There are believed to be 19.65 million children living in single-parent families in the US. While there are plenty of benefits to this way of bringing up children (not least the depth and closeness of the bond between parent and child), there can also be some struggles. From financial problems related to the flow of cash into the household budget to time management issues when it comes to juggling a job, school and more, there are lots of pitfalls.
For that reason, it’s important to develop coping strategies that help you to be the best parent you possibly can be for your kids without causing additional problems for yourself in the process. In that vein, here are four top tips for single parents who are looking to cope a little better with the situation in which they find themselves.
Tools and task management
By far one of the main worries that single parents have is how to manage the hours in the day. Unless you have older children, it’s likely that you’re the sole earner in the family – and with no co-parent at home to look after the kids when they’ve got downtime, you might feel like you’re trapped in a constant cycle of parent-teacher meetings, housekeeping and cooking.
This is where task management tools come in. Buying a simple wall calendar for the kitchen can help here, as can a diary. However, it’s also possible to get sophisticated electronic tools that do all of this and more: by installing a family calendar on the phone of each smartphone-age family member, you can set up alerts and reminders for everything from “Don’t forget your book bag!” to “Dinner is in the refrigerator!” That way, everyone will be in the loop – and you won’t have to waste time dropping off things or going back on yourself.
Ask for help
Perhaps the other main way that single parents feel like they may be struggling to cope is when it comes to family finances. It’s not necessarily the case that single parents are, or will be in the future, entitled to welfare benefits or other assistance. If you need to ask for help, then don’t be afraid to do so: it’s important both for the welfare of you and your kids.
It may be the case that you have family members or friends who might be willing to help you out: if that’s the case, then giving them a call is a good idea. Or perhaps approaching a charitable foundation that specializes in helping single parents would be a wise move. The Charles Phillips Charity works with people in this situation on a regular basis, and may be an ideal place to approach – and some of its board members were themselves from single-parent families, so there’s a shared level of understanding.
Don’t be afraid to date
As a single parent, it’s common to think that you should be focusing all of your energy on your children. In some ways, this is, unfortunately, true: single parents often have to be a little bit more proactive than co-parents when it comes to ensuring that everything from the kids’ lunch bags are full to making certain that bills and insurance are paid.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t let your hair down once in a while. You’re still human, and you’re still entitled to do fun things such as go out with your friends – and even go on dates. There’s no use feeling guilty about spending time on a date rather than on your kids: it could even, in fact, lead to a happy new family one day, and a step-parent for your children.
Love your kids
Finally, it’s worth always reminding yourself that you’re not any less of a parent just because you’re a single parent. In fact, you’re a superhero of a parent for bringing up kids on your own without assistance from a co-parent. Make sure that you’re kind to yourself, and show your kids how much you love them – that’s worth more than words can say!
Being a single parent is a tough job at the best of times, and sometimes it can feel like you’re overwhelmed with everything from financial worries to simple day-to-day tasks. However, there are solutions out there, and it’s important not to lose heart. From approaching an organization that may be able to help you out financially to ensure that you let your hair down from time to time and enjoy yourself, there are lots of ways to ensure that you cope while you’re on your own at the head of a family.