With more and more children living in single - parent homes today, this creates more stress for both the children and the parent. But here, we want to talk about how to relieve some of the stress that single parent’s face.

Dr. James Waxmonsky, child psychiatrist at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, says single parent s have multiple points of stress, including financial hardships, divorce, the loss of a spouse, rejection, and the sense of being in “parenting” alone.

According to Waxmonsky, one of the most important things a single parent can do is to find some “me time.” He says that scheduling “me time” will improve your capacity to be a more effective parent in the long run. Caring for yourself gives you what you need to be the best parent you can be – and that is what we are all trying to do.

Dan Marrow, senior psychotherapist and supervisor of Holy Spirit Healthy System’s Children’s Behavioral Healthy Services, says single parents need to do the following:

  • Start with prioritizing what is essential and what there is simply no time for
  • Recognize what’s the biggest priority and what am I just not going to be able to do, and identify that ahead of time, so it doesn’t seem like a failure when you don’t get to it (this may mean leaving dirty dishes in the sink or skipping a soccer practice)
  • It is in these saved moments that you work in an activity for yourself, whether it be hitting the gym or getting a full night’s sleep
  • It is essential that you convince yourself that taking time for yourself is not selfish, but necessary for being a good parent

Marrow further stresses that it isn’t just about quantity of time, but quality of time.  

The single parent doesn’t have the luxury of allowing the other parent to discipline or come down hard at times.  As the single parent, you have to do it all. You don’t get to trade with your spouse who will be the “bad guy” this time. This is why it is important to be refreshed and spend time with your child doing something fun and positive

Quality time and positive events don’t have to be big or expensive. It can be reading a book for 15 minutes or throwing a ball in the back yard. These things allow for good bonding and keep us from feeling like all we are doing all day is saying “no.” Saying no and disciplining can leave a parent exhausted.  This is why we need to include some positive activities for both our self and our children

One of the major problems that single parents face is that they don’t have someone (the other parent) to back them up. They must carry the full weight of being responsible for their child and making most , if not all decisions for them. As Marrow points out, “When a person is overwhelmed, its difficult to function as they typically would.”  He goes onto say, “Single parents have to have a good support system.”

Waxmonsky points out the importance of single parents having someone to vent to so they are less likely to involve the children with issues they’re not emotionally or developmentally ready for or inadvertently share something negative with them about their other parent.

STRESS- RELIEVING TIPS:

  • Create Structure, routines and limits for your household.  The kids will know what to expect and you’ll be better able to organize what needs to get done
  • Be reasonable about what has to get done.  Prioritize so you don’t get overwhelmed
  • Spend quality time with your kids daily, doing small things they enjoy
  • Find people you can trust and confide in, such as friends or family, a church group or a professional counselor
  • Take some time for yourself – everyday – and don’t feel guilty about it

Source: Noreen Livoti, Penn Live (October 6, 2013)