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Published on September 4, 2020

How to Manage Single Parenting Positively

How to Manage Single Parenting Positively

In 2013, single moms ran 25% of homes in the United States.[1] Another 6% of the families, meanwhile, only had single fathers. Of course, this number has continued to rise since then. Even though single parenting is becoming increasingly more common, it doesn’t mean that it is getting any easier.

If you have been a single parent for a while, then you know how true it is. If you have recently become a single parent, you are likely just learning about the challenges and how to balance life, work, and family while trying to be a good mom or dad.

Nevertheless, do not despair — there is still hope. Single parenting can be done, and your child can grow up to be happy and prosperous.

How Single Parenting Affects a Child

It was once highly stigmatized to be the child of a single parent. The terms “illegitimate” and “broken home” were often attached to them. With the increase of single-parent homes, though, the situation has become more normal than ever.

The Positive

There is often a robust parent-and-child bond in single-parent homes because it is usually just the two of them against the world.

Another positive thing is that children in single-parent homes become more responsible and mature compared to their peers from dual-parent families. After all, they get household chores out of necessity to help their mom or dad.

The Negative

The adverse effects of coming from a single-parent household are consistent across different studies.

One research explains that children from such homes are more likely to have emotional struggles, drop out of school, and avoid pursuing higher education.[2]

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Still, it doesn’t mean that all children from single parents fall into this position. It truly dependents on the overall support that they have gotten from loved ones. Hence, single moms and dads need to set up a support system for themselves and their kids so that extended family and friends can offer help as needed.

Another study found that family relationships were the best predictor of a child’s success in academia and other endeavors.[3] It’s true because the parent-child relationship is very important.

Kids need to be in a loving, caring, and nurturing environment that boosts their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. That’s easy to achieve, whether one or both parents are present. (Try this helpful article: 11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother)

A Single Parent’s Role in the Family

Someone becomes a single parent happens because of a variety of reasons, with divorce, separation, and death on top of the list. Their life is not easy since they need to be an income earner, household manager, disciplinarian, parent, tutor, maid, chauffeur, and loving parent all at once.

Wearing many hats is not a cakewalk for anyone. Playing many life roles while also caring for one or more children takes courage, effort, and commitment. (Assuming you need help in that department, check this out: 13 Ways Working Moms Can Balance Work and Family (And Be Happy))

Often, people don’t choose to raise kids on their own — it’s more of a result of an unfortunate situation. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, though. It merely entails that if you have recently become a single parent, you can set up your life for success in this situation by doing some planning.

How To Survive Single Parenting

1. Have Realistic Expectations

If you set the bar too high, you are bound to be disappointed. Set your expectations realistically when it comes to single parenting.

For example, if you are working two jobs to make ends meet, then being able to attend every soccer game and practice of your child may not be realistic. You may have to ask a friend or family member to get them to and from sports events.

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You will be there when you can and when your work schedule allows, but knowing that it won’t always work out as expected helps you to be practical in life. Nonetheless, you need to discuss realistic expectations with your child, so they understand why you can’t always be there for them, even when you want to be.

2. Do Your Best

Every parent needs to let go of their pursuit of perfection. This is especially true when you have more on your plate than moms or dads in dual-parent homes. You can’t do it all correctly. You need to let some things go and do your best in different situations.

Decisions should be made to help make your life more streamlined with your top priorities. For instance, you may have to skip making home-made lunches for your child and give them lunch money instead because it gives you one less thing to do in the mornings.

Try to be flexible. You are only one human being, after all. Just do your best to focus on your kids more than anything else.

They don’t need the best clothes or most fabulous toys that money can buy when they know they have you.

3. Stay Guilt-Free

Most parents tend to feel guilty when it comes to the children, regardless of the situation.

Well, you need to ease up and let go of that guilt because there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Something has to give, especially when you are the only one raising your kids.

Don’t get sucked into feeling guilty because you can’t do everything on your own. Yes, you may miss some games. Yes, your child cannot have whatever they want all the time. But this is life, and it is not always fair. Although it is sad, it is not the end of the world.

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If your child had a choice, they will choose their parent over any video game or material item any day of the week. Hence, you should not entertain guilt feelings anymore. Stay focused on the importance of your relationship and the fact that you are trying your mightiest to be a great parent and provider.

4. Have a Positive Attitude

Our children feed off of our emotions. The number one role model for a child is their parent. Therefore, parents must be conscious of their attitude and approach toward life.

Life will get complicated, and there will be bumps along the way. An old saying goes like this: “Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% our reaction.”

Say, you find out that your bonus from work is not what you expected it to be. You will have to alter your vacation plans because of that and break the news to your kid. One positive way to react to the situation is by saying, “That’s okay! At least we still get to go on vacation somewhere that’s on our bucket list. Perhaps we can visit the other place next year.”

If we choose to react to challenges positively, we are a good role model for our child. Keep the attitude positive so that your child can emulate your attitude.

Try these 11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude.

5. Develop a Support System

As mentioned above, single parents can ask for assistance from extended family, friends, church, community, and other people on the same boat. Some organizations like Single & Parenting helps provide support and information to single parents, for instance.[4] If you visit their website, you can enter your location to find a support group near you.

6. Keep a Schedule

Children perform best when they are following a schedule. When lives become uncertain or unpredictable, it can be scary for kids and possibly cause anxiety.

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To best help our children, we should strive to offer structure by creating a daily routine that gives them security and predictability. Something as simple as setting up wake-up time and bedtime can improve their sleep patterns. Other helpful practices include sitting down together for dinner every night and scheduling hours for homework and studies after school.

7. Take Care of Yourself

Self-care

is essential for parents, single or not. However, single parents often forget me-time because they have too much to do in life. What they don’t realize is that prioritizing yourself regularly can make you feel refreshed.

The self-care methods you pick can only be activities that feed the mind, soul, and body positively. Say, you can get some exercise during the week and attend religious services.

By taking care of yourself, you can provide the best care for your child, too.

Final Thoughts

If you have recently become a single parent, then life is changing for both you and your child(ren).

Don’t allow the situation to make you lose sight of the critical things in your life. Maintain a fantastic attitude and focus on your new life with your child. Let go of your “what if’s” and ideological views of what your life is supposed to look like.

What matters right now is that you are with them. Love your child and do the best moving forward.

More Thoughts on Becoming a Single Parent

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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