How to Adjust to Being a Single Parent

Being a single parent isn't easy and the transition seems impossible. Here are some tips to help you cope.


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    Don't waste time being angry. After relationship breakdown or sudden bereavement it is very easy to be angry to 'be left holding the baby' so to speak. This is unproductive and ultimately not good for you or your child as it feeds your negativity about the situation. This is easier said than done, but if you can avoid it then you can focus more on you and your child.
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    Plan for the future! Even if you can only cope with planning next week then try to plan it in mind-numbing detail. Aside from anything else it helps with step one as your attention and time is taken up so that you don't have the time to dwell on the past.
    • As a single parent it is really important to become organised as you have to cope with EVERYTHING and this is easier with planning. If you are a stay at home parent this is particularly important as you have more time to dwell, become negative and if you stay at home all day you won't socialise with many adults which can lead to becoming depressed and unmotivated.
    • Try looking for free groups, such as toddler and baby groups at local libraries, churches, etc. If your child is at school then it may be worth looking for a part time job during that period, not just for the extra money, but for the social interaction. You will feel better if you are doing something for yourself every once in a while.
    • Don't be afraid to say no to things that drain your time and energy, such as volunteering at your child's school or fundraising for the PTA.
    • Be consistent in your parenting. Establish house rules and stick to them, such as early bedtime on school nights.
    • If you are a working parent then it is also very important as you need to balance work and home life (try searching articles to help with this) and need to arrange a back up in case you don't reach your child's school etc on time. The following website lists registered childminders, nurseries etc in your local area
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    Plan meals, including school lunches, several days in advance. Shop for groceries once a week. Keep a few frozen or boxed meals on hand for evenings when you're running late. Fast-food meals should be an occasional treat instead of a habit.
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    Set up a support network. There are many single parent websites such as where you can get information and advice as well as chat on online chat rooms with other single parents. If your child is at school or nursery then socialise with the other parents. Make friends arrange play dates etc. This is important as it helps your child make friends, but it also helps establish a support network so if you are caught in traffic you can ring another parent to pick up your child from school. Make sure you are prepared to return the favors!
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    Don't expect too much of yourself. If you have a meltdown one day and find yourself in tears, don't be upset with yourself. Pick yourself up, accept that everyone struggles occasionally and try again. Be honest with your child; it's perfectly fine to say that you are short-tempered because you had a bad day at work.
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    Have time for yourself. Make sure you can schedule yourself some time, if you can't afford a babysitter etc then get your child in a routine of going to bed at a certain time and have an hour when they are in bed where you don't do any housework or chores and you do something you like, such as a glass of wine and a film, a long chat with an old friend on the phone, etc. You will feel better for it and it stops life feeling like one long chore, which is no good for you or your child.
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    Be financially stable. You have to deal with everything now so be organised. Write down what is going in each week, what needs to be spent and how much spare money there is. Be aware that there will be many unexpected costs (such as your child suddenly growing out of all the trousers in the house!) and you need to be saving money for that eventuality. Make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to such as tax credits, child benefit, income support etc.
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    Have fun! Make sure you do an enjoyable activity with your child at LEAST once a week, that way you remember the joys of parenthood as well as the stress and worry.
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    If you are separated from an ex, then try your best to put your child first. Make sure you focus on your child's best interest before your anger. If your ex is dating someone, don't pump the child for information about that person.
    • Focus on what suits your child, if your ex pays nothing and turns up less than once a month then rather than fighting this and trying to make them a responsible parent try to focus on being a good parent yourself and see if your child is happy with the arrangement. If they are, then by all means contact child maintenance, but make sure that you don't contact your ex about money or hassle him to turn up more as this will just become an argument.
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    • If it distresses your child then talk to your ex calmly to explain this. Rather than screaming at him or her 'Josh waited two hours for you to turn up and you didn't even ring to say you wouldn't be there. He was in tears all night all because you are a terrible parent!' try saying something like' this arrangement isn't good for Josh as he wants to see more of you and he gets very upset when he expects to see you and then you aren't there. If things are too busy for you then I understand that but Josh doesn't so you need to decide if you have the time to see him. If not then it's a shame for both of you but I understand and josh will adapt eventually as long you stay away and give him time to deal with being without you. What he can't cope with is the inconsistency. I am leaving it up to you to decide and you can let me know.' If you are calm and reasonable then your ex may consider the situation rather than reacting to your anger.
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    Good luck and keep looking online as there are so many people in the same situation so you can find further advice and help.


  • Sleepovers can wreck a single parent's weekend. The child often comes home cranky from staying up well past their bedtime. This can put a damper on whatever you had planned for the day, such as taking them shopping. If sleepovers cause a continual problem, either limit them or make sure you coordinate the issue of bedtime hours with the parent hosting the sleepover.
  • If your child wants to participate in extra-curricular activities, such as sports, carefully consider the time commitment and cost. You will be responsible for getting the child to practice on time, which may be difficult if you work outside your home. Your child will expect you to attend all games, which may take away from having time to yourself.

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Categories: Parenting