When you are a single parent of multiple children you really have your work cut out for you, but all is not lost if you keep your head about you and follow some really simple tips to make the best of your and your children’s lives. According to African tradition it takes a village to raise a child; many single parents feel as if that is true as they struggle to make sense of their new status as single parents. According to a report released by the US Census Bureau, there were approximately 14 million single parents raising around 22 million children in the United States in 2009.
No matter whether you are the most organized person on the planet or the easygoing type, single parenthood poses challenges for both single mothers and single fathers, no matter the ages of the children. It must be said though, that most single parents are single mothers, who make up about 84% of single parents. A single parent of multiple children can often feel that the task ahead of them is a daunting one, and this is when it s really crucial that you focus on all the positives in your life and the joy that your children bring you.
Raising a child on your own is difficult, raising more than one is a major juggling act and liable to put you under major stress if you allow it to. Taking a deep breath every now and again and reminding yourself that the thing that your children need most from you is a stable home environment and love, will go a long way to helping to diffuse those panic-stricken moments when it all seems to be just too much to handle.
A male single parent experiences just as many problems as what a female single parent does, although their challenges may be different. The male of the species may struggle with the emotional side of things, especially with girls, whilst the female single mother will most probably struggle more with the financial side of things. A single father may struggle with midnight feeds or how his daughter should dress at various stages of her life, how to handle the teenage years and how much freedom to give his son, whereas a single mother may struggle more with the cost of childcare, ensuring that the children get to their extra-mural activities and guilt feelings that she cannot do more as a mother.
The most important thing a single parent can do is to learn how to balance everything without it affecting their own health and psyche. In order to do this there are certain strategies which you need to put in place:
Establish Your Status
As a single parent, especially a single mother, it is necessary to establish yourself as the boss of the home and the head of the family and not treat your children as your peers. Setting the boundaries early on, especially with older children will stop bad behavior problems before they happen, as will providing clear expectations and guidelines for acceptable behavior.
Establish Predictable Routines And Set Schedules
In order to be a successful single parent and create a stable and secure home for your offspring, you need to be able to manage your home effectively. This means that you need to establish a routine such as eating dinner at the same time every night, with all family members present. This allows you and your children to plan other activities around set routines.
Maintain Rituals And Traditions
It is important that, as a single parent, you maintain any family traditions such as a particular holiday celebration that you had before your situation changed. Keeping the same rituals such as special bedtime or bath-time rituals, especially for the younger children and special family times together will maintain the status quo for your children and will be a stabilizing factor in their lives as well as yours.
One of the worst mistakes you can make if you are a single parent through divorce is to sever the relationship that the children have with their other parent or that parent’s family, as long as the other parent does not pose any form of threat to the children.
Open Lines Of Communication
Fostering an open communication wherein your children can express their thoughts and feelings is important for you as a single parent, as it goes a long way to developing honest and trusting relationships with your children. This is especially important with older children who may harbor some feelings of anger or guilt which need to be expressed. Remember to always communicate with your children in an age-appropriate manner; you cannot treat or speak to your 15 year old son in the same way as you do your 8 year old.
Develop A Reliable Support System
Do not try to do it all on your own. In order to be a successful single parent of multiple children you will need to develop a network of friends and family who can be relied on to provide support when needed. This includes emotional support, help with transport, child-care in an emergency or when you really just need to take some time for yourself. As the children get older there will be conflicting schedules and you may have to take one to a music recital at the same time as the other one needs to be at a football match – this is where car-pooling with other single parents will come in very handy.
Take Care Of Yourself
One of the biggest mistakes that a single parent can make is to not take time out to look after themselves. Even though you may feel that there is too much to do and you do not need to take a break, it is critical that you do. Make sure that you get sufficient sleep, join a social club, take up yoga or meditation, but do something that is just for you and will relax you or you may find that your physical and emotional health is affected adversely.
