Single Parent? This is What You Should be Reading Right Now

This is an article written by single dad Daniel Sherwin – http://www.dadsolo.com

Raising a child when you have a partner is difficult enough, but for a single parent, the experience can be overwhelming. Trying to maintain a job, take care of household duties and ensure your child is on a good path may seem like an epic feat, but by implementing organization and planning skills into your routine, you can live a more balanced and stress-free life. This is not to say that being a single parent doesn’t have its share of challenges, but you’ll be able to enjoy more quality moments with your child if you have a solid action plan.

Stay Organized

You’re the only one running the show, so it’s crucial that you’re organized.

● Facilitate to-do lists so you can prioritize tasks.
● Make an effort to fill out your digital calendar and set reminders for important tasks such as soccer practice or a doctor’s appointment, but also make a family calendar (such as a large desk version) where everyone can share schedules, activities, appointments, meetings, etc., in one place. Review at the beginning of the week so everyone is on the same page.
● Choose a central communication center within your home — one place where the planning calendar, mail, messages, etc. can always be found. Ensure that it’s a tidy area free from clutter.
● Clutter should actually be eliminated in all areas of the home as it only creates more stress.

Keep A Good Routine For Your Child

Routines are a critical part of a well-run household. Establishing bedtimes, mealtimes, homework sessions, and curfews will benefit your child from a mental health and structure standpoint, but it will also help you effectively plan your own schedule since your child’s routine should remain relatively consistent.

Set Limits

It can be difficult to set limits as a single parent because you may feel sorry for your child, but this will only have an adverse effect. Establish solid ground rules with your child and make sure that you’re always enforcing them. Should there be a caretaker involved, make sure he/she is aware of your expectations.

Simplify Tasks

Not having enough time to do everything is one of the biggest concerns of a single parent — but it’s about working smarter, not harder.

● Cook and freeze meals for the week.
● Take care of all errands (filling the car with gas, grocery shopping, dry cleaners, etc.) in one session so you have more free time during the week.
● Prioritize your activities and learn the power of “no” if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
● Set aside a specific block of time for busy work such as paying bills, returning calls, and scheduling appointments.

Banish Feelings Of Guilt

It’s natural to have some feelings of guilt and to question your abilities from time to time, but these emotions shouldn’t consume your thoughts.

● Identify why you’re feeling guilty so you can establish a plan of action, whether that means therapy, or making an apology.
● Realize that your feelings may be harming your child. Approach your feelings in a healthy way in order to establish a harmonious and happy home environment.
● Forgive yourself and others in order to move forward.
● Redirect feelings of guilt and sadness to feelings of happiness with your child.

Show Your Love

Research has shown that kids from a broken home are five times more likely to suffer from mental health issues than children whose parents stay together. Don’t get so caught up in the stress and minutiae of daily life that you forget to give your child unconditional love and support. Make an effort to spend time quality time together each day.

Find Time For Self-Care

It can be easy to put yourself last, but it’s crucial that you take care of yourself if you’re going to effectively take care of your family. Personal grooming, stress management, exercise, and free time with friends are all important in order to maintain a sense of personal balance in your life.

Find Support

Whether it’s friends, family, or neighbors, it’s okay to ask for help. If you’re hiring an outside caretaker, be sure to do your homework by asking other parents for recommendations. Alternatively, use a reliable service that reveals the credentials and background information of its service providers. Single parent groups are also great places for like-minded camarederie and an opportunity to vent and exchange tips.

At the end of the day, you’re not Superman or Superwoman, so be transparent with your children. It’s okay to admit that you’re having a bad day, but reassure them that things will be better. Just make sure you’re giving your child an age-appropriate level of responsibility so they don’t feel the weight of your single-parenting experience on their shoulders. As difficult as it may be at times, try to stay positive and have a sense of humor when dealing with daily challenges.

Flying With Kids

As spring break approaches, some of you probably have made plans to take a family holiday. The destination has been picked, airline tickets purchased and accommodations booked. As the departure date approaches, you begin to wonder how you will survive the flight with your 3 children. You and your partner know that travel interrupts kids’ routines: eating, playing and sleeping. This makes them prone to melt downs and acting up. …And as if this wasn’t enough, the flight leaves at 7am meaning that you have to get up at some ridiculous hour to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the flight! What were you thinking?!?

Here are a few tips to remember as you prepare for the trip.

