Are you raising your kids completely on your own? Without a co-parent to share parenting time or even discuss discipline issues or academic concerns? Some single moms and dads, who’ve had negative co-parenting experiences, might tell you that you're “lucky,” but nothing is easy about being the only adult responsible for every aspect of your kids’ lives. If you're faced with the task of raising your kids solo, 24/7, use these tips to manage your life and tap into your inner strength as a single parent:
- Build a support system. You’re probably familiar with the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Technically, that’s not true. You can do it alone, but here’s the thing: you don’t have to. There are people in your life right now who care about you and care about your children. Let them become a source of support when you need it.
- Ask for help. This is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you’re used to being on your own. In fact, it may even seem easier to keep on doing everything yourself instead of extending the effort to reach out to others. But being vulnerable enough to ask for help doesn’t just give you a break when you need it — it also helps you develop lasting, mutual friendships with people who need you, too.
- Create routines. To some extent, you do this already. But ask yourself where there might be room for developing even more regular routines around the things that you need to tackle every day—from getting the kids ready for day care to creating rituals around tending to your own physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.
- Develop ground rules. Sit down with your kids and develop a set of rules you’re all willing to stick with. And be sure to keep them simple and positive. (Instead of saying “Don’t be rude,” say “Be respectful.”) Once you’ve all established what the rules will be, refer to them often as you work to shape your kids’ behavior and decision making, with the goal of guiding them toward eventually making their own positive choices.
- Build strong relationships with your kids. Know that your relationship with your kids is one of the biggest influences on their behavior and choices. They want to please you and connect with you—even if they refuse to show it! So do what you can to keep your relationship close and strong. This doesn’t mean being their best friend, but it does mean being intentional about nurturing your relationships. You’ll be glad you did as they get older!
- Find mentors you trust. As important as your relationship is, you’ll also want your kids to develop connections with other adult figures you trust. This could be a family member, neighbor, or trusted friend. Pay attention to who your kids are comfortable with. It doesn’t have to be a formal mentoring relationship to have a positive effect on your kids’ lives, either. Just knowing that there are other adults who value them and care about their well-being can be a powerful force in helping them to develop positive self-esteem.
- Make time for fun. Part of being a family is having fun together. So make time to do things on a regular basis, from playing board games to going for bike rides and taking day trips. It’s okay to be silly and to let your kids catch you with your guard down, too. It’s all part of being human!
- Make time for yourself. Finally, make sure that you’re setting some time aside each week for yourself. You can’t do the job you’re doing on empty. That’s not fair to your kids, and it’s not fair to you. So start being intentional — today — about taking “Mommy’s Time Out” or “Daddy’s Time Out.” You’ll come back home with more energy, appreciation, and motivation than you had before you left!