Tuesday, May 28, 2013

7 Survival Secrets for Single Parents....

Yesterday, a reader asked me how to deal with being a single parent; specifically, how this makes her feel like the "bad guy" because her ex gets to be the fun visitation dad while she takes care of the day to day stuff. She stated that she feels it is "unfair" when her child lashes out at her and never acts this way towards the dad.

Here is my advice for all single parents (Dads and Moms):

1. Make time to have fun and celebrate. You can also enjoy your children. Create a time each week that you do something together that you will both enjoy. Maybe schedule a play date with your child. for example, every Wednesday after school you go to the park and swing. Schedule a pizza and movie night, have a tickle time each day, make a night to cook together, spread paper all over the floor and have a coloring party, create a treasure map and go on a treasure hunt through the house, hide secret notes for one another, etc.... There are a million ways to have fun with your kids that don't cost anything either, so be sure that you are doing these things! The dishes can wait.... your relationship with your kid is more important. YOU are allowed to have fun too! During the "fun" time, don't do anything else, just have fun!

2. Get support! There are tons of support groups for single parents online and in real life. Align yourself with others who can support and encourage you. Share your experiences and stories and you won't feel like the only person going through it. Maybe you can even trade babysitting back and forth too!

3. Make time for yourself. While the kids are on visitation with the other  parent, do something nice for YOU. If you can't afford to go out and get a massage or go get dinner, then take advantage of a quiet house. Read a book, take a bath, work on a project that you enjoy... do something that will make YOU feel good, rested, cared for, and pampered.

4. Be honest with your kids. There is nothing wrong with explaining to the kids that when they are with the other parent, they get to have fun because it is the weekend and they don't have to go to school or work so they can enjoy the time more. Let them know that during the week you have responsibilities to take care of so there is less time for fun. Let them know you are a team and that you count on them for their help and let them know you will schedule in time for you both to have fun as well. Never insult  or call the other parent names. Instead, be honest about the situation and use age appropriate language to explain the differences between the different households. Encourage them to have fun and enjoy their time with the other parent. Remember it is their parent and they love them.

5. Stop expecting things to be "fair." Life isn't fair, it's not supposed to be. It may seem unfair that you have to be the "bad guy" when the other parent gets to have all the fun but what about the child? Do they think it's "fair" that he/she has parents that are getting divorced? Does the visitation parent think its "fair" that they only see their kid twice a month? Life isn't fair, change what you are thinking about. Instead of feeling badly about being seen as the bad guy by your child sometimes, focus on the fact that you get the opportunity to raise your child and make the every day decisions. That is a blessing not afforded to all parents. You have to change your thinking by focusing on your blessings. Focus on that sweet little face that you get to see each morning and remember what a gift that is.

6. Choose your battles. You are only one person, you may have to let some things go! You may want your kids to pick up their laundry off of the floor, but if it's going to be a battle, weigh whether or not it is worth it. Decide which battles you can let go of and then make peace with it. Just like life is not fair, it is also not perfect. You are a single parent, it is OK if the house is not perfect at all times. Let go of some things and keep your sanity!

7. Be clear and consistent. Let your child know that no means no and follow through with consequences. Wishy washy parents have an increasingly difficult time as their children age. The lack of consistent rules prevents kids from learning about boundaries and can put them in difficult situations with other kids or adults. They also don't learn to respect the rules and may have difficulties in school or with authority. Don't dismiss consequences just because your kid pitches a fit. Let them know you love them and explain the consequences and be firm. Hang in there... you can handle it!

Parenting is hard work sometimes but in the end, all that matters is that you emerge with a healthy and loving relationship with your child. Keep that in mind when deciding what battles to choose. Remember also that kids are not as skilled yet in expressing their emotions so they may express frustrations with an "I hate you Mom," or a "You don't really love me Dad." These are just words of frustration and are not likely to be true. Don't take it personally, we as adults even say things out of anger sometimes. Just remember, you are building a life long relationship with your child, there will be bumps in the road but their will also be rainbows. Enjoy the magic moments and survive the challenges. Laugh often and Live Inspired Now!

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