Raising children is no doubt one of the most difficult jobs there is. The demand is high, especially when they are little and there’s more than one. The pay is not worth mentioning either. There are many late nights coupled with early mornings and some days just not enough coffee.
Child rearing requires patience, love, kindness, and caring. It also requires good boundaries and firm discipline; both are needed to raise children. And both are difficult – even in a two parent household, and can be even harder when it’s a single parent home.
In a single parent home, the majority of parenting literally falls on you, the individual. There are brief moments of reprieve, whether it’s church or daycare or school; but the nitty gritty is gifted to you. There is no “you handle this kids, I’m going to run around the house three times”. There is no “I don’t feel well, can you get up with the baby”. It’s all on you. And, it’s hard.
What to Expect:
Often times, single parents feel like they’re failing their kids because they can’t give them what they desire to or do with them what they hope. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What kids desire most, and this would be true across the board, is relationship. Your children will be unable to communicate this to you for years to come, but when it’s all boiled down, this is what counts. Long term, material things don’t matter.
As counselors, we frequently see the pain caused by a lack of relationship with parents, but never long term hurt caused by a lack of “stuff.” Your child wants to know if you’re going to be there for them when they need it. Again, they won’t be able to verbalize this.
Practical Tips for Single Parenting:
Make Time for Your Kiddos:
Especially if you work full time, it is easy to get caught up in the day to day have-to’s of life. Carve out time just for them. Have a game night, dance party, sports games – something that requires interaction. Movies are fine, but there’s no interaction required and when trying to build relationship with your kiddos, interaction is key.
Get Plugged In:
Get involved in a church with a good kids program. It will reinforce what you’re teaching at home as well as give you some adult time. It’s a great way to connect with other people – keeping both you and your kiddos sane.
Stop Trying to Please Your Kiddos:
Regardless of who’s responsible for the circumstances, continually trying to win your child over via trying to please them will not only wear you out, but give them a false understanding of people being around to make them happy. Remember, both love AND discipline are important. This means that loving them does not always mean they get what they want. When they step outside of the boundaries you have set up, there are consequences for their actions. Consistency is key. I guarantee your kiddos will not always be happy with you, but they will know what is expected of them, as well as, your love for them.
Kids have a magical way of only hearing part of what parents say. It can be frustrating to keep repeating yourself, but when it comes to expectations, when they hear a consistent message, it eventually sinks in. Often times when our kids don’t meet our expectations, it’s tempting to alter what we expect of them. This can be harmful. Instead of pulling out the best in them, we allow them to settle for less. And, while it may be easier in the immediate, we don’t see the effects of this – either good or bad – until many years down the road.
Set House Rules:
What are some house rules that will help the flow of the home? It is okay to require of them what is age appropriate. Do they make their beds? Take out the trash? Help with dishes? Set a bedtime, and keep it. Young kids flourish on routine. Getting them to bed at a decent hour will give you the same predictability, and perhaps a few extra quiet moments.
Make Time for Yourself:
You need to make time for yourself BECAUSE you love your children. Recruit a friend, family member, sitter, or find a local church that offers a moms night out program. Take time to recharge your batteries, if even only for an hour. We call this self-care. Some may experience a great deal of guilt for doing this. Guilt that you’re not with your kids, guilt for asking for help, and guilt for doing something pleasurable. Guilt is not helpful. It is vital to the well-being of the family you take good care of yourself. Families with two parents get to make time for themselves, single parent homes need to as well. If there’s nothing left of you, there’s nothing left for your kiddos.