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10 Things You Must Know About Raising a Toddler

10 Things You Must Know About Raising a Toddler

Toddlers are amazing little snot factories, aren’t they? It’s absolutely incredible to watch them pick up new skills, words, and concepts each day. It’s also absolutely incredible to turn around for .0174 seconds, only to discover they can summon the destructive power of a category 5 hurricane in that amount of time.

No matter how wonderful they are, parenting a toddler can still be a frustrating, scary, confusing process. Until such a time as an infallible, infinite, comprehensive owner’s manual becomes available, parents are resigned to simply doing the best they can.

Thankfully, that best can be pretty darn good, if you’ve got the right help. In need of some assistance? Here are 10 things you have to know when raising a toddler.

1. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

This is going to sound trite, and frankly, silly – but kids are like snowflakes.

No two kids are alike. Your sticky little munchkin is not going to react exactly like your BFF’s offspring. Your second child will present totally different infection symptoms than their big brother or sister did. Your little genius will learn at a different pace, and have different skills and strengths than your braggart of a cousin’s obnoxious little Einstein.

While this can make looking for parenting advice and concrete answers more than a bit frustrating, this snowflake revelation should also be a bit freeing. If nothing else, “every kid is different” makes a great mantra to repeat when you’re feeling bombarded by competitive parents trying to turn everything into a contest.

2. Be Crazy Selective

Finding answers for your special snowflake’s latest health or behavioral issue can be difficult, given the aforementioned lack of a comprehensive owner’s manual. This can drive parents from message board to message board, mommy blog to mommy blog in search of an answer. Any answer.

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Although there are amazing, talented, wise, and knowledgeable amateur bloggers out there with healthy and helpful tips, there are also a lot of people who are armed with little more than an internet connection and loud opinions.

That’s why it’s so important to be crazy selective about what resources you turn to. It may seem square, but proven, respected sources like PBS or the American Academy of Pediatrics really are your best bet. Or, to be really boring, you could try talking to your kid’s pediatrician.

3. You’re Living With a Sponge

This one is pretty simple: Your kid is like a little sponge, absorbing everything you say. Whether it’s mimicking the way you answer the phone or repeating the most unfortunate part of your recent road rage rant, whatever comes out of your mouth is going to come out of theirs, too.

Do with that knowledge what you will.

4. Oh, You Should Probably Invest in Sponges

That same little terror that is repeating everything you say will also fly about your house like a hummingbird on speed, making messes you never dreamed were humanly possible.

First, there’s the never-ending stream of bodily fluids – thanks, stomach viruses and potty-training! Then there’s whatever ungodly notion crossed their mind that day that resulted in a SpaghettiO mosaic on your ceiling, or crop-circle-like grooves dug in your expensive hardwood floor.

You’ll learn to keep a creative and extensive arsenal of cleaning supplies on hand, from a never-ending supply of baby wipes, to baking soda, to vinegar, to a spare tube of toothpaste. What’s that? Yeah, I said toothpaste. That goop will give you minty fresh breath and get crayon off your walls, ink out of your clothes, and scuff marks off your floor.

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5. All Work and No Play … Is a Terrible Idea

Kids, especially little kids, don’t need to spend hours a day racking up resume points for their college applications.

Although fear for your child’s future and success is understandable, preschool is way too young to have kids working on a college-prep checklist.

Experts agree, what kids really need is time to play. The sad truth is that kids spend 50% less time playing than they did in the 1970s. And while times they are a-changing, and play helps develop their imaginations and get out all that crazy kid energy, playing is also how kids learn. Letting them play isn’t setting them back, it’s giving them a chance to grow.

6. Structure Is Your Friend

It’s really easy for little kids to get overwhelmed. They’re tiny and still new to the world: They need order and a certain amount of predictability to feel safe.

That’s why one of the best things you can do is try to give them a bit of structure: Regular mealtimes, regular bedtimes, consistent discipline, etc.

Sure, life will get in the way and they’ll stay up too late one night, or you’ll cave and give them that extra cookie even after they threw their dinner in your face. However, occasional breaks are nothing to worry about. It’s a lack of structure and too much freedom that can really throw your kids out of whack.

Providing structure doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, instead of asking what they want for lunch, offer two options to pick between. They’ll still feel grown up and important and involved, but they won’t feel overwhelmed by endless choices, or inspired to throw a temper tantrum when you say no to Fruit Loop encrusted prime rib. Not that it doesn’t sound delicious, you just don’t have the necessary ingredients on hand.

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7. You Need a Poker Face

A good poker face and a game plan are essential when it comes to dealing with tantrums or naughty behavior.

Flying off the handle won’t help, and neither will giving in. Instead, establish a safe spot for your toddler’s time out and then go take your own. You’ll both get a chance to calm down, and you can take that time to reaffirm your parenting views and prepare yourself to re-enter the lion’s den.

Please, pay no attention to the scrambled metaphors behind the curtain.

8. Look for the Roots

Yeah, there’s always a root of the problem.

Sometimes it’s just that kids are selfish little stinkers who want their own way and don’t want to stop playing for dinner, or don’t want to share their toys with Jimmy. Other times, your kid is tired, or sick, or scared, or overwhelmed, or lonely, or dealing with any number of underlying issues.

Some of these will be bad attitudes you need to address, others will be signals that routines need to change – like bedtime needs to be earlier – or emotional needs need to be addressed. Whatever the case, you and your child will both benefit from your willingness to look beyond the surface actions of temper tantrums and bad behavior.

That surface issue still needs to be addressed – hitting a sibling is never okay, even if it happened because the culprit was overtired – but you’ll get more by digging a little deeper.

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9. Your Actions Speak Loudest

Remember that bit about sponges? Not the bit about cleaning, the one about your kids repeating everything you say.

Yeah, that goes double for everything you do.

All your instructions, rules, life lessons, and world-views don’t mean diddly squat if you aren’t living them out for your kids to see. Your kids are going to do what you do, so if you’re saying one thing and doing another, guess which they’re going to imitate?

No one expects you to be perfect. Just keep in mind what you want your kids to see you doing and what you don’t.

10. They Grow Up So Fast

To a new parent, or even a non-parent, that phrase can seem so cliché. At first you roll your eyes and wish well-meaning geriatrics would stop telling you that.

Then you blink and your 2-day-old is now a 2-year-old, and you suddenly get it.

Your little kids will only be little kids for a short period of time. It’s so important to cherish and treasure and make the most of that time while you can.

It may feel impossible with work and other obligations, but there are plenty of ways you can spend time with your kids, even when it feels like you have no time at all.

So don’t wish away those tantrums and boogie stalactites and mysterious stains so quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be looking at lists for 10 Things You Must Know About Surviving Life With a Teenager, or 10 Ways to Get Your Ungrateful 30-Year-Old-Child to Answer Your Texts Sometime This Century.

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Published on September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

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