Tips to Raise Kids as a Single Parent
Raising three rowdy kids as a single parent is no easy task. Especially when you’re also trying to juggle a part-time teaching job and an apartment that gets mysteriously gets dirty every few minutes (it must be magic!). In fact, it’s so hectic and exhausting that I think all single parents deserve a huge, shiny medal (a feel-good cash prize wouldn’t hurt either!)
For the past five years, my routine has consisted of running after three unnaturally energetic kids, making sure they don’t get hurt, trying to get them to eat something healthy (‘trying’ being the key word here), trying to instil some manners and discipline into them (again, emphasis on ‘trying’), stumbling my way to school and teaching English to a roomful of (you guessed it!) unnaturally energetic children, and finally, if I’m lucky, getting a few hours of uninterrupted shut-eye (most days, I’m unlucky).
I would look around at other single parents and the seemingly effortless way they balance child-rearing and full-time careers. It made me feel very inadequate, knowing how much I was struggling in life even though there were others who had a lot more on their plates but were able to do a decent job of it. I began feeling like I was a horrible parent, never able to provide my kids with all the toys, sweets or clothes they wanted because the bills literally crunched on my savings.
I was never able to give them as much time as I wanted to, because I would hand them off to the babysitter soon after breakfast (or Great Disaster, as I call it in my half-crazed mind) and then I would go the next five hours without seeing their adorable—and bratty—faces. In the evening, I would be so tired that I would let them watch TV while I took care of the millions of household tasks that seemed to crop up endlessly (magic, I tell you).
A few years of this routine, and I was a heartbeat away from a nervous breakdown. Being so proud, I hated seeking help. The thought of bringing in another person made me feel like a failure, but since I already felt that way, I felt it didn’t matter one way or another. Talking to a friend who worked as a counsellor was the first step. She gave me some tips that really helped me turn my family’s lives around.
I’m going to talk about some of these tips in the hope that they help you too:
- Set a routine
As I learned after only a couple of sessions, most of my problems arose from a lack of proper routine. I was so caught up juggling everything that I let my kids watch as much TV as they wanted, sleep at late o’ clock at night, skip veggies if they wanted. No wonder they’d gotten so spoiled. Children need a proper routine to stay healthy and happy, and it’s something I’ve learned the hard way. Make sure your kids have a proper routine, with regularly scheduled mealtimes and bedtimes. This is particularly important if your kids are school-aged.
- Lay some ground rules
Let your child know it’s not okay to hit their siblings or throw their toys against the wall in a tantrum (yes, my kids can be delightful sometimes!). Your kid should be aware of the rules you set and should know they’ll be punished if they disobey any of these rules. Remind them they are not royalty and cannot expect you to keep cleaning up after them. One of my favourite rules was to cut back my kids’ screen time if they refused to put their toys away or leave their beds untidy. This not only allowed me to discipline them, it also greatly reduced my own workload (though the latter shall remain my guilty pleasure and not to be shared with the kids).
- Join a parenting support group
This is something I highly recommend all single parents to do. Support groups offer a great outlet for that pent-up storm of frustration inside you. These are platforms where you can meet other struggling parents and bond over the terrors of child-raising. One of my favourite groups is GatherOnline, an online resource where parents connect with each and join forums such as handling bratty kids (story of my life—I joined immediately). I’ve made some great friends through GatherOnline and even found solutions to many of my parenting woes. A must-try!
I hope these tips will help you bring your own and your kids’ lives on a proper track!