It’s doubtful anyone is really prepared to be a single parent. Who could imagine all the unanswered questions that pop up—who’s going to stay home with a sick child? How are you supposed to provide food, housing, clothes on an income that seems barely adequate for one person? Will a little boy listen to his mother when she tells him “boys don’t behave like that”? And how in the world do you find time to actually “raise” your kids, instead of just providing for their needs?
But prepared or not, due to divorce, separation, death, or just an absent parent, over 13 million people in the United States find themselves in just this situation. They’ve all probably agonized over just the same questions, dilemmas, and heartbreaks that you’re going through, and emerged on the other side feeling bit by bit more confident they can meet the next challenge.
The good news is that there is a lot of support available for single parents. The fact that they are responsible for guiding a large segment of the next generation into adulthood means that resources exist at every level. Community, non-profit, state and federal government have all stepped up to help make sure that single parents aren’t left out in the cold.
Support Groups For You
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with all the responsibility raising children alone entails. Sometimes the stress can make it hard to keep that optimistic, upbeat attitude that helps kids feel safe and secure. That’s why it’s important for you to find a place where you can talk adult-to-adult about the problems you’re facing, without involving the kids
Maybe you can rely on a network of family and friends to see you through the down times. If so, you’re very lucky, because it’s easier to share with people who are close to you.
But if not, don’t just sit there feeling bad. One common consequence of single parenthood is that between work and home, it’s easy to become isolated and lose touch with other people. Maybe a support group will help you find a comfortable place to be social with other adults.
One of the most successful support groups for single parents has been Parents Without Partners, the largest membership organization devoted to the welfare and interests of parents and their children. You can find information about the organization, including how to locate a nearby chapter, here:
There are also smaller, more local support groups you can join to learn about and share parenting tips with other people in the same situation as you. Even though another meeting is probably the last thing you feel you have time for, don’t underestimate the relief you might feel being able to “unload” among people who know exactly what you’re going through. And the meetings are not gripe sessions—you’ll learn valuable coping skills and get good advice from people who’ve been there.
Mentoring For Your Kids
Single parents can’t do it all (as you know too well), so why not take advantage of all the groups and experiences that are just waiting for your kids to join in? Mentorship programs are a great way to help you raise well-rounded children who get to experience all the normal activities a two-parent family can more easily provide.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is tailor-made for single parent families, linking up men and women interested in helping kids with kids who could benefit from another perspective—especially one that ordinarily would come from the absent parent. To find out how to enroll your child, click the link below:
Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts is another group that can take some of the pressure off as far as showing your kids a wider view of the world:
And don’t forget 4-H, another popular youth-mentoring organization with a focus on science, citizenship and healthy living:
Making It On A Single Income
While being a good single parent has nothing to do with money, having enough of it to provide nutritious food and safe housing gives you the peace of mind to concentrate on what’s really important. Luckily, you might be able to do both at once.
Making the most of the money you do have will involve budgeting, which is a way to organize your spending so that you can meet financial obligations. Always being behind on bills is very stressful. Taking control of your spending will, over time, ease that stress and may make it possible to plan more realistically for the future.
The bright side of budgeting for the single parent is that it provides an excellent way to create “quality time” with your kids. Many of the techniques for saving money on food, clothes, maintenance and utilities involve doing things yourself, instead of paying someone else to do them. What a great opportunity to spend time together as a family learning how to cook meals, bake bread, change the oil in the car, and fix a squeaky hinge. