Good parenting isn’t just about making sure that your children get to bed on time, eat their vegetables, and brush their teeth every day. That’s all part of keeping your kids healthy, and that’s important, but there’s more to good family health than that. You’ve got to keep your own health in mind, both physical and emotional. You need to find ways to do more in less time – as a single mother, time is one thing you can never have too much of! Read these twenty tips to find out the best ways to have a healthy family life in all ways, for yourself and your children both.
#20 – De-stress Your Daily Schedule
You’ve probably heard the saying “less is more” and when it comes to having a healthy and happy family, sometimes the less you do, the better. What this means is that you need to look at your schedule and get rid of anything that’s just cluttering it up. Find ways to save time and be more efficient, and you’ll lose even more stress from your daily life. For three easy ways to find more time in every week, read this article.
#19 – Learn to Let Go
Many single mothers feel like they have to do more, to be better, to make everything perfect for their children, especially when those children are going through a difficult time during divorce or custody battles. You need to learn how to let go of the things that you can’t control, and focus on what you can actually do or change. Life might not be perfect, but you won’t make it any more perfect by getting stressed and worried about things you can’t do anything about.
#18 – Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes
This tip builds on #19 and is just as important. You don’t need to be perfect. Your children don’t need to be perfect. Your ex ISN’T perfect, as you know very well! Give yourself permission to make mistakes – as long as there’s no real harm done, you and your family will survive them. What’s really interesting is that the more you relax and stop worrying about doing something wrong, the better chance you’ll have of doing it right! And don’t forget to give your kids the same chance to try, to fail, and to try again.
#17 – Learn to Stay Calm
Count to five before you say, or do, something you’ll regret later. Better yet, count to 10. Best of all, learn ways to keep your cool and stay balanced in almost any situation. When it’s obvious that you’re stressed out, angry, and upset, your children will notice, and they’ll start feeling unbalanced as well. Counting to 10, taking a few slow deep breaths, or just walking away for a minute or two can all be ways to clear your head. Meditation is a good way to develop a calmer spirit, and UCLA has a series of free podcasts that introduce basic techniques. Get more information here.
#16 – Take Some “Me” Time
Being a mother might be an important job, but it’s not the only thing in life. Make time to take care of yourself, and get a break from family responsibilities, even if it’s just for half an hour. That might mean sitting with a cup of tea and a good book after the kids are in bed, or taking a walk in your local park before they get home from school. Find something you enjoy, and find time – alone – to do it.
#15 – Treat Yourself Well
You do everything you can to make sure that your children have everything they need and want, but what about you? You’ve got needs, too, you know! Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to spend lots of money on expensive gifts for yourself (unless that’s something you want to budget for). Do you have a favorite author? Get their latest novel at the library, and make time to read it. Does a pedicure lift your spirits like nothing else? Save up for a trip to the salon, or find some quiet time to pamper yourself at home. Your happiness is important, and when you’re happy, it’s easier to make other people happy.
#14 – Share the Work
As soon as a child is old enough to understand and participate in daily and weekly household chores, you can get them involved. Actually, before kids “learn” to hate chores, they enjoy helping! If your child asks to help with anything, do your best to let them help. At first, this might require a little extra time, but once they know the routine, you can save time. Whether or not you provide an allowance, kids who have household chores learn important lessons in cooperation and responsibility.
#13 – Focus on the Children
When you’re dealing with shared custody or holiday visits with your ex, you might be tempted to just stay as far away as possible and keep your kids at home. However, your children may really miss their other relatives. If your children have a preference, and there aren’t agreed custody schedules involved, be as flexible as possible when it comes to where they spend their time.
#12 – Create Stability
Speaking of custody schedules, if you have one, stick to it. Kids are most comfortable when they know what to expect, and last-minute changes are troubling and create anxiety. Use a big wall calendar to let them see what’s coming up in the days and weeks to come.
#11 – Get Organized
Even five minutes saved is five extra minutes you can use for something else. If you don’t already have the habit of planning your shopping, your meals, and your other household chores (not to mention everything else you have going on) then look into planning techniques as soon as possible! You can find a lot of good advice from other busy parents on this Pinterest page.
#10 – Get Support
You don’t have to be alone. You don’t have to do everything yourself. It might be hard to ask for help, even when you really need it, but there are many people who would be happy to pitch in. To find out more about the 5 best support networks for single moms, read this article.
