More than half of all households in the United States are headed by single parents, both moms and dads, according to the Child Development Institute. Single parents face many challenges above and beyond those experienced by couples raising kids together. Here are a few of these challenges and ways to manage the emotions associated with each.
Coping with loss of partner/end of relationship
Walking away from a relationship is tough, especially if you’ve been with someone for many years. When kids are involved, it can get emotional fast. You can mitigate some of the negative feelings by first recognizing that it’s okay to feel sad about your divorce or separation; you’re grieving a loss. Know that your feelings may change from anger to sadness to confusion. Think positively and relish in the fact that your life molds into a new normal with each passing day. Make sure your kids know they can rely on you, and keep them far removed from any lingering conflict.
Assuming additional roles and not having enough time for any of them
As a single mom or dad, you’ll take on many roles you’ve never considered. For instance, you may find yourself taking kids back and forth to school and sports when your partner did that before. One of the best things you can do for your family is to organize your home and life in a way that allows you to complete each new task efficiently and effectively. Make a schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Don’t forget to add some downtime every few days so you and your kids can have some much-needed rest. Don’t freak out when you miss something. Simply move on and adjust your schedule to ensure everyone’s needs get met without sacrificing family time, which is by far the most important and rewarding part of your day.
Helping children adjust to their new living arrangements
Perhaps the most difficult and heart-wrenching aspect of your new life is helping the kids get used to change. Between learning a new schedule and having to adjust to different rules at each parent’s home, kids often suffer the most. Help your children cope by being open and honest about the situation, keeping their age and maturity in mind when you talk. Don’t sugarcoat things, and avoid using phrases such as, “It’s better this way,” which may discourage them from opening up to you. If possible, work with your ex to ensure the kids have a predictable routine at both homes. Parents.com offers more tips and advice on helping your children deal with their emotions after a divorce.
Reentering the dating pool
You may not be ready to consider dating now, but your brain is wired for romantic love. ABC News recently published an article that illustrates the reason why. It mostly comes down to the reward system of the brain. Eventually, you’ll have the desire for both sex and love, but dating when you have kids is tough. Before you dive into the dating pool, outline your intentions. Know ahead of time if you’re simply looking for a fun night or want to explore future long-term relationships. This will put you in a better mind frame when meeting new people, and guide you as you make introductions and set boundaries with a potential partner.
This is just a partial list of potential challenges that most newly single parents must learn to overcome. Your experience will be unique, depending on how much support you receive from family and friends. But remember, even though your responsibilities have doubled, so too have the rewards you’ll reap as your children’s primary care provider. So take a deep breath, hold your head up high, and know that you can do this for yourself and for your kids.
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