  1. Pack lots of snacks, both healthy and unhealthy, that your kids love. Remember to pack some gum for take off and landing.
  2. Bring some fun activities for the plane. Sticker books and colouring books are a good choice. Travel games are good too. For an added bonus, bring activities that the kids have never seen before. The newness of activities will earn you a few extra minutes of calm.
  3. Download age appropriate games and apps on iPads and iPhones. You can also download your child’s favourite movie or TV show.
  4. If you are taking an early morning flight, have your kids sleep in their clothes the night before. This allows your kids to sleep as long as possible before having to get up plus they think that it is such a novelty that they get to sleep in their clothes. It’s also on less thing that you have to worry about in the morning.
  5. Remember to relax. It’s hard to travel with children and you will not be alone. There will other parents on the flight so you can be support to each other.
  6. If you are travelling with teens or pre-teens, ask them if they would like to sit on their own rather than sit with you. They will appreciate the independence.

Natural and Logical Consequences


Natural and logical consequences are key to raising responsible, respectful, independent children. Unlike punishment, consequences will stop a behaviour permanently. Punishment is effective in stopping a behaviour, but only temporarily, and punishment leads to a child feeling resentful, rebellious and wanting to get revenge. Then the whole reason for the punishment is lost and the focus of the child shifts to ways of getting back, rather than to what is trying to be taught by you giving a punishment in the first place.

What are consequences? Natural consequences are consequences that occur naturally without any intervention and are life’s greatest teacher. The natural consequence of not wearing a coat in cold weather is being cold. For not eating breakfast, it is being hungry until snack time. Of course, some natural consequences, like getting hit by a car for running out into the road is not one that you want to child to experience. As long as the natural consequence does not put the child or anyone else in any danger, then it is acceptable. The child’s safety is paramount!

Logical consequences are those that are imposed and are created by you. However, for a consequence to truly be a consequence it must be REASONABLE, RELATED and RESPECTFUL. If one of these three R’s is missing then the consequence is actually a punishment, so it is important that your consequence not be a disguised punishment. Going to bed for not eating dinner is a punishment as it is not related, reasonable nor respectful. Losing one’s computer privileges for not doing chores is not related. However, losing one’s computer privileges for a day for abuse the computer time limit is related, reasonable and respectful and is a logical consequence. Below are a few logical consequences to some everyday situations. Consequences are meant to teach and you should always leave space for the child to try again. Therefore, the consequence for a first “infraction” is only one day (or a short period of time) and the time increases if the behaviour is repeated.

                BEHAVIOUR                                                                             LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE

Not putting gas in the car after using it                                               Lose the privilege of using the car

Not turning off the computer when time is up                                    Lose computer privileges for the next day

Not cleaning up after playing                                                              Lose those toys for a day

Not putting bike away after riding it                                                   Can’t use bike the next day

Child spills                                                                                     Child cleans up spill

Remember, and sometimes the hardest thing to do, is to remain calm and use a friendly tone when imposing a consequence on your child. This keeps interactions respectful. The last thing to remember is that consequences do not work with children under three as they have not yet reached the age of reason before three.

Reasonable

Related

Respectful

Mutual Respect

What is respect?

Being respected means being valued as a worthwhile human being. It is being treated with dignity regardless of human differences such as age, gender, race and even knowledge and skill.

There are two parts to mutual respect:

  1. Mutuality is a two-way street (I respect you and you respect me.). For that to happened we must each also respect ourselves.
  2. Equality is the basis for mutual respect. Equality here does not mean sameness but in the fact that we are human beings, belonging to the human family. We all need to be treated with dignity and respect. It means we have value or personal worth simply because we are human beings.

How mutual respect works in an adult/child relationship:

Many of us were raised with the idea that children must respect adults, while children were often treated with disrespect. We were taught to obey and this was enforced with reward and punishment. Children were controlled by the adults in their lives. Under this system, children learned to have others think for them, to avoid mistakes and to be submissive to an external authority.

Mutual respect between adults and children requires us to shift out beliefs and techniques of parenting. While the roles of parent and child are different, the individuals involved are of equal value as human beings. When parents are providing for, nurturing and teaching children in a non-punitive way, children come to believe that they are worthwhile, that they have abilities and that others believe in them and trust them. Parents can most effectively help children to learn to become independent, contributing individuals with strong internal motivation by doing the following:

  • Encouraging and valuing children’s contributions, ideas and efforts.
    • Saying “Thank you for helping/sharing. I appreciate it.”
  • Accepting and acknowledging children’s feelings as valid, legitimate and real.
    • Saying “You’re really sad that you can’t play longer at your friend’s house.”
  • Accepting mistakes as opportunities to learn.
    • Saying “What did you learn from this?” – Also see last point.
  • Finding opportunities for children to makes choices and decisions.
    • Give opportunities to make age appropriate choices early.
  • Giving assistance in, and opportunity for, critical thinking and problem solving.
    • Working trough problems with your child initially to teach the skills and then letting your child do it on his/her own once s/he has the skills
  • Sharing affection and fun with children.
    • Lots of hugs and playing with your children.
  • Remember that example is the most powerful teacher.
    • No comment needed here!
IMG_0143

Mutual respect begins early!

