The makeup of the “typical” American family has changed a lot in the past 50 years; these days you can find all kinds of different configurations. There are many reasons why a single parent might be raising a family by his/herself, starting with divorce, death and personal choice. Regardless of the reason, single parents face unique challenges that even the most welladjusted, tuned-in parent can struggle with.
Here are some ways to increase your child’s happiness if you are a single parent:
1. Create routines.
Schedules and structure make things easier for children because they will know what to expect and that predictability will lower stress for everyone in the household.
2. Load up on love, praise and attention.
Many single parents deal with financial challenges and the guilt of not being able to provide everything you or your children might want. Your children do not need lavish gifts, upscale outings, expensive tennis shoes or to go to the priciest summer camp. Instead, they need quality time, affection and memory-making experiences. Consider free or lowcost activities such as going on nature walks and taking pictures or baking several kinds of cookies on a weekend afternoon.
3. Teach gratitude.
Children in single-parent families sometimes become acutely aware of things they are missing that other families have. While these issues may be realities, it is important to take time to focus on the positives. Teach your kids to appreciate what they do have, whether it is the roof over their head; gifts for their birthdays; or a parent who makes them a sack lunch every day, helps them with homework and watches their favorite television show with them.
4. Pat yourself and your kids on the back.
As a single parent, we are often too hard on ourselves and on our kids. Give yourself and your children credit for your efforts and hard work. Have an afternoon applause session for you and your child because you quizzed him or her for hours and the result was an A, or because you and your child baked until midnight to get those cupcakes made for the school bake sale. Before dinner each night or even once a week take time out to compliment each other.
5. Connect with similar families.
All parents need some grown-up time, and all children need some time to be influenced and entertained by others. Connect with another single parent who has kids close in age and take turns watching each other’s children, having sleepovers and doing activities together.