#9 – Make New Friends
Your friends can be a great source of support, to you personally and to your family. However, if you’ve recently divorced, you might be faced with the difficult situation of having friends who knew you both and who are unwilling to take sides. Or worse, they take sides – and not yours. Now’s the time to look for new friends and create your own relationships.
#8 – Plan for Happy Times
With a busy routine, important responsibilities, and last-minute emergencies you have to cope with every day, it’s easy to forget that having fun together as a family is just as important. This can be in little things like watching a favorite television show with your kids in the evening, or an impromptu picnic on the weekend when the weather is good, but you should also plan time to have fun together. Make “fun” one of your budget items, whether that’s for your weekly planning or for your summer vacation. Set aside as much money as practical to make it a special time. You can even get your kids involved in saving money! Look for a big empty gallon jar or other container and drop spare change in whenever you can, and encourage the kids to do the same. You’ll be surprised how the pennies add up. For ideas on finding a little extra work and money in your spare time, read this article.
#7 – Keep on Top of Your Finances
Why is this a parenting tip? Two reasons. First, if you aren’t taking control over your weekly and monthly budgeting, and know what bills are coming due and when, you’ll find yourself unable to keep up with other aspects of family life that are directly related to parenting: buying groceries, taking care of your children’s health, even paying school fees. Second, if you set an example for your kids of good money management, they’ll learn from you. They’ll also be more aware of the real money situation in the house; you can make it clear that the family budget has limits, without going into details. If you depend on child support payments to make ends meet and you’re having difficulties with getting the money you’re due, be sure to get legal advice as soon as possible. You can get more information on child support in this article.
#6 – Communicate With Your Kids
While you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) share everything with your kids, especially about things like having trouble collecting child support, you need to make sure they understand what’s going on. Children are actually more comfortable when they have a realistic view of the situation, and you can be honest without giving them details that they don’t need to know, or can’t deal with at that age. Even more importantly, make sure you encourage your children to talk to you. If they know that you’ll listen to them and return their honesty, they’ll trust you and many family problems can be handled simply by talking about them.
#5 – Be Prepared for Emergencies
Kids aren’t the only ones who need honesty in their lives – you do, too. That means facing up to the fact that an emergency could happen at any time, and you need to be ready for that. You also need to get your children prepared so that they know what to do whether you’re there or not. Have a list of emergency contact numbers by the telephone, and make sure your kids know who to turn to in the neighborhood. Find someone you trust (your sister, your mother, your best friend) to act for you in case something happens to you, and leave their information with your kids’ schools and doctors. Have a first-aid kit ready in the house, too. For information on putting a kit together, and coping with medical emergencies, read this article.
#4 – Stay Healthy
Speaking of health … you might be so focused on making sure that your kids are healthy that you neglect yourself. Don’t! Think about those safety lectures that they give on airplanes, where they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first, and then help your child put hers on. There’s a good reason for that: if you’re unconscious, you can’t help your child. And if you’re not healthy, you can’t take care of your children. Keep up with your own doctor’s appointments, make sure you get enough sleep, and eat a balanced diet.
#3 – Look for Inspiration
Other women dealt with the same things as single mothers, and if you’re feeling down or need some motivation, sometimes it helps to look for examples of successful women (and men) who have gotten through the difficulties. Check your library for autobiographies of people you admire, and read them for inspiration.
#2 – Don’t Try to be Supermom
Even if you get inspiration from reading about or watching other parents, don’t compare yourself to them. And whatever you do, don’t hold yourself up to some impossible standard of perfection as a parent. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll forget things, you’ll lose your temper now and then – and that’s okay. Take a deep breath, hug your kids, and start again.
#1 – Have Fun!
What memories do you want your children to have of you? Wouldn’t it be great if they remembered laughing, playing, and just having fun with you as much as anything else? Yes, you’ve got to do the “mean mom” chores of making them do their homework and put away their clean clothes, but they won’t remember that nearly as much as their fun, happy times with you. Play games with your kids as often as possible, sing silly songs together, tell each other jokes, go to the park, play board games on rainy days. You don’t have a lot of free time as a single mom, but make time to create good memories – because you’ll remember them, too.