Adapted from an article by E. Quiring and B. Johnson.

Surviving Your Child’s “Terrific Twos”

Yes, you read correctly, this is the terrific twos, not the terrible twos. This is a terrific time as your two year-old if gaining independence, is learning how to be a person separate from you. Your two year-old is testing their wings and seeing what they can do ALL ON THEIR OWN! They are gaining their own voice! Isn’t this terrific!! You are watching your two year-old’s personality take shape right before your eyes; your little butterfly is emerging!

As terrific as this stage is, it is not an easy stage, so here are some survival tips.

  1. OFFER CHOICES. Your two year-old is wanting to feel the power and control that they are gaining over their world. Give them this power in appropriate places by letting them make choices, “Do you want to have your story before bath time or after bath time?” “Do you want to wear your red dress or your blue dress?” Do not give choices like “Do you want to watch TV or have a nap?” A good rule of thumb is to give a choice when you can live with whatever the answer is.
  2. GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITIES. Two year-olds love to be helpers. They love to get jobs to do. It makes them feel powerful and also shows them that their contribution in the family is valuable. Give them the job of putting the napkins out at dinner time at each place setting. This is also getting them to do some pre-math skills – one to one correspondence.
  3. ENCOURAGE. Encourage all positive behaviour that your child displays. Encouragement is specific and sincere. “Thank you for helping me set the table. That was a big help!” “Good job!” on it’s own is not encouragement as it is not specific. Being specific is an important part of encouragement. Beware: Do not encourage behaviour that you do not want repeated  – “Wow! That was a really loud yell.” – will only lead to way more of those yells!
  4. CORRECT, CORRECT, CORRECT. You are constantly having to correct your two year-old’s behaviour. They are not able to understand consequences yet as they have not reached the age of reason. This means “Sand is not for throwing, you may put sand in the dump truck.” If your child continues to throw sand, you will have to take your child out of the sandbox for a bit and then try again. If it repeats, it is time to go home. They are constantly testing limits and you are constantly correcting and setting limits.
  5. CONNECTION BEFORE CORRECTION. It is important to connect with your child before correcting a behaviour. Connecting as in the above example or throwing sand may be as simple as putting your hand on your child’s shoulder while making the statement or if a child is biting you may say, “I love you but I don’t like the biting.”

    connection

    connection

  6. SLEEP. Make sure that your two year-old gets enough sleep, including naps. Most two year-olds still need naps at this age. Keep sleep routines regular.
  7. FOOD. Make sure that your two year-old is getting enough to eat. This means snacks during the day. Some two year-olds are grazers so make sure that there are always healthy snacks out for your child to eat. Low blood sugar will lead to moodiness and irritability.
  8. IGNORE. Ignore negative behaviours after you have taught the correct behaviour and encourage positive ones. If your child continually eats with their hands when you know they know how to eat with utensils, ignore the behaviour as it may be a way of getting negative attention. Wait until they eat with utensils to encourage this with an encouraging statement or use encouragement on another person at the table who is using utensils. “Way to go Daddy! You are using your fork to eat!” Watch how quickly your two year-old picks up their utensils!
  9. CONNECT. Connect with other parents and build a network. Join a group if you aren’t already part of one. Get to know parents with two year-olds so that you can arrange play dates as well as see that other parents are having the same struggles as you are.
  10. STAY COOL. This is easier said than done but do try to stay calm and be patient. Do lots of counting to 10 and breathing! These little people are learning so much and depend on you to teach them. This is draining so take care of yourself so that you can be the best parent to your little one. Make sure you get a chance to recharge your batteries.
  11. ATTEND PARENTING CLASSES. Taking a parenting class is a great way to meet other parents and share struggles as you hone your parenting skills. Parenting classes are invaluable.

    Help! My Kid Didn't Come With an Owner's Manual.

    Help! My Kid Didn’t Come With an Owner’s Manual.

It is amazing how quickly these years pass and remember that this too shall pass. Keep reminding yourself that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Keep smiling!

Milestones

For our children, reaching a milestone is like stepping up one more rung onto that ladder of being grown up.  For parents, when our kids reach these milestones they are bittersweet moments.  We are glad to see our children gaining all these new skills like learning to walk, talk, use the potty, etc.  These are all steps toward independence and we encourage them every step of the way.  On the other hand, we are saddened somewhat to see that our babies are growing up.