Have Realistic Expectations
You are not Superman or Superwoman, and you will not be able to do everything perfectly so do not put yourself under that kind of stress or pressure. Raising multiple children is going to be difficult and there will be tough times and good times. Be prepared for the sibling rivalry, the temper tantrums and the difficult teenage years, and ask for help when you need it.
Just because you are the single parent does not mean that you cannot have fun. Be innovative and you can create many diverse family outings and good times that will not cost the earth. Some activities need not cost you anything at all; spend some time showing your children how to fly a kite or go to the beach, pitch a tent in your back garden, make a campfire and tell spooky stories and sleep under the stars.
Delegate Supervisory Duties To Older Children
If your older children are of a responsible age let them babysit their younger siblings, ask them to oversee homework tasks, or to help with the bathing of the younger children so that it leaves you free to attend to other things. Do not make slaves out of them or make them feel that they are doing your job; give them credits for certain tasks which they can use in various ways such as being allowed to have a sleepover or stay up late to watch a special movie.
Make Preparing Dinner A Family Affair
Give yourself a break from spending hours slaving over the hot stove by getting the kids to pitch in. The younger ones can help set the table whilst the older ones assist you with tasks such as peeling and cutting the vegetables.
Being a single parent need not be all doom and gloom, and just because you are a single-parent family does not mean that it is a broken home, even if it is due to divorce. Creating a healthy family does not require two parents, just love and communication. Teach your children that they can talk to you about anything and be there for them when they need to talk. You may not always have the answer immediately, but show them that you care and if necessary consult someone else for advice and get back to them.
One of the main problems a single parent of multiple children has is finances, especially if the single parent is a single mother, and this creates a lot of stress for the whole family. There are things that you can do to minimize the problem of raising children on one income though:
- Draw up a budget and list all the basic items such as bond repayments or rental, groceries, electric costs, school fees, and transport fees for both you and the children in one column and the “wants” in another. Compare your earnings with your list and subtract the “wants” until you can balance the budget.
- Teach your children to budget. Pay them for tasks so that they can learn the value of earning money, and then tell them that they must buy their own luxuries such as video games or skate-board so that they learn the value of money, how to make informed decisions and how to budget for what they need and what they want.
- Be honest with your children regarding finances. This does not mean scare them with stories that if you do not have the rent money they will land up living on the street; rather it means explaining to them that going to a movie is too expensive but you can rent a video and make popcorn at home instead.
Dealing With Negative Stereotypes Of Single Parents With Multiple Children
Many individuals who are a single parent of multiple children have to constantly deal with the negative stereotyping that is still prevalent in the U.S. today. There are those who are quick to jump on the bandwagon of “How could you have had more than one child in your circumstances?” and “How can you bring another child into this world when you are not married and already have a child/children?” or the inevitable “What? You want to have/adopt ANOTHER child, are you insane?”
Although these comments are not fair, least of all because you may not be a single parent by choice, it is also basically nobody else’s business how many children you decide to have. Do not let other people dictate to you what you should or should not do.
Some of the best ways to deal with these detractors are to use some quick sarcastic or witty comebacks:
- Turn the tables on them; tell them that there are so many children out there who need a family, and that if every family would just take one child there would be no need for you to adopt another one. Follow this up with pretending to believe that they have volunteered to adopt and start giving them adoption information and watch them stop and run – this should guarantee that they never bother you again.
- Explain to them that you do not want your child to grow up without a sibling; that sibling relationships are the strongest relationships and you do not want to leave your child alone in the world once you are gone.
- If they persist, tell them that as long as you have love in your heart to give to another child it has nothing to do with them as they are not being asked to support your children.
Sometimes the jibes hurt and more so if they come from friends or family, but remember, this is your family, nobody else’s so do not let others get you down.
Be proud of your achievements, praise your children when necessary and set rules and a code of ethics for them to live by, highlighting the consequences if transgressions occur; set aside some family-time every week where you all spend time together just having fun; get everyone to pitch in with the household chores, and you will make a fantastic single parent of multiple children and raise well adjusted, independent and well-balanced individuals.