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Stress and the Single Mother

Stress and the Single Mother

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and if you are doing it solo—that is, if you are a single mom (or single dad,) then you are really working hard.  Here are a few tips for keeping your sanity, and in the process role modeling healthy behaviors for your children.

Play is good for you!  A recent study at Kansas State University found that more parent engagement—whether by playing or reading a book—resulted in a lower level of parental stress.  In other words, playing daily with your children not only helps your children—it also helps you!  (Read more about this study here)

Find, create, accept, borrow, or buy a village.  We all know it takes a village to raise a child, so what does a single parent do?  Look around for help, support, community, and relief.  Can you trade babysitting with a friend? Accept your retired neighbor’s offer to rock the baby for one nap?  Could you join a church with a single-parent support network?  How about hiring a babysitter at night once a month?  What could you do to add supportive people into your life?  You need a break, your kids need other adults to learn from, and sometimes both can happen at the same time.

Remember what you can control, and what you can’t control.  #1 on the list of things you can’t control is other people—especially your ex, although it’s also true about your children!  Focus on establishing YOUR boundaries—for example: “I won’t listen if someone is speaking disrespectfully to me,” or “I won’t answer nosy questions from my ex and will steer the topic back to the children.”  You can’t make someone else do—or not do—anything, but you can set limits on what you will and won’t participate in.

Set appropriate expectations for your children about the differences they may experience if they travel between 2 houses.  Children, even young ones, can learn two sets of rules (they already do—school and home have separate rules!)  With your help and support, your children can learn that even if bedtime is 10pm at their father’s house, it’s still 8pm over here, and that they really are expected to clear the dining room table every night, and so on.

Take care of yourself.  It’s really such a critically important thing but moms can be so forgetful about this… take care of you!  Make sure you get enough sleep, feed your body healthy foods, take a walk or something similar every day, and don’t forget the social support, too!  Get a date with your best friend on your calendar.

Taking care of your needs, your stress level, and your health are all great ways to role model healthy living for your children.  What step could you take today?

Katie Malinski Katie Malinski LCSW is a licensed child and family therapist and parenting coach. In addition to her one-on-one work with families and children, she presents dynamic parenting workshops on a variety of topics, including: Beyond Birds and Bees, Parenting Through Divorce, Typical Parenting Conflicts, and many more. Learn more about Katie at www.KatieMalinski.com.
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