Parenting in any scenario is hard enough. When you’re a single parent you might face a whole raft of additional challenges: navigating children through a potentially upsetting time, redefining and perhaps rebuilding your family – and doing it all without the support of another adult in the house.
So here are some ways to make that parenting journey as a single parent a little bit smoother:
1. Walk the walk
If you’re a newly single parent, or if you have a challenging relationship with your child’s other parent, behaving well might be the last thing you feel like doing…
But being a good role model will reap its own rewards. Being kind, respectful and considerate to those around you – including people who may not reciprocate – is the best way to encourage your children to behave similarly.
When your kids see you take a deep breath and calm yourself in moments of stress, you are teaching them that they can do the same.
2. Express yourself
You may be hurting but you don’t need to keep it all inside.
If your family has undergone a dramatic change on its way to being a single parent family, you’ll all need to process what has happened. It might feel like children are too young to understand a divorce or separation and you may feel like you’re protecting them by not talking about it, but keeping hiding emotions isn’t going to help any of you in the long run.
Find an age appropriate way to talk to your child about what’s happening in your family. In doing so, you’ll be modelling that it’s ok to talk about difficult things, and that you can work through them together.
3. Establish a routine
Sometimes the simple, practical steps can be the most important. And if there is uncertainty in other areas of your child’s life, having a reliable routine when they’re with you will be stabilising and reassuring.
Sticking to the tried and trusted bathtime, story and bed can be an anchor for younger children while for older kids you might have family dinner then screen-free time at more or less the same time every day.
4. Get clear on your boundaries
Like having a routine, having clear boundaries on what kind of behaviour is acceptable or unacceptable is reassuring for children of any age.
If you’re a co-parent don’t stress too much about rules or boundaries being different when they’re with the other parent. Obviously it helps if you’re at least vaguely on the same page as your co-parent, but that may be out of your hands and it’s more important that you are clear and consistent about your own rules.
5. Keep any negative comments specific to the behaviour
Remember that acting out is usually an attempt to communicate something that children may not know how to express and feelings like anger, frustration and anxiousness can sometimes come out as ‘bad’ behaviour.
Keep any criticism specific to their behaviour and don’t turn this into a discussion about who they are.
6. Give your child space
Your instinct might be to keep your child close if you’ve all been through a tricky time or if you see them struggling, but sometimes the best thing you can do is let them know you’re there when they need you. Create the space for them to come to you and also accept that they may not always want to come to you.
Most of all, acknowledge that what you’re doing is really hard and give yourself a break when things go wrong. None of us are perfect (that goes for children and parents!) so expect the imperfect and remember we are all figuring it out as we go along.
Lastly, know you are not alone, and reach out if you need support. One of the best ways to connect is by joining the free Frolo community where you’ll always find friendly chat and advice, as well as in-person and virtual meetups almost every day of the week. It’s totally free to join, just download the app here.
If you’re finding single parenting challenging right now, head over to our blog 7 Ways to Deal with Overwhelm as a Single Parent