Whether it be the terrible twos, the pressures of school, or their moody years as a teenager, anyone who has ever been a parent will tell you, it is never easy raising children. This is especially true for single parents, who do not have the benefit of a partner at home from whom which they can draw regular strength, support, or respite from. However, the lack of a significant other, doesn’t mean that being a single mum or single dad cannot be a very rewarding experience. Admittedly though, going it alone will mean adopting some strategies to make life a little easier.
Effective strategies for raising your kids alone without single parent stress
While all children are different and there is no right or wrong way for bringing them up, every parent – single or not – can provide a safe, loving, and caring environment for their kids to grow up in. To help you do this, here are our top 10 tips for raising a child as a single parent:
1. Develop a routine
There is a lot to manage in a single parent household, not least school and/or nursery runs, homework, cooking, cleaning, washing, bath times and putting the kids to sleep – in addition to holding down a job.
As a single parent it is important to be super organised and to forward plan, as this can save you a lot of time and stress. Preparing healthy family meals when you have little time can be a challenge and it’s all too easy to open a tin of beans or grab a freezer pizza. The best way to avoid falling into the trap of serving ready meals, is to pre-plan dinner for the week ahead and even preparing some meals in advance. As is doing a little bit of cleaning every day – as opposed to all-in-one go, which might seem overwhelming when the time comes to do it. Be sure also to do things like making the school lunches and getting your work clothes and your children’s uniforms ready the night before, as this will enable you to be less rushed off your feet the next morning.
It is not just you that should have a routine, children thrive on it too as anyone who ever had a baby knows. By routine we also mean that you try and make sure the kids do their homework at a specific time, as well as any other chores. Give each of them responsibility, whether it’s laying the table or feeding their pets, and increase their chores with age. It will give them a sense of achievement and help you out enormously – especially as they get older.
Also, allow them to have regular down time or play time, at the same time every day, as well as quality mummy or daddy time too. Try and establish a regular going to bed and getting ready in the morning routine, too. All of this will create a regular pattern of behaviour that your child will be able to identify with, adhere to and ultimately benefit from.
2. Find good childcare
As much as many of us would love to spend all day with our children, this is often not practical, especially when you are a single parent with work commitments. So, there will be a time when you need to consider childcare. But even those single parents who don’t work, will undoubtedly consider childcare a godsend, as it gives them much needed time to recharge their batteries, go to doctor’s appointments, go food shopping, and catch up on housework, without having to worry about keeping the kids occupied at the same time. This in turn, frees them up to spend quality time with the children during the remainder of the day.
It is worth exploring all the different childcare options and weighing them up in terms of suitability, location, and cost. If you are looking for a nursery, proximity to home or work will save you precious time. You might also have certain ideas about how your children are taught during those important early years. Maybe you love the Montessori concept or you are intrigued by the explicit teaching method. Whatever you choose, be sure to visit any childcare facilities with your little ones, so you can both get a feeling of the place and its staff. Alternatively, you could employ a childminder to take the kids to nursery, school, and after school clubs. You might even want to consider becoming a registered childminder yourself if you are currently not working and are looking for a source of income whilst still being able to look after your own kids.
At the end of the day, childcare is all about finding someone you can trust to look after them in an environment where your kids feel comfortable. Some parents might feel mummy or daddy guilt when they send their children to be looked after by someone else, but you must remember that many parents do the same out of necessity. Also don’t forget, it’s a fairly safe bet that your child will actually have a great time with their new friends.
3. Utilise after school care
If you are lucky enough (or have chosen wisely) and your children’s school offers a breakfast and/or after school club, use it! As a working single parent, you might even be given priority as places are often sought-after. Some schools also offer after school clubs that will playfully teach your kids a range of skills whilst providing an extra hour of much-needed childcare. Extra-curricular learning activities can be Lego club, arts and crafts clubs, football and tennis.
4. Build a support system
Not having a partner around to raise the kids with, is tough. Of course, many single parents have an ex who sees the kids regularly and helps out with some of the extra-curricular activities. Yet statistically it is likely that the single parent who lives with the children most of the time will bear the brunt of the daily juggle that is drop offs and pickups, homework, and household chores – all in addition to their own work commitments. To ensure that perfectly crafted daily schedule works even when there are unforeseen events, it makes sense to have a backup plan.
