So you’ve just become a single parent…what now?

This past week, I participated on a panel at the local high school’s Parent Academy – the topic was single parenting. Many parents unexpectedly find themselves alone, either through divorce or death of the other parent. It’s a shock, really. It was for me. When my former husband passed away unexpectedly leaving me to raise our daughter by myself, I felt closed in and afraid. It felt too big, more responsibility than I ever wanted. Her grief, my own, our changed lives…how would we get through it?

We did get through it, day at a time…which brings me back to what I learned at the Parent Academy. Here’s some things I gleaned from the panel and audience participants:

Common challenges for single parents:
• Lack of Sleep
• Loneliness
• Grief
• Emotional stress
• Time management
• A lack of sanity
• Challenges with kids’ attitudes and accountability

Ways to take care of yourself:
• Exercise – one woman started running every day and lost 40 pounds
• Drinking water—keeping yourself hydrated helps to fend off depression feelings
• Find friends you can talk to about your challenges with kids and getting time for yourself
• Take time for yourself in nature—one woman walks under the moon and stars at night
• Dance to wild music when the kids aren’t around
• Start a gratitude journal for yourself…or share it with your kids so that you all practice gratitude

Ways to connect better with your kids:
• Set aside special time for your kids—they want time with you, even if they are teens
• Appreciate them for the things they do well
• Set reachable goals—make a chart with tasks that you expect and make a reward for getting a certain number done
• Work with your child on the things you expect and let them come up with some ideas
• Find grief support groups for them in your local community
• Realize that underneath bad behaviors is deep loss—help your kids learn to grieve in healthy ways

If you are a single parent, please share what works for you!