I reveled, clapped and cheered when my kids crawled, gave up their bottles, learned to read and such.  I was their greatest supporter and fan.  It was not too hard for me to admit that they were growing when they reached these milestones.  I was enjoying each new stage of development and just when I thought that they were at the best stage possible, they moved into another one.  Then this became the best stage possible!

The milestones that I most regretted them reaching were when they no longer said “lallow” for yellow or “num-mi-na” for food.  I still long to hear “oom-ba-wa” for bottle or that male cows are “bullies”.  New words were replaced daily: “prettyful” became beautiful,  “gorilla bars” were replaced by granola bars, “buckets” were no longer male goats (bucks)  and we no longer needed to remember to renew our “remembership” to the aquarium.

Ahhh, childhood.  I goes by so quickly.  As trying as some moments are (and there are many trying moments) our children do grow up overnight.  Those moments sail by so enjoy every day.  Each day is precious as we are making “rememories!”  Go hug your kid!  I just hugged mine.

What about toilet training?

The typical questions from parents with regards to toilet training is, “When can I expect my child to be toilet trained?”  My typical response is, “When he/she is ready.”  I know that their are parents who toilet trained their children early but the bottom line is this – children have total control of only two things: what goes into their bodies and what comes out.   There is no set time when a child SHOULD be toilet trained as each child is unique and different but I can almost guarantee that your child will be toilet trained by the time he/she goes to university!

So, how does one encourage one’s child to use the toilet rather than their diapers?Introduce a potty into your home once you think your child will be able to understand what it is for.  I used to remove my children’s diapers and ask them if they wanted to sit on the potty and read a book.  If they made a “deposit” in the potty, I would get really excited and say “Way to go, you went _____ in the potty, just like mommy and daddy go on the toilet!” They would be feeling pretty pleased with themselves after this.  If they didn’t use the potty while sitting on it, that was okay too.  I would let them get off whenever they felt that they had had enough.  I would repeat this exercise several times a day, but I never forced them to sit on the potty.  I used to ask them if they wanted to try the potty again and usually once they had one success, they always wanted more. Of course, I also got a couple of toilet training books that I would read to them as a way of teaching about toilet training. Later I graduated them to a training toilet seat and a step for them to get themselves onto the toilet.  My first child toilet trained herself just after her second birthday but was not dry at night for years. (Thank goodness for pull ups.)  My second child wasn’t toilet trained till three but was dry at night very soon after. Each was very different.  So different that my second used to take the training toilet seat and put it on backward on the toilet and do her business this way. Whatever works!

Encouragement and sports

I heard someone from the BC Soccer Association speaking on the radio about how they are wanting to put less emphasis on score keeping and more emphasis on skill building. They are suggesting that scores not be kept in soccer games until the players are about 14 years old.

Initially I thought, “Well, if you can’t have competition on the soccer field, then where can you have it”? until I thought about this more. YES! I get it. If we want to encourage the process, then let’s not keep score.  The pressure would be off the kids and the coaches to perform and I think we’d see much improved soccer skills and sportsmanship. We would be modelling to the kids the idea of playing well, building skills and having fun!! Isn’t this why we put our kids in soccer in the first place? I like this idea!!! You?

Children need encouragement like a plant needs water. Rudolph Dreikurs

Encourage, encourage, encourage, the best way to bring out the best in your kid. Encourage the process, not the result. Not “Wow, you got the winning goal, good for you!” rather “How did it feel to get the ball, and work your way through all those players in order to score that winning goal!” or “You studied really hard for that test, your hard work paid off!” Other encouraging statements might be “Thanks for your help. I appreciate it”! “I noticed that you set the table without being asked. Thanks for taking your responsibility seriously”! Or “Way to go’! instead of “Good job”! Avoid those judgement words, good, bad, and all of their forms.

At first it does seem unnatural but in time, it just becomes part of your everyday language. CAUTION! You can overdo it. Do not encourage every single thing – use your judgement. I have heard parents use an encouraging statement for every single thing that their kid did almost to the point of, “Way to go, you put your left foot in front of your right etc.”! BE SINCERE!!! Kids can see right through you if you are not and your attempts at encouragement will actually be discouraging.

Believe in them and let them know it. “I know you can do …..” NOT “It’s easy, everyone can do this”! “I’ve seen you do …..in the past so I know that you can find a way to do ….. If you need help I’m always here”, but help, don’t take over.

Encouragement builds self-esteem and confidence. It empowers your kids and teaches them that they are responsible for their actions. It helps to build a cooperative relationship with other family members and shows the kids that they are valued and respected.

Suggested reading “Positive Discipline” by Jane Nelson and “How to Talk so Kids Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber