Easing the Stress of Single Parenthood

Figures compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau show the number of children raised in single parent households continues to rise. With 28% of all children in the US under 18 living with one parent, there is a definite need to find solutions to problems that arise when one person shoulders child rearing, work, and household duties.

Society's attitude about the success or failure of children from single parent households means little in your home. While it is true that one-parent households require more planning, there is no reason to add guilt to your list of things to do.

According to Pearl Simmons, Community Education Specialist, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, "Single parenthood can be challenging, but if you maintain a loving relationship with your children you will continue to grow as a family. Through your positive interactions, you will teach your children the value of nurturing and supportive relationships."

Single parent Robbin Romiguiere remembers being at a loss when her boys cried the familiar words, "There's nothing to do." "I was never a boy so I just couldn't know how they felt....or so they thought. One day after hearing "I'm bored" for the 19th time, I looked out the window of our tiny two-bedroom apartment and spied a glorious oak tree. There was a pile of wood sitting just outside the boundaries of the apartment building. I knocked on the neighbor's door, a construction type, and asked him if I could borrow a hammer or two, maybe a saw and a box of nails -- if he could spare them. We plotted and planned. We sawed and hammered. We did this while balancing on branches. I lived through three days without hearing a single "I'm bored." When we were through, a treehouse was our ticket to adventure."

Veteran single parents are valuable resources for recent singles. Diane Berry voices the sentiment that even some married partners can use the strategies of single parents if their spouse is away a good bit or is not interested in being part of a child's life.

Listed below is information to aid the single parent with basic issues arising in their day to day lives:

Organize an informal co-op. Berry acknowledges this takes initiative and time, but will help immensely when trying to iron out the scheduling conflicts between work life and your child's activities. Good places to begin your search for interested single parents are your child's school, daycare, sports teams or a local chapter of Parents Without Partners.

Make room for fun. Single parents typically struggle to make ends meet. Money for entertainment and educational activities is scarce. Berry suggests earmarking $10 a month for fun activities. Research local parks and recreation departments for free activities, and don't forget your local library.

Plan for sick days. A virus or extended illness for the single parent who has a child under six can be disastrous. Plan ahead for these times, and have several back up sitters in your address book. If you are faced with an extended illness and are running short on funds, place necessities like bottled water, canned food, medicine, and games close to your bed or easy chair.

Remember your extended family. Family members can be a godsend for the single parent. They can also be a negative force. Should you experience the negativity, limited exposure for the single parent and the child is often necessary. If family members want to be a positive part of your new family unit, they may offer help with childcare, food preparation, and grant moral support.

Don't forget to rest. Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion is expected in any parenting situation. This is doubly true for the single parent. It is important to set aside a few minutes of quiet time during your day. This can be 30 minutes before the kids get up or 30 minutes after they've gone to sleep. It may mean taking a leisurely walk on your lunch break.

Some moves may cause concern. Less money coming into a home might mean a parent has to move to a section of town offering undesirable influences on the child. Get on the list for Big Brothers/Big Sisters in your community. Keep enriching activities available at home. Have your child's friends come to your home so that you can supervise them.

Don't take lashing out personally. It is normal for a child to have deep feelings regarding a parent who is rarely around. Remember children lash out at the one they feel safest with. If your child is old enough, late elementary and above, talk to him about how much you love him and that you are grateful to have him as your child.

Kids need to help with chores. Avoid the temptation to put too much responsibility on the kids. However, children learn the valuable lesson of self-dependence when they are given chores within their abilities. Most libraries carry current parenting books and magazines that offer sound advice on age appropriate chores.

Make a schedule. The necessities of job, good performance in school, and house maintenance are followed by the fun activities of watching movies, staring up at the sky in search of the perfect cloud, and dancing to your favorite tunes. Remember scheduled chores can be a time of togetherness and laughter. Washing a car is one of those chores that gets the job done and allows for frolicking.

Keep your dates to yourself. It is not necessary to introduce each person you date to your children. This may cause confusion. Wait until the relationship becomes somewhat serious before introductions are made. Keep in mind that your child harbors a deep desire to see his parents reconcile.

Homes built with love, laughter, and discipline run more smoothly no matter whom is at the helm. Single parents tend to need outside help. This reaching out can be a benefit to all involved. In a country where we believe in doing everything ourselves, we sometimes miss out on the wisdom grandparents, neighbors, and family members can bring to our lives.

Remember, you don't have to do it all.

For more information on single parenting, visit:

Parents Without Partners is an international, non-profit, educational organization devoted to the interests of single parents and their children.