There is definitely an art and a science to successful single parenting. Since I was raised by a single parent and raised two children solo for a few years, it’s worth mentioning that there is a silver lining to being a single mom. Fortunately, many moms gain self-confidence in their ability to handle challenges and their children become more determined and independent.
However, making the transition from married to single life won’t be easy for you or your children. It takes time to adjust to financial changes, expanded household and childcare responsibilities and being alone. It’s essential that you develop daily habits and routines to smooth the way for you and your children.
The key to successful single parenting is to reflect daily upon the importance of preparing for your new life and accepting that change is necessary. It will take time for you and your children to adjust to your new lifestyle but developing a positive mindset will help ease the transition.
Since I’ve always found paradigms and principles useful to setting goals, I will borrow habits from Stephen R. Covey‘s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and adapt them for single moms. In several cases, I borrowed his heading and in others, developed my own.
7 Habits of an efficient single mom
1. Be proactive: Get support for yourself and your children. This includes counseling, social outlets, and child care. Avoid playing the role of victim and remind yourself that things will get better over time.
2. Create a positive vision: Take control of your life and develop a clear picture of where you are heading. Decide what your values are for raising your children and start with setting three goals that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that it can take up to a month to see any change.
3. Prioritize: Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep the focus on spending time with your kids and positive interactions. For instance, in our house we had pizza on Tuesday nights which gave us one weeknight to spend more time together when I wasn’t so focused on cooking and cleaning up.
4. Think win-win: Make peace with your ex and keep it that way. No matter how you feel about your ex, don’t bad mouth him or argue in front of your kids. Children pick up on petty fighting and may take it personally. So walk away or take on the role of peacemaker if tension is brewing with your ex. Otherwise, your children will feel forced to take sides, which may cause them to develop loyalty conflicts and possibly emotional problems if there is high conflict.
5. Seek first to understand: then to be understood: Open up the lines of communication with your kids. Be open and honest without giving them too many details or blaming your ex for the divorce. Even if you perceive that he was responsible they shouldn’t hear it from you. Take every opportunity to listen, support, and encourage them to talk about their feelings with you and/or someone they trust.
6. Ensure smooth transitions. Work with your children and possibly your ex to reduce stress in the lives of your children. Children often experience stress moving from parent to parent after divorce. Try your best to develop routines for their leaving and coming home. Be sure not to make them a messenger or ask them to report on the parent they just left. Attempt to be flexible yet consistent with the custody schedule. Keep in mind that as kids reach adolescence they may become rebellious about following the original custody schedule and need more control.
7. It’s Me Time: Take time to do the things that you enjoy. Set expectations for your children to do regular chores. This doesn’t mean overburdening them with too much responsibility. However, having high expectations for your kids will set the stage for making them more independent and will allow you to have more downtime.
How can you embrace this time of your life as an opportunity? First of all, it’s imperative that you focus on the things that are truly important and learn to let other things go. This involves making a commitment to helping your children adjust to your divorce and practicing amicable co-parenting. Working together with your ex and communicating effectively is ideal. However, if this isn’t possible, either because your ex is absent or adversarial, you can still become a successful single parent.
Be patient with your children – it will encourage their cooperation. Give your kids time to adjust to the news that their parents are no longer married. Keep in mind that they will need time to get used to their new schedule and they may show signs of distress or withdraw at times. Reassure them that you are there for them and that things will get better.
At times, you may feel guilty about putting your children through a divorce but don’t let that stop you from setting effective limits and boundaries. For instance, allowing your children to stay up late or sleep with you may backfire because you both need your space and sleep. Be aware that kids play parents off each other and may say things like “Dad lets me stay up until midnight.” Even if this is true, you can say “Your dad has his rules, but in my house bedtime is at 9pm.”
As a single mom, it is of primary importance that you help your children cope with your divorce and develop a mindset of being a positive role model for them. In order to do this, you must take care of yourself. Parents who take control of their own lives, with courage and resilience, help their children do the same. Being a single mom draws on every ounce of energy from you, forcing you to become a more compassionate person.
Learn to trust yourself and embrace your new life by taking care of you. For example, sign up for yoga or an exercise class, eat healthy, and schedule in social times with friends. You will be a more effective parent if you are rested and feel connected to others. Counseling, coaching, or a support group can be helpful supports that will enhance your transition to your new life.
As a parent who is taking care of herself and gaining confidence, you are equipping your child with the best tools possible and the self-esteem to move forward with their life. Developing a sense of adventure and new rituals such as family game night or walks will help you stay connected with your children.
Your divorce can be seen as a transforming event, and you alone are responsible for creating a new kind of family for you and your children. You can choose to model self-acceptance and hope for your kids. Learning to laugh at yourself and focusing on the big picture will enable you and your children to make a good adjustment to divorce.
More from Terry