Going at it Alone? 5 Quick Tips for Positive Single Parenting

Parenting without a partner can be difficult. As fulfilling as the good days are, the bad days can be grueling, panic-inducing and lonely. Even if you co-parent or share custody of your child, the time spent alone with her can make it seem like you have a hundred more opportunities to “mess up”. To get through it, here are a few tips to keep your good humor, your sanity and most importantly, your kids—no matter what age or stage— intact.

Tip # 1: Remember: You Do Not Live Alone.
As tempted as you may be to let the dishes and laundry pile up, to not comb your hair for two days on the weekends, or to not leave the house, always remember that there is someone else living under your roof. Your kids deserve to live in a clean and orderly environment, and to look at their parent and see someone who is well-groomed (and who at least appears to have things under control). If your child is old enough, give him an appropriate share of the responsibility for keeping some modicum of order in the household. Even a four-year old can sort laundry according to color (and they may even think it’s fun) and a six-year old can clean their room and make a bed.

Tip#2: Remember: You are the Adult.
One of the best things about having a partner is being able to vent about work, friends and family and having your partner recognize it as such. But kids (no matter what age) don’t always recognize venting. If you share concerns about your boss, your colleagues and your bills, you could make your kids feel anxious and insecure. Home should be a safe place psychologically as well as physically. Don’t inadvertently threaten that by taking the office home with you.

Tip #3: Don’t Just Give in.
Children and teens can sense weakness. They can feel that chink in your armor that makes you say yes when you should say no, or give up in defeat just because you’re too tired to argue. In the long run, they rarely thank you for it, and they may even lose respect for you as an authority in the home. But what’s more, if you don’t set boundaries for them now, they may never learn to set their own later.

Tip #4: Pencil It In.
Time is at a premium when you’re a single parent. Between work, running a household, and keeping up with your kids, it may seem impossible to get everything done within the span of a 24-hour day. Sometimes the only way to ensure quality time with your kids is to pencil it in. While it is true that some of your finest bonding moments may happen spontaneously while folding laundry with your kids, it’s also good for them know that at a specific place and for a reserved period of time, they will be your only priority. If you are a single parent to more than one child, try to arrange time to spend with each of them exclusively. An activity as simple as reading with your child for 20 minutes each day can reap benefits that last a lifetime.

Tip #5: Pay Attention.
When you’re tired and overwhelmed, the first thing to do is focus. You can drift through the entire week on auto-pilot, dropping kids off at school and picking them up, fetching dry cleaning and making lunches. If you’re not careful, your kids can go through important life changes right before your eyes without you noticing. At best, you will overlook some of the more difficult aspects of puberty but at worst you could miss changes in friends, dress, and warning signs in your child’s behavior that signal that something might be wrong. Or, you could miss the opportunity to get to know your kids, and to give them the well-deserved accolades and positive reinforcement they sorely need.