Being both parents

Advice on single parenting

It is not uncommon for mums or dads who are parenting alone to feel as though they are both mother and father all combined into one. This is natural for many family situations where there is only one parent. Unfortunately, there are many households where one of the parents is absent and has been throughout the child’s life or has minimal participation in a child’s life. This can be very upsetting and a parent may feel under pressure and limited in what they can and can’t do and perhaps feels obliged to protect the other parent because it will save the child from unnecessary hurt.

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Dealing with challenging behaviour

It is important to talk about respect and ask your child how they think they make you feel when they are behaving in a challenging way.  Try to be honest and clear about the behaviour you expect from them.  Do you feel you are being assertive enough with your child?  You have to be very clear about what you expect and what you want to see from their behaviour.  This may be easier said than done, but this may be what your child needs from you at this stage.  If your child chooses not to listen to you, let them know that they will be responsible for their actions and the consequences.  It is important to stick to what you say you are going to do so they can see that you mean business.

If you are dealing with behaviour that is very distressing and challenging, please do get in touch with us straightaway for advice and support.

Discipline

This is one of the biggest issues most families face regardless of how the family is made up.  Setting boundaries and maintaining discipline is an ongoing process and a difficult one for two parent families so when parenting alone, you may feel the pressure even more.  It is natural to feel burdened and sometimes overwhelmed but setting out basic discipline principles will help you maintain this. 

Setting the boundaries and making the rules clear to all family members is very important.  Ask your children to work with you to introduce new ground rules in the home and let them know that changes are going to be made to improve family life.  You could set out some sort of signed contract and review it once a week to see how things are going.  Ensure this is balanced with praise when they are being positive so they understand what behaviour you expect. 

Splitting yourself in half

That can be the perfect expression to describe how it can make a single parent feel if you have more than one child. Being on top of all their clubs, school life, social life and ensuring quality time with them can make you feel superhuman.  How do you manage it? 

  • Being organised is key and often we hear that parents use weekly planners so they can be organised and know what is ahead of them.
  • Say no if you want to.  Often parents feel inclined to accept outings, events, etc. that perhaps they do not have the time for. You may feel bad saying no but if saying no is going to be more practical then say no.
  • Taking time out for you is important, and it might not be something spectacular, but something just a nice bath with a book once the children are asleep is soothing and helps recharge those batteries.
  • Ask if you need help.  You may want to do be super independent and do everything for yourself but sometimes it is not always possible.  We all have times in our lives when life feels a little overwhelming and reaching out to others can really help.  Try to work something out with other parents so that you can all share the runs as this can help others too.

Quality time with the children

This is something that may have to be scattered and impromptu. With the best of intentions, time with the children, together or individually can be planned then it all goes out the window.  Often the best moments shared are the ones borne from impulse.  It is important to try and have time with the children together and alone.  Sharing books before bedtime for 15 minutes and using that time to find out about their day can really help strengthen the bond between you and your child.  Having dinner time together is very important too as you discuss the day’s events and have that quality family time. If you have an older child, spend time talking and listening doesn’t have to be heavy discussions, it can be light hearted chit chat even going for a drive in the car or a bus ride can be an insightful tool to find out what is going on in your child’s life!

Enjoying your own company

Being a single parent can mean different experiences and feelings for different people. Some single parents feel isolated or lonely whereas others may really enjoy their own company. How each person feels will always differ from the next person. 

Enjoying your own company may be easier said than done for some single parents and the first step is thinking about addressing any possible fears about being on your own brings about. Write a list if you feel it would help and then find possible pros to each con you have listed.

The second step is to try it, perhaps indulge in something that you enjoy, like reading or watching a movie. If you start feeling fidgety or anxious, change your activity or perhaps potter around at home. You could even start a mini project at home and plan your time accordingly. Over time, if you keep trying and have a balance in your home life, this could help you to enjoy your own space and company.

Spending time alone with yourself, without distractions, is essential as it helps to think clearly and learn more about yourself. It can help build self-esteem and confidence too – this can be as simple as going for a walk in nature or sitting quietly pondering life which can be wonderfully therapeutic.

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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