July, 20 2018

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Becoming a Successful Single Parent

North Carolina Extension Service

If you are a single parent, you are not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, single-mother families increased from 3 million in 1970 to 10 million in 2003, while the number of single-father families grew from less than half a million to 2 million.

In fact about one-fourth of all parents today are parenting without a spouse. It has been estimated that half of children born today will spend part of their first 18 years in a one-parent family, and di-vorced and separated persons make up the fastest growing category of single parents.

You may be a one-parent family due to death, divorce, or adoption, or you may never have married. Whatever your situation, you can raise well-adjusted children and have a happy home.

Successful Single Parents

Parenting is never easy, even when there are two parents in the home. It is important to realize that one parent cannot fill the roles of both mother and father. You cannot do the work of two parents, but you can be a successful parent.

Single parents say they have been successful when they have

-optimistic attitudes about themselves and the future

-people to turn to for support and in times of emergencies

-open channels of communication

-time to relax

-agreeable, supportive relationships with family and former partner

-firm rules and standards for their children

-financial or job security

-friendly neighbors and caring teachers

-reliable child care

-knowledge about where to go for help

Your Child's Worries and Fears

Your children may have worries about survival, where they will live, and who will protect and take care of them. They may also worry or be anxious about

-your own happiness and being alone

-being different from other children

-being left alone or abandoned

-causing the family break-up

-changes in the living situation

-being wanted and loved

If you become a single parent when your children are teenagers, extra problems may arise. Teenagers often feel betrayed, rejected, or ashamed when the family breaks up or when there is change in the family structure.

Teenagers may become overwhelmed and overburdened by household responsibilities and younger child care. They may resent the change in their lifestyle. They may feel caught in the middle and develop a cynical attitude towards marriage and relationships.

What You Can Do

You can offset the extra stressors that come with a single-parent family by intentionally creating a home that is secure, stable, and loving.

It’s not all bad. Single parents and their children often enjoy:

• freedom to make decisions
• opportunities to grow and share
• flexible roles
• mature and independent children
• stronger parent-child relationships
• a better understanding of the value of money, time, support networks,etc.
• a realistic, cautious view of family life and marriage
• a democratic, working-together approach to problem solving and daily living

Single Parenting Teenagers

Adolescence can be a difficult time, and if you become a single-parent family during this period, extra problems can arise.

Teenagers often feel betrayed, rejected, andshamed when the family breaks up. They alsobecome concerned about your future relation-ships and their future. They may have mixed feelings about marriage and “living happily ever after.” Adolescents may become overwhelmedand overburdened with household responsibilities and child care. They may resent a change in their lifestyle at this time in their lives.

Make sure your teen doesn’t feel caught inthe middle. Being in a single family may push your teenagers toward adulthood. They are likely to take on more adult responsibility, to have more knowledge of the family financial situation, and to be concerned about the future. Teens need clearly established, reasonable limits agreed upon by all. They also need to spend time with their friends. Be sure you:

• talk to your teen about vocational choices, sex,values, and TV programs
• don’t say negative things about the otherparent or encourage your teen to take sides• enforce limits
• don't confide too much of your personal life
• set a good example—morally and ethically
• don’t try to become a buddy to your teenager;be a parent

Here are some tips:

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your body, mind, soul, and spirit. If you don't take care of yourself, you put extra strain on your relationships and your body. Get rest, exercise, develop healthy eating habits, and find time for spiritual nourishment.

Build a community of friends, co-workers, church members, support groups, and other single parents. It's okay to be single as long as you're not alone. Don't hesitate to ask for their help. Allow others to lift you up when you are down, overwhelmed, hurting, or in crisis.

Let your child know that you love him or her, both in words and action. Recognize your child's efforts and the good things he or she does. Reassure your child, at every possible opportunity, that he or she is a unique, valuable, and loveable person -- and expect the best. Love your child unconditionally.

Set a good example by being a person of integrity so that your child will trust you and can model your behavior. Show your child that you stay true to your principles and beliefs. If you want to teach your child honesty, tell the truth. If you want to teach self-reliance, be responsible for your own actions. If you want to teach your child justice and mercy, live by the Golden Rule. Be your child's role model.

Talk with your teen about choices, boundaries, and the values of your family. Underlying principles will direct, guide, and strengthen your family.

Involve your child in decision-making and establishing family rules and consequences. When you set the family rules, take the time to explain your decision, and be sure to follow through.

Develop routines and family traditions and rituals. Routines such as eating dinner together at a certain time, special times for homework and chores, and regular bedtimes offer stability through prioritizing. Traditions and rituals such as attending religious services together, birthdays, holiday celebrations, family reunions, and Sunday dinner conveys family identity and can give meaning through the generations.

Spend time with your child each day. Your child needs your undivided attention. Set aside a special time together. You can provide a listening ear, words of encouragement, and share fun activities.

Don't overindulge your child. Happiness and loving relationships cannot be bought. Parents who are generous with material possessions, allow too much freedom, and provide too much help do not let their children learn how to balance privilege with responsibility. Overindulged children are often immature, self-centered, angry, spoiled, narcissistic, lack motivation, and have self-control problems.

Don't take your anger, anxieties, frustrations, or personal problems out on your child. Anger is physically, emotionally, and relationally damaging. Watch your own words and make sure you're not belittling your child but rather building him or her up. Make sure your child feels comfortable approaching you and expressing his or her feelings.

Don't say negative things about the other parent or force your teen to take sides. Your child has the right to love both parents without guilt or disapproval.

Don't confide too much of your personal life -- you are the parent, not your child's buddy, and your child is not your confidant.

Remember that there is no thing as a perfect parent. Everyone makes mistakes and has problems. Acknowledge your own mistakes, handle them with maturity, and learn from them. In this way, you can overcome your problems, deal with issues, change situations, and show your child your strength and character.

Information from Parenting By Yourself, North Carolina Extension Service, HE-348-1. For More visit them at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/human/

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