Last week I published an article on my experience as a single father. It’s both the most rewarding and exhausting experience one can endure. This article addresses some tips for single parenting.
Plan activities you and all of your children can take part in
Each of my children was three years apart in age. There are a number of activities we could all take part in. We would go to the Philadelphia Zoo, the movies or Celebration Station (which is now a Chuck E. Cheese). And, often I would bring along their friends. There were outdoor activities like tag, basketball or baseball at local playgrounds. I would take my kids down to the shore at Atlantic City and sometimes stay to catch a show (George Carlin, Dionne Warwick and The Temptations among them). We would go to amusement and water parks often staying the night at a motel. It’s a great time to bond with your children. And sometimes all you have to do is play a card or board game with all of your children.
Spend quality time with each of your children
With children of different ages, you can’t do everything with them all together. My son was an ardent Philadelphia Eagles fan (and I was not). I took him to the Eagles training camp each year, just the two of us. One year my youngest pleaded to come with us. David wasn’t too happy… until it was time to get autographs. Cheryl (three years younger and small for her age) dashed through the crowd and returned with a number of autographs and gave them to my son. He was thrilled she had tagged along. I taught my youngest daughter to drive in the parking lot of The Bazaar, a now defunct gathering of dozens of locally owned stores under one roof. I spend time with each of my kids each night when they went to bed. My youngest daughter had horseback riding lessons. My oldest daughter had some good friends. I would take she and her friends to the mall. I played basketball with my son. There are so many things you can do with each child to give them the attention they deserve.
Make time to go to parent-teacher conference
Make time to go to parent-teacher conference and join the local PTA (or Home School Association as they were called in Philadelphia). You need to learn your children’s strengths and weaknesses in school. My kid’s teachers were able to accommodate my schedule (I was a teacher myself). And taking part in the local PTA allowed me to have a say in how the school was run.
Set routines for your children
Give your kids an inch and they’ll take a mile. I made sure my kids got up early enough on school days to prepare for the day. My oldest daughter, as she got became a teen, would need far more time dressing and putting on makeup than my son or my youngest daughter. While I made breakfast for them they had to do the dishes. They each had household chores. They took out their clothes the night before for the following day. After school, they would do their homework at a given time before we would embark on a family activity.
Timeouts for bad behavior
I learned early on that when one of my kids misbehaved not to overreact. Rather than rant and rave right on the spot, I would send the offender to his/her room so both of us could calm down. We would then discuss what had occurred and a suitable punishment was meted out. Keep in mind it’s no easy chore being a single parent to three kids (or even just one). You can get irritable. So, rather than lash out at misbehavior a time out gives you the time to handle the situation properly.
Make sure each of your children has responsibilities
I would give my children an allowance, but they had to earn it. Whether it be setting the table, washing dishes, washing their clothes, cleaning their room, help to shovel snow, completing their homework each of my children had chores to do before they could go out with their friends.
Things have changed since my kids were growing up. Now kids spend hours on cell phones. Back in the day kids would read for pleasure. I would take my children to the library several times a week. I would read to my youngest who as she got older would read to me. Reading became a habit for my children they never outgrew.
It’s important for kids to have friends and not do everything as a family. It wasn’t easy for my kids when they would spend just the summer (and Christmas) with me. It was bad enough that living on an army base with their mother and stepfather they saw friends come and go frequently. Making friends was no easy chore for them knowing within a year they or their friends could move away. My oldest daughter had friends before my divorce. When she spent the summer with me she would spend a good deal of time with her friends. My other two children were more reluctant to make friends knowing they would be leaving at the end of the summer, but I encouraged them. They did make friends and I would drive they and their friends to movies and other activities.
Last but certainly not least, make time for yourself
Being a single parent is a full-time job and it can be exhausting. You need “me” time. I was a night person. When my kids went to bed, I would spend time reading, watching some television but most important writing (which became my passion). I would sometimes stay up until two in the morning working on a novel. I might regret it the next morning but it was a time I needed for myself.
Being a single parent is no easy chore. You have a tremendous responsibility molding your children and providing values and guidance that will become part of their lives. Your reward often comes later in life when your kids are adults and you can see yourself in them because of the time you have spent with them when they were young. There’s no better feeling.
Also read: How to Make Learning Fun for Your Kid