Author: Jenn Wert, Parent Coach
Working with so many different kinds of families the past twenty-five years, I’m consistently inspired by all the ways family is defined.
Some parents are of the same gender. Some live separately. Some adopted their children and others have less formally ‘taken theirs in’. There are of course step-moms and step-dads, widowers, blended families and polyamourous parents. The list goes on…
And then there are the single parents. The ones for whom there is no other adult to bounce off the day’s trials and hilarity. To share the load. To high five. The ones who are both mom and dad. Who are on all the time.
If you’re a full-time single parent and want to bring consciousness into your challenging role, here are some suggestions that I’ve seen work:
- Laugh a lot and apologize often.
- Lean on others you trust.
- Be authentic with your kiddos.
- Draw clear boundaries, because nobody else will.
- Manage your time better.
Laughter and Apologies:
As a single parent, you set the mood. There’s nobody else to balance you out. In this way, as you’re able, inject more laughter into your days and nights.
Children are inherently somatic; they’re sensory-based. If you watch, their bodies alone tell you if your approach is too strong. With a bit of lightness, even some self-deprecation, they’re able to take your guidance more openly.
And when you make mistakes (or are unnecessarily serious), apologize. Hearing you admit imperfection and owning it will allow them to see you as not just a parent, but as a human. One who’s doing your best to raise them right.
Single parents must arrange times to interact with other adults for their own sanity (especially if they work from home) and for their children’s. There’s not a default adult under the same roof to add in their perspective, mood and opinion so opening up your home to others is crucial.
At the same time, be thoughtful about who you bring in close. Pick those who balance you out, those with whom you share a mutual respect. Those whom you’re most y-o-u around.
Choose friends who add to your home, who you believe to be great examples for your children. Communities don’t need to be big, just more deliberately put together when you’re a single parent.
When you’re the captain of the ship, it may seem counterintuitive to be too real, but I promise, it’s not. There’s a way to do it that doesn’t underestimate your leadership but rather fortifies it.
Admit what you’re working on, and let your children know that at times it’s hard to be the only adult. You appreciate their help that much more because it is just you. Be explicit with your truth.
Showing your vulnerability teaches them that not everything in life is easy – even the things you love the most, like being their parent. Show them that you’re refining what you do every day. In other words, how to be human.
Boundaries create the shape of childhood. They’re a container within which your child can feel, explore, and be free. Sometimes it can feel downright heartbreaking to hold them on your own, to have your child blame only you, single-handedly, for their discontent. And yet, you know why.
I hear more about the difficulty of establishing boundaries than most anything else. Kids push. And when you’re being pushed against, it can be easier to give in. But, we know all too well how this can snowball into more insidious problems in the future.
Single parents have so much to manage. The kiddos’ calendars, their school, extracurriculars, sports, music, playdates, family time and even down time. And then everything on their own calendars as well. Not to mention, planning trips, dentist and doctors’ appointments, insurance, getting the mortgage paid along with the other bills, preparing food etc.
It’s a heckuva lot for one person. Being organized can be a real game changer. Lay out daily lists, weekly goals, and practice prioritizing them. Create a large shared calendar so everyone can see what’s on the agenda.
Get to bed earlier and wake up with a plan.
Single parents have the potential to inspire in ways other parents cannot. On their own, they bring the laughter and hold the boundaries. They can create community and be especially raw and honest. They’re in charge of it all – managing time and making memories.
It’s an epic feat. Each day.
Hear hear – to all the single parents out there, bringing consciousness to what matters most. Bringing their little ones up in their own unique way.