Single Parenting - The Do's and Dont's
Created by Parentune Support Updated on Oct 01, 2012
Parenting is at times confused with parental control. In fact, the real challenge in parenting lies in understanding our children and being proactive rather than being reactive to situations. Each parenting disposition then is unique; Single Parenting perhaps has its own unique challenges.
Small children show diverse reactions; some cry briefly, others behave like they didn’t hear it. Some process the difficult situation through play. Shipra, a single parent of 3 year old daughter shared her experience. She said, “The separation from her father was an unpleasant event for their daughter-but not because she missed her father, perhaps more so because she apprehended violence from him. It made her emotionally vulnerable and frightened. Thankfully, that was only for the first few months. The fact that it was just she and I, who had to deal with our lives and household, meant that I would help her to be independent and share the chores early on. I am glad to say that she has grown up, (priceless expression from Shipra)…..she's 15 now! To be a confident teenager who’s equally comfortable with adults and her peer group. The impact that it has perhaps left on her is reflective in her sensitivity to the situation of other single parents and single-parented-children.”
Adolescents often react emotionally and at times find it impossible to strike a balance with their emotions. They show extreme reactions like, “You are ruining my Life.” “You are just selfish”; “This is Unfair!” Anjum, a Single Parent and mother of two daughters shared that her daughter (11 yrs old ) showed psychosomatic symtoms almost after one and a half years of her father passing away, she would get stomach aches ( the doctors could not find anything wrong with her physically), which were a manifestation of her emotional trauma. With some signinficant help from her school councellors, love and support from her mother, she finally overcame her trauma but it took her almost a year to do so. This is just not limited to an age group. Even college adults may react rationally on the surface but still may have strong suppressed reactions.
Single Parenting perhaps has its own set of unique challenges. Single parenthood can be a tightrope walk. It can be challenging and exhausting at the same time. Creating a good work-life balance perhaps is the key. Sleeping disorder is disturbed across all age groups. As a practice, I abstain from generalising or being prescriptive. As you read on, you may find some specific instances & related tips, especially if you are a single parent. These are based on our research experience of working with single parents and constant interventions at parentune.
Creating a balanced schedule- Sticking to your schedule leaves little room for error. You may not have to choose between your work and your child. Create clear boundary conditions. It is important that you are assertive in sticking to these boundaries more often than not. When you are clear about your boundaries and timings, you can communicate and, most often, get what works best for you and your child.
- It’s completely ok to ask for help and support- Family, friends, childcare centers are all part of the support systems. You are being tough on yourself in case you are trying to do it all alone. Gather family support to take care of your child, especially when you are away. Shalu, a single parent (mother to a 1 year old son) shifted base while changing jobs and moved to live with her parents for an extended support system. She says it was the best decision that she took; for 6 yrs later, her son is happy, grounded, and emotionally stable and understands that his family is complete with mom, nana, nani and mamu.
- Fear about a life long support system: Single parents at times may fear, what if something happened to them, what will become of their child? Veena Sharma was also one such mother, a parent to two daughters aged 6 and 10 years, she took care of her health obsessively but even that did not ease her worries for her daughters. She then decided to do something about it. She stopped being over protective of her children and as she says “I made sure they developed a healthy bond with other family members and friends.” She now knows that her daughters have people around them, who love them and hence her anxieties have almost disappeared.
- Banish the guilt- Always be appreciative of what you have achieved for your child and remember, you are doing the best you can. Your situation may not be like others and there is nothing wrong with that. Rejoice on how far you’ve come; that you are doing just fine and acknowledge that its phenomenal.
- Manage Expectations at Work and Home- There is no use putting strong boundaries around your office time, and then taking work home with you. If there’s too much work to be done, then you might need to restructure. Balance is about knowing what is going to work best for you. You need to focus on your child in your home time and if you are not focussed, perhaps it may be better to be at work instead.
- Holidays and Downtime- Try to wear a work-hat when at work, a home-hat for home and a holiday-hat for holidays. Sounds simple, right? Respect and appreciate each of these spaces consciously and notice the difference.
- Alone time with oneself: If you have weekends without the children around and you think you’ll miss them, plan an activity for yourself. It can be something right from a coffee with a friend to may be catching up on a movie, going to the gym or just simply having a long relaxing bath. Take this time to rejuvenate your thoughts and mood.
- Some single parents encounter this question from time to time, how is it going to affect my child? The first thing you need to acknowledge is, yes, it’s going to be tough, but remember, each parenting situation has its own set of challenges. So comes the next question, How do I make this transition smooth for my child?
