Whatever the reasonings for becoming a single parent, it can be quite overwhelming at times. Raising a family as a single parent is an incredibly rewarding job – but one that’s often challenging and emotionally draining too. Here are 6 tips for coping and enjoying life as a single parent.
1. Get organised
Become the master of lists! Writing everything down clears your head and promotes better sleep so invest in a good notebook or journal and get writing down everything that needs doing, bills that need paying, and any household tasks that need completing each week.
Break down each task and put them in order of priority, think realistically which thing can be done and when rather than attempting everything at once. Don’t burn yourself out trying to juggle everything! If you have older children, get them involved in helping around the house - it’s a valuable life skill learning to become independent, so don’t feel bad for asking them to help you with dishes, vacuuming or al little laundry now and then. You can reward with pocket money or small treats at the weekend.
Find ways to make each task on your list easier. The grocery shop for example - save hours traipsing around a supermarket by ordering online and getting it delivered, some stores offer delivery from £3, or collection from store for free!
Invest in a calendar so your days are there in front of you. Put all important events in - who’s doing school or nursery runs on which day, which day is swimming lessons and pop in those all important fun days to look forward to.
2. Financial planning
Often the biggest worry for single parents is how they’ll cope financially. From household bills to birthdays and Christmas - it can cause a big worry to many how they will pay for everything on their own.
Make sure that you find out what you are entitled to as a single parent such as benefits, and apply for them as soon as you can as often these things take a while to come into effect.
If you are single because of a recent relationship ending - talk to your ex-partner about financial contributions. If it’s not amicable or things are incredibly difficult - you may need to talk to a solicitor to get maintenance and financial assistant in place.
If you need to downsize your home because of the new situation, think positively about it as a move forward to a new life. Make it a positive thing for your children - a new adventure and place to start again as a new family unit.
Make a list of expensive times of year such as Christmas and birthdays and plan a budget. Explain to older children that things are a little different financially now - by being open and talking honestly about money, they’ll have more of an understanding of how the world works rather than just saying ‘no’ to gift requests out of reach.
Fun doesn't have to be expensive - Collect vouchers for days out or take advantage of two-for-one tickets at cinemas. Enjoy days out to the park or forest together as a family with a picnic, or have your own ‘movie nights’ settled infant of the sofa.
3. The ‘Ex Factor’
Whatever the reason you’ve suddenly become a single parent - it is so important, wherever possible, to keep the lines of communication open with your ex-partner. This is important not just for sorting out days and times they’ll be visiting or having your little one, but finances, schooling and general parenting updates will need discussing regularly too. If it is too painful or difficult to talk directly to your ex, use a ‘go between’ or family liaison.
It is important to mention here that no matter how messy the break up may have been, or whatever animosity you may have towards you ex - they are also your child’s parent. Your child will love them unconditionally, so refrain from bad mouthing or trying to get your child to take sides. It is unfair and can cause awful amounts of pressure and stress.
Remember always - they are the innocent party in any break up, no matter what the circumstances may have been. To be able to move forward as new family unit, they need to feel safe, happy and secure.
Single mum of one, Emma says, ‘When I first became a single parent I was riddled with guilt and used to over compensate buying my daughter gifts all the time to make myself feel better. I saw a massive change in behaviour in her with myself and other children. The most important thing I have learnt is to maintain as good a relationship with the father as possible in order to keep routine and boundaries in her life. Communication is definitely the key.
Since things have settled with myself and her father the change in my daughter was instant. She was far more stable and we couldn't be happier. I have learnt happy stable mother means happy and stable child.’
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It is incredibly hard doing everything yourself with no back up, but remember - you can’t look after your little one if you don’t look after yourself. It’s easy to burn out when you are doing everything for yourself. Ask family or friends to babysit or use an agency to find a regular, reliable sitter so you can get into a routine of doing something that’s just for you each week.
If you are feeling particularly low and isolated, there are some fantastic support groups online like Family Lives where you can chat to professionals and other single parents.
If you are really struggling to cope and feel very low, have a chat with your Health Visitor or GP about your situation. They’ll be able to offer support and guidance to helping you move in the right direction.
5. Do something that makes you happy
Don’t feel guilty about having some well deserved and needed ‘me time’ be it going to the gym or going out with friends - it’s so important to look after your own happiness too. Find something that makes you happy and make time for it each week. It could be something as simple as having a luxurious bubble bath watching your favourite Netflix show.
Get together with people who lift you and make you smile! If you have a young baby and don’t want to leave them - invite friends over for a pamper evening with wine. Get everyone to bring a bottle and a pamper product - sometimes the bests nights are nights in with friends!
If things are feeling particularly stressful, it’s surprising how a dance to your favourite song in the kitchen with your little one or a favourite movie snuggled up on the sofa - can change your mood.
Physical activity is beneficial for your mental health and wellbeing too, so pop your trainers, snuggle up your little one in their buggy, and go for a speedy walk. Making this simple activity part of your daily routine will promote better sleep too!
6. Don’t compare yourself to other families!
As a single parent it can be hard not to compare your situation to others. But remember - while other parents and families may seem like they have it all - everyone struggles sometimes, even those who have the support of a partner!
Every child is different, every family is different so don’t compare your life or your parenting skills to others - it’s a recipe for foggy headed feelings of failure, not a path worth walking.
Be proud of you and your family unit. You’re doing a great job - remind yourself of that instead of comparing yourself to other families.
7. Give yourself a high five!
Single parenting can be extremely tough - but it can also be extremely rewarding. Don’t forget to praise your efforts each week. Write down something you did that made you feel proud, even something small, it doesn't matter if it’s something small, as long as your mark your efforts and give yourself a pat on the back!