According to The Washington Times, based on the most recent census, the percentage of two-parent families has dropped significantly over the past decade in all 50 states. While the total number of American households with children increased by 160,000, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million.
One-third of American children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father. Around five million more are living without a mother. That’s a lot of parents doing this parenting thing on their own.
Being a single parent will likely be the hardest, most exhausting thing you ever do. Parenting in ideal circumstances is hard enough, but it is even harder for all the parents out there doing this alone.
While parenting definitely has its rewards, being a single parent will push you to the brink of insanity.
When you are pushed to the brink, stressed out and at a loss for patience, you do a disservice to yourself and your children. Exhaustion and frustration can easily creep up on you, and the result can be damaging to your children. Children will pick up on your resentment towards them, and will feel distressed about it.
5 tips on how to stay sane and grounded when you are a single parent
Take care of yourself physically
Eat good food, exercise and get plenty of rest. I know this sound idealistic. But it’s really important. You can’t afford to get run down and sick. Your kids rely on you, so you might as well take this seriously. It also sends a message to your kids that you care enough about them and yourself to do so, and hopefully they will follow suit and make similar good decisions for themselves.
Nurture yourself emotionally
Minimize stress. Meditate or take a relaxing bath, play golf, go to the beach, talk to a therapist, read a book, or whatever else makes you feel calm and relaxed. Your emotional well-being is crucial to your ability to parent.
If you are always frazzled and on-edge, you can’t possibly have the kind of rational perspective and patience required to do this job right. You will snap at your children and yell at them more often than deserved, and they will feel angry. This is not good for your relationship with them.
Furthermore, much like with your physical health, they will learn from your example. When they see you take time to make sure you are ok, they will know that you care about yourself as much as you care about them. They will also learn from you how to take care of their own emotional needs.
Ask for help
…and take as much help as you can get. If friends or family have offered, actually take them up on the offer. If you have the means, hire a babysitter frequently. This is really important.
You are not a superhero and nobody, I mean nobody can do this job entirely on their own all of the time. It’s too big and too important to think you can do it all. Think about most important jobs…does one person do everything all of the time with no help from others? Of course not!
Have a social life
Go out with friends and pursue your own interests. It is good for both you and your children to spend time apart. Friends make you remember that you are more than just a parent, and you deserve to have some fun!
Life is a precious gift, so enjoy all it has to offer. While you’re doing that, your kids will learn that the entire universe does not revolve around them, that you live a balanced life. They are, no doubt, very important, but they are not all that you have in your life, nor should they be. One day they will grow up and leave, so build yourself a fulfilling life.
Start dating again
Don’t wait another minute to start dating again. Not only is it good for you to remember that you are an adult and you have needs and desires of your own, it also good for your children to see you moving on with your life. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for them to accept.
Once they get accustomed to being the center of you universe, anything less will be unacceptable to them, and they will get resentful. Talk yourself out of the idea that you should wait until they are out of the house or a certain age before you start dating again.
Now is the right time, and you deserve to find a new relationship and be happy. Unfulfilled and unhappy people don’t make great parents.
Remember, you may be a single parent, but you don’t have to go at it alone. There are people who care about you, who want to help and be there for you. Build yourself a great support system and be the best person you can be. Then, and only then, are you able to be a truly great parent.
Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Contact Lori at lorifresontherapy.com or call/text 818-514-LMFT