- The following may be handy:-
- It is important to be patient at this time.
- Encourage your child to talk about his/her feelings.
- Ensure the child has a parent-figure to look up to, Ashima(a single mother of a 7 year old son) shares that since her son was born she has made sure that his grandfather and uncle both have had a constant presence in her son’s life & she finds that this has helped him emotionaly.
- If your child is young, let the child express through drawings, pictures, make believe games.
- Resist the temptation to compensate with material goods
- Recognize signals of stress in the child and don’t hesitate to consult a psychologist, and or the relevant area-expert
- Deal with your own emotional state by seeking help. This will help you initiate the change in a positve and calm manner
The following interventions may also help you keep that fine balance.
- Stay Positive- Your sense of humour may be real handy to deal with everyday challenges. Remember, your mood and attitude can affect your child. You can be honest with your child if you are having a difficult time but do remind your child that things will get better and all would just be fine.
- Manage Stress- You do not have to give in to every whim of your child. So many single parents feel guilty, as if they must in some way make up for the absence of the other parent. This tends to lead to more battles for parental control at a later stage.
- Be Consistent- You are the parent and your word is important. By being firm and consistent you establish a benchmark; children actually like structure and predictability; it keeps their anxiety in check. An inconsistent parenting style may lead to breeding confusion in your child.
- Plan your day ahead- Get a daily planner and map out your next day before you go to sleep. This helps you feel secure, especially when you know that important things are noted. Review it the next morning to get going on your action plan.
- Priortize- Do things that is most important first. This is never easy, but once you get started, you will start enjoying its utility. The best way to do this is to categorize between “want” and “need”. Do you need to clean up the room just right now or is it something you would like to get done? Avoid Catastrophizing. Ask yourself- Will something absolutely horrible happen if I don’t do this right now? Most often the answer is NO.
- Take care of your health- You are one of the most important person in your life. Take good care of yourself. Go for regular check-ups. Work out, keep yourself fit. Eat your breakfast. There are some single parents who just don’t have that important meal of the day. A simple thing like having a healthy and sumptuous breakfast can ensure that you have an energy filled and happy day.
- Use weekends to spend constructive and eased out time with your child- Leave work at work if you can. Love, respect or kindness cannot be compensated with material things. Only quality time and being present for your children will help your child be secure and happy.
- Live in the here and now- You and your child can make any activity fun including cleaning a room. Make sure to be just yourself. You don’t need to be the cliché’d, both mom and dad. Don’t try that extra bit to be a painful disciplinarian; being “matter of fact” helps both you and your child.
- Have a “Me- time”- Wake up half an hour early and make that your exclusive “me-time”. You may want to do that yoga session, learn a new hobby, have a great cup of tea or just reorganise your thoughts and appreciate your daily success.
- Connect with other Single Parents: There are some useful websites with useful content and widgets for Single Parents. Check for things like; is it a member’s only site or a general forum? Does it have an expert panel? Is their any useful content on the first glance? Being a member of such a site will help you collaborate with parents with similar disposition, going through similar issues. You may learn from each other and each other’s experiences.
- Disclaimer: Names have been changed and used only for representational purpose.
Image source - stuartduncan.name
| Sep 28, 2017
Thanks, it really helpful to tackle the most difficult task.
| Jun 08, 2015
Thanks! This is very informative and does help a lot to single parents. Would be glad if more information is shared as single moms having a grown up kid/ teen who are going through their adolescence and confused period of their lives. How does one cope up with their frustrations, tempers, peer pressure etc. ?
| May 20, 2015
Thanx a lot.. very informative and uplifting article. I am recently separated and have a two year old son. He seems fine and doing ok in his play skool. But I wonder how I will answer him when he grows up as to the questions bout his dad. A court case is under way and my other twin is with my in laws.
| Sep 25, 2013
Very informative article
| Sep 25, 2013
Very informative article
| Feb 15, 2013
Thanks it clears many guilt that we don't have 2 be.
| Nov 25, 2012
This one's a tight rope walk and support of family and friends really counts.. single parenting is no more rarity in our society as it was few years back.. great thoughts. thanks!
| Oct 26, 2012
I have a friend who has done a wonderful job of raising her daughter on her own, she has managed to not the bitterness of a failed relationship get the better of her as a parent, her child is happy, confident and sociable..
| Oct 04, 2012
Very touching and informative .... you get to read about the real picture .....
| Oct 04, 2012
This is so insightful... lovely.