A support system of other adults you can rely on for assistance, as and when you need it, is really important when you are a single parent. This could be family or friends, other parents from your child’s school, neighbours, members of your church, or trusted babysitters. Having a group of people like this on hand to help you, when you need to stay late at the office, have a lot of chores you want to do without distraction, or simply need a break, will not only benefit you, but also your children too. Not least because it will show them, they have people who care for and support them beyond their mum or dad.
5. Develop healthy habits
Something that is so easy to overlook but so very important is the need to develop healthy habits in our everyday lives and to lead by example. Trying to ensure you eat healthy food, get plenty of exercise and good solid sleep on a regular basis is important for any individual, but especially single parents raising children alone. Being sick or lacking energy is not an option, not even with the best network.
Healthy habits should involve the whole family and include eating meals together, brushing teeth after mealtimes, avoiding sugary or fatty snacks and drinks, limiting screen time, exercising, and good solid sleep every night are all good healthy habits that will benefit both parents and children. Don’t forget that kids learn by watching others, so provide a good example for them to follow, which, in turn, will help to set them up for keeping a healthy lifestyle throughout their lifetime.
6. Let the kids help
As a single parent there is a lot to do. So, don’t try and be a hero and do it all yourself. Instead, try and enlist the help of your children if you can, and more importantly, if they want to, as this will not only provide a bonding experience, but also ensure you have less on your plate.
Depending on their age, some of the chores you can assign your children could be hanging up the laundry, putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, tidying up their bedroom and even help prepare some elements of dinner, even if it’s just laying the table. If you are honest with children and tell them you need help, the chances are they will be happy to do so, especially when they are young. Explain that they are part of the family and as such they have a responsibility. You can also tell them that you’ll have more time to play or hang out once all the chores have been completed.
7. Make time for holidays
Something you should always strive to do, whatever your budget, is to go on holiday. Whether that’s going away with your kids or on your own, a short weekend getaway or a few weeks abroad – whatever works to recharge your batteries and fits your budget.A single parent holiday will enable you to spend real quality time together as a family and make memories the kids will cherish for the rest of their lives.
If you are able to go away on your own once a year, even better. A solo trip with other singles or single parents where you can relax, discover new places together and share a glass of wine and dinner in like minded company, will do wonders for your mental and physical health. If you are keen to be with solo travellers your own age, find a break aimed at your age group, such as singles holidays for the over 50s. This will ensure that you meet lots of interesting people in the same or a similar life situation.
8. Spend quality time with your kids
Spending quality time with your children is very important, and it is something you should do every day. It is not really the length of time that matters, more the experience of what you do with them, that is crucial. That said, if you can, you should aim to spend some quality time with your children every day. Be mindful though, that during this time, it is important to do what they want you to do.
So, embrace your inner child and have some fun watching TV, playing sports in the garden, baking cupcakes, painting, drawing and generally hanging out with them. If you are worried about any areas of their development, you could even suggest some ideas to help your kids learn through play. Spending quality time with your children will undoubtedly enrich the lives of both you and your kids.
9. Try and become financially secure
Easier said than done for many of course, however the sooner you can become financially secure the better for your mental and physical health. Not having to worry about your finances and being able to afford nice things for yourself or your children, is a wonderful feeling. The first couple of years after separation or divorce might be tough, as are the years when you pass a chunk of your hard-earned salary on to the childminder. But the budgeting strategies single parents have to apply so often will pay off and you will recover financially in due course and that is when you can start to put money aside for much needed renovations, holidays, pension, etc. So never give up, strive for financial security and you will get there.
10. Don’t neglect yourself
As a parent, especially a single parent, putting your child’s needs before your own comes with the territory. However, you should never lose sight of the fact that you are human and have needs of your own that should be met. So be sure to take the time to practice self-care, and don’t be afraid to go out with friends and treat yourself every now and then to a massage or some pampering. After all, it stands to reason, that the more you look after yourself, the more you will be able to look after and provide for your children.
Whatever you do, don’t look for perfection. Set yourself realistic goals and maybe a family motto if you fancy the idea. But don’t despair if you cannot achieve every single thing, you set out to do each week. If you adopt a positive “can do” mindset, you have made a big leap towards the finishing line. Just keep trying to de-stress and declutter your life, never hesitate to ask for help, and adapt your parenting style to your and the children’s needs. There is no perfect way of raising a child as a single parent.