Being a single parent involves many difficult challenges. It's even harder than it looks. Single parents deal with challenges all day, every day. Many of those challenges arise from being not only single but a parent. There are children to care for and take care of. And because you are the only parent, everything you do carries greater weight. No matter what you do, as a single parent, you must think of its effect on your children.
You must be diligent in keeping up with their activities and their thoughts as they grow up in a single parent home. In fact, the biggest challenge of being a single parent is the effect of your status on your children. The transition to a single-parent family is difficult for kids. They may feel abandoned or insecure. They may feel isolated and different from other kids, even if there are more single-parent families than ever before.
Your children may resent you for the loss of your spouse, or they may have unresolved issues with the missing parent. As a single parent, it's your job to keep them talking about what's going on with them and what they think. Even though they may resist, you need to get them to talk to you about their worries, their fears, and their anger.
And you need to let them know they're all right. They're normal kids despite their circumstances. They aren't responsible for the change, and they don't have to make up for it. You should give them as normal a childhood as possible and be a role model. Even when they don't act that way, they look to you as their example of what a grown-up is and does. Your kids need to know you're there for them, no matter what.
You have a busy schedule trying to earn a living and manage the household. But you must never be too busy for your children. Even when you are in financial trouble, the job can't take priority over the kids. They need to know how important they are to you. They need to know you love them more than anything else. You're going to have to build a new relationship with your children. As a single parent, you're the only source of affection and guidance in the home.
Even if you weren't close before, you're going to have to get close now. One good way to do that is to do lots of fun family activities. Another way that will help the whole family is to assign specific chores to your children that will help keep the household running efficiently. Giving them responsibility will help them feel that they belong and that they are important. It will also give them a sense of accomplishment necessary to build a healthy self-image.
Single parents need to admit that they need help and then get help. You can't do everything by yourself. Trying to may ruin your health, your attitude, and your relationships with your children. Getting to know your neighbors is a great way to find people who can help you look after the kids when you must be away. Neighbors can also help with household repairs and yard work. Your neighbors may also be adult companions and role models for your children, but you must be careful.
Get to know your neighbors well before you allow your children to be alone with them. Remember that the world is a more dangerous place than it was when you were a child. There's no substitute for good parental judgment. Time is the enemy when you're a single parent. You probably have to work, and that means being outside the home a lot. Unless you have help, it also means your children may spend a lot of time at home alone.
You'll need to take extra precautions and lay out specific rules for time you're not there. Children who are alone a lot are vulnerable to drugs and criminal behavior. Gang activities are sky-rocketing. You'll have to find a way to monitor your kids while you're not home. This difficult challenge must be met head-on or your children may pay for it with their very lives. You may have a challenge with your children's attitudes about you as well.
They may blame you for their situation or think you're not doing things right. They may not show you the respect you want and expect. And they may feel cheated if you can't attend special events like birthdays, PTA meetings, parent-teacher conferences, recitals, and other events that parents usually attend. These time pressures are especially difficult for single parents. If you can't make the time to make at least some of these events, it's time to have a talk with the boss.
Maybe you can work out a special work schedule or do some of your work at home. If you can't find a solution with your current job, you may need to look for other more flexible working arrangements. If both are impossible, it's important that your children know and understand why you can't be with them. Be honest. They'll understand the truth better than no explanation at all. It's important to remember that you can't just give time to your kids.
It must be quality time that helps them grow and mature. They need to know that you love them and that you need them. Never give them the idea that they're a burden to you. Tell them often how much you love them. Listen to them. Ask them questions and listen to their answers. Show your interest in them as individuals. Even when time is limited, you can make the time you spend with them special and positive.
It's worth the trouble. And your reward is the love and respect of well-behaved, responsible children. Even when life deals you and your children a bad hand, you can make life together enjoyable and productive. You can build healthy relationships with your kids and watch them become happy, productive young adults.
Despite the many hard challenges of being a single parent, you must always maintain your perspective and honor the most important priorities. It won't always be hard or unpleasant. You'll have many happy times and lots of love and laughter in your single-parent family as long as you keep a healthy positive attitude and keep on working toward a better life for you and your children.
Excerpted from the book Single Parenting by Wings Of Success.
This excerpt has been edited and condensed for clarity.