so.
Getting time off work for school events, such as Christmas plays and class graduations can be tough. Asking for time off well in advance can help to ensure you’ll be able to get there, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t attend every school event. If your child’s grandparents, aunties or uncles are active in their lives, try to ensure someone is able to attend on your behalf. Having a family member or friend in the audience will boost your child’s confidence, but it doesn’t always have to be you.
Let go of guilt
Single parents tend to feel perpetually guilty, but this doesn’t help anyone. Whether you feel guilty because of the hours you have to work, because you’re living on a lower income or simply because you don’t get to spend as much time with your children as you’d like, let go of these feelings.
Being kind to yourself and recognizing your own efforts are extremely important when you’re a single parent, so don’t forget to congratulate yourself from time-to-time. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, put the emphasis on what you are achieving.
Have access to childcare
Whether you need regular, daily childcare or a babysitter on the odd occasion, make sure you have contacts in place. Your child may attend an after-school club, for example, and this can be a fantastic way to provide wraparound care until you’re home from work.
However, it’s also important to have access to out-of-hours care in the event of an emergency. If you were unwell, for example, who would care for your child? If you have supportive family members or close friends nearby, discuss this with them in advance. Knowing that your child will be safe and happy with people you trust, can help to minimize stress when you’re faced with an unforeseen or urgent situation.
Show your love
Every parent needs to show love to their children, but it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind. However, carving out a few minutes every morning and evening to spend one-on-one time with your child can be highly beneficial. For any child, feeling loved is the basis of a happy childhood, and this is something every parent can work on. Remind your child how much you love and value them regularly, and remind yourself how loved you are too.