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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson discusses the importance of fathers – and why they matter a LOT!


According to The Washington Times, based on the most recent census, the percentage of two-parent families has dropped significantly over the past decade in all 50 states. While the total number of American households with children increased by 160,000, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. One-third of American children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father. Around five million more are living without a mother. That’s a lot of parents doing this parenting thing on their own.

Being a single parent will likely be the hardest, most exhausting thing you ever do. Parenting in ideal circumstances is hard enough, but it is even harder for all the parents out there doing this alone. While parenting definitely has its rewards, being a single parent will push you to the brink of sanity.

When you are pushed to the brink, stressed out and at a loss for patience, you do a disservice to yourself and your children. Exhaustion and frustration can easily creep up on you, and the result can be damaging to your children. Children will pick up on your resentment towards them, and will feel distressed about it.

Here are 5 tips on how to stay sane and grounded when you are a single parent.

  1. Take care of yourself physically. Eat good food, exercise and get plenty of rest. I know this sound idealistic. But it’s really important. You can’t afford to get run down and sick. Your kids rely on you, so you might as well take this seriously. It also sends a message to your kids that you care enough about them and yourself to do so, and hopefully they will follow suit and make similar good decisions for themselves.
  1. Nurture yourself emotionally. Minimize stress. Meditate or take a relaxing bath, play golf, go to the beach, talk to a therapist, read a book, or whatever else makes you feel calm and relaxed. Your emotional wellbeing is crucial to your ability to parent. If you are always frazzled and on-edge, you can’t possibly have the kind of rational perspective and patience required to do this job right. You will snap at your children and yell at them more often than deserved, and they will feel angry. This is not good for your relationship with them. Furthermore, much like with your physical health, they will learn from your example. When they see you take time to make sure you are ok, they will know that you care about yourself as much as you care about them. They will also learn from you how to take care of their own emotional needs.
  1. Ask for help, and take as much help as you can get. If friends or family have offered, actually take them up on the offer. If you have the means, hire a babysitter frequently. This is really important. You are not a superhero and nobody, I mean nobody can do this job entirely on their own all of the time. It’s too big and too important to think you can do it all. Think about most important jobs…does one person do everything all of the time with no help from others? Of course not!
  1. Leave your kids home and go out with friends and pursue your own interests. It is good for both you and your children to spend time apart. Friends make you remember that you are more than just a parent, and you deserve to have some fun! Life is a precious gift, so enjoy all it has to offer. While you’re doing that, your kids will learn that the entire universe does not revolve around them, that you live a balanced life. They are, no doubt, very important, but they are not all that you have in your life, nor should they be. One day they will grow up and leave, so build yourself a fulfilling life.
  1. Don’t wait another minute to start dating again. Not only is it good for you to remember that you are an adult and you have needs and desires of your own, it also good for your children to see you moving on with your life. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for them to accept. Once they get accustomed to being the center of you universe, anything less will be unacceptable to them, and they will get resentful. Talk yourself out of the idea that you should wait until they are out of the house or a certain age before you start dating again. Now is the right time, and you deserve to find a new relationship and be happy. Unfulfilled and unhappy people don’t make great parents.

Remember, you may be a single parent, but you don’t have to go at it alone. There are people who care about you, who want to help and be there for you. Build yourself a great support system and be the best person you can be. Then, and only then, are you able to be a truly great parent.

 

Are you parenting on your own right now? Do you anticipate you might be parenting on your own soon?

You know, there are lots of reasons you might find yourself suddenly raising your kids without backup. There’s separation or divorce, of course. But it’s also possible that…

It doesn’t really matter why you find yourself on your own with the kiddos – or how long this stretch of single-parenting looks like it will last. The principles we’re going to talk about are the same. And I’m only going to give you three steps to take because, really, your life is complicated enough. No need to add to it!

Ready? Here you go:

1. Get a buddy. Parenting is meant to be a 2-player sport. If you’re one player down, you’re at a disadvantage. You are likely to get tired, feel stressed, and run out of patience and resilience. So get a buddy – someone who can share the load and who can give you a break once a in a while. If you can’t find one person to rely on or a posse of people willing to act as your personal backup, then a support group can help. But a support group is not the same as actual on-the-ground contributions by friends and family.

One quick caveat here. As you’ve probably noticed, pedophiles look for families like yours if you are a single mother who is stretched to near the breaking point. Make certain that the person you decide to rely on for your backup backs up you and doesn’t seem intent on removing your child from your immediate supervision. You need a break from your kid but pay attention to what’s going on.

2. Be yourself. You are not two people and you certainly are not your partner. You are only you. So do your best and don’t worry about not doing everything your partner would do in addition to everything you do yourself. There are only 24 hours in the day.

At the same time, being yourself means being the whole, interesting person that you are. Growing up in a single-parent family can be rich and funny and full of great things if you forget about trying to do everything and instead do what you and your kids like to do. The same goes for growing up in a family where one parent is often away from home or for spending the weekend with just one parent or the other.

Don’t try to be two people. Be your finest You.

3. Be proud. There is no reason at all to apologize to anyone – to your children or your mother or the school – that it’s just you running the show at home. There is no evidence that children in single-parent households do less-well than kids who grow up in two-parent households. So don’t feel anxious about raising your children on your own but also don’t make any excuses for your kids or for yourself. You can and should raise your children just as well as anybody else.

The same goes for sharing parenting with an ex, parenting alone while the other parent is away, and parenting in shifts. Every sort of family works well, yours included.

The secret to raising well-adjusted, successful children is to be a well-adjusted, successful role model. Be that and be proud. Let the world be amazed.

Because you are amazing. Raising great children is not a walk in the park for anyone and if you’re doing that on your own, even for just the weekend, then pat yourself on the back.

But when you’re finished with the self-congratulations, concentrate on your kids. What do they need right at this moment and how can you help them?

No matter what your situation, it’s your children’s day-to-day experiences that matter. Make those terrific!

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.