While all parents have faced the challenge of raising children, many single parents have had to adapt to working from home without a spouse to share responsibilities, not having enough resources, feeling overwhelmed, and adopting new routines amidst inadequate support.
For instance, Paula, 42, a single parent for three years and raising two grade school kids while working full-time, put it like this: “I get up at 5am to make breakfast and get ready for the day and feel guilty that I can’t be home more. My kids girls go to an afterschool program. When I pick them up at 5:30pm they are grumpy, so they usually play video games when we get home rather than do their homework. As you can imagine, their grades have suffered.”
What Paula is becoming more aware of is the importance of routine in the lives of her children. After a divorce, when parents are stressed and short on time, they often resort to being too permissive and routines go out the window. Keep in mind that when children follow routines most of the time, this helps to reduce their stress and anxiety. It can actually help them self-regulate their emotions and feel more secure during times of uncertainty.
Further, there are many ways you can develop a positive relationship with your children if you invite them to participate in activities that interest them and expose them to some of your hobbies. For instance, inviting your kids to share your love of hiking or biking on weekends can help you form a deeper bond and allow all of you to get much needed exercise and fresh air.
5 things single parents can do with their kids:
- Find and explore the great outdoors such as walking paths or nature trials, bird sanctuaries, beaches, bike paths, or zoos. Children and teens usually love the outdoors. Even in the winter, it can be a invigorating to visit and enjoy new outdoor adventures – even on a chilly or cold day, if you bundle up!
- Set up routines for your children that they can follow. This includes homework, meal times, bath or shower time, TV time, and screen time. For instance, Paula told her children, ages six and eight, that after they finished their homework, they could have 30 minutes of screen time or TV time. Then they took showers after dinner, and had 30 minutes of reading time before bedtime. By eliminating screen time before bedtime, she found that her sons slept better and woke up refreshed and ready for the rigors of a school day.
- Try new recipes or ways to prepare food together. Make preparing meals together a family tradition and it will give your kids something special to look forward to. Even a new pizza or pasta recipe (combining different vegetables and sauces) can add variety to your menu and jazz up your dinner table. My personal favorite is Thai chicken pizza made with leftover chicken and peanut sauce, combined and spread on a pizza crust, then topped with mozzarella cheese.
- Start a weekly game night and unplug electronic devices. Purchase a few inexpensive games and/or cards and designate one night a week to having sandwiches or pizza and let the fun begin. Children of all ages usually enjoy simple games like checkers, Connect Four, or UNO. Some kids even thrive on playing more complicated games like chess or Monopoly, and teens often appreciate word games like Scrabble. If your kids resist unplugging their phones or iPads at first, be persistent and they’ll probably get used to it.
- Listen with the intention of understanding and validating your children’s view. First, it’s a given that your children probably have a relationship with your ex-spouse and try not to take it personally if they prefer to do some activities with him or her. Be flexible and understanding about their needs and wishes. Divorced families are complex and even if your kids seem reluctant to try something new like game night, being persistent will pay off. Validate their feelings by saying things such as, “I understand you don’t think checkers is fun, but maybe give it a try. You are very smart and may enjoy it.”
In recent years, parents across the globe have been confronted with unprecedented and unimaginable concerns about their children’s health, emotional well-being, and how well they’re being educated with the arrival of distance learning. We’ve also experienced the stress associated with reduced resources available in schools and communities, which is especially taxing for single-parent families.
Many single-parents, like Paula, are seeking new ways to and entertain their children and reduce their stress and anxiety. Even with limited resources, it’s possible to create new traditions such as game night and a bi-weekly hike or brisk walk that can help you bond with your children and keep everyone mentally stimulated and physically fit while we look to the future and brighter days ahead!
Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry