Most parents do not go into raising children with the intention of doing it on their own. Circumstances in life often leave us with a completely dependent child in our arms wondering what in the world we are supposed to do now. Being a parent is never easy, and doing it all on your own just adds to the difficulty. The good news is that it’s not impossible; just look at all of the people who are doing it every single day!
Unfortunately, there is no, “how-to” guide that will make you the perfect single parent overnight; especially since there is no such thing as any type of perfect parent. All you can do is your best, and some of the tips below may make things a little bit easier for both you and your child. You can do this; you may be surprised at just how much you are capable of.
You know how the “grieving process” consists of seven steps? You go through each step one by one until you are comfortable moving onto the next, and the final step is acceptance. When it comes to single parenting, you get no such luxury. There is no seven step process and there is no working your way into accepting the facts; you just accept it and move on.
Once you become a parent you realize that your needs, feelings, pain, and frustration come dead last to the list of things that your child needs. You don’t have time to wonder how you got here and what you are going to do next; you just have to do it. You have a child depending on you to meet their every need; they don’t understand what has happened, and you have to do your best to not let them be affected by it.
Whatever it was that has led you to be a single parent was probably not an easy thing. There was likely a lot of pain involved and you are still dealing with it, but your child does not and will not understand that. While dealing with your pain, you still have to just keep on going and figure things out as you go. Also take a moment to take a deep breath and accept all of the facts that lie ahead; you are alone, you are the sole provider, your time is extremely limited, another human life is entirely dependent on the decisions that you make. Also take the time to remind yourself and accept the following things as well;
• There is absolutely no reason to feel guilty; this is not your fault
• Self-pity will get you nowhere; neither will doubt
• You don’t have time to dwell on problems; find a quick and effective solution
• Your child always comes first
• Empowering yourself will allow you to discover what you are really capable of
Don’t Try to Be Both Parents
Just because you are a single mother or single father, does not mean that you can be both a mother and a father to your child. Many of the reasons why simply come down to major differences between the sexes, but it’s just not possible for a father to completely understand his daughter or a mother to understand her son.
Any father can attest to how difficult and uncomfortable it can be to talk to his daughter about certain things, and it’s really better for her to talk to another female. The same is true for males. You can only do what is within your skill and understanding to do, but it’s unfair to both you and your child to attempt to understand gender-related issues that you never experienced yourself. Teach whatever you are able to, and then find other ways of making sure that your child learns the things that you don’t know.
While you may be a single parent, you are probably not completely on your own. Think of friends or family members, or maybe influential people in your child’s life (a teacher or coach) who would be willing to talk with and mentor your child. The key is to make sure that whatever the issue is, it’s addressed by someone who truly understands; even if it’s not you. If you don’t find a way for your child to learn certain things, they may go looking for answers in the wrong places and end up with all the wrong information.
About Your Time
You are now a single parent. That means that your time is dedicated to you, your job, and most importantly, your child. You cannot expect to be a superhero and outdo every parent you know. Your time has to be perfectly managed in order to take care of everything that needs to be done. Realize this before you sign up for the PTA, offer to organize school or work functions, invite friends over for a home-cooked meal, or make big plans with friends.
No matter what, you must put you and your child’s needs above all else. You only have so much time, and your child deserves any extra that you may have. If you try and spread yourself thin you will only end up feeling exhausted and slightly hopeless.
About the Other Parent
You owe it to your child to be as realistic as possible when it comes to the other parent. How you came to be a single parent will have a great effect on how you handle this particular area, but your child’s feelings should always be considered first.
If the other parent is completely out of the picture, there is no need to keep pushing them to be involved in the child’s life. Allow your child to move on rather than always mentioning a person who is never around. Single moms often feel guilty for not letting the child know about his or her “father,” but it’s important to remember that a father is the person who teaches you how to throw a ball, puts your hair in crooked pigtails, and tucks you into bed at night. If that person is not around, then it’s best that they are left out of the equation. Of course this changes if the other parent has passed away; then it’s up to you how you ensure that your child knows about them.
About What Your Child Needs
If your child is still very young when you become a single parent, it’s probably not necessary to make sure that they understand everything that is going on. It’s simply a new transition that they will adjust to so long as their bottles are full and their diapers are changed. Older children may need a short explanation that mommy and daddy are going to live in two houses now instead of one (or any other simple explanation of whatever the circumstances may be). Allow your child to ask questions and answer them to the best of your ability.
Many parents feel that their children will be deeply damaged if they are raised in a single parent home. The worry is often doing you more harm than necessary and your children are able to adjust just fine; you’ll find that they are resilient little beings! The important thing to remember is that a single parent family is still a family and that is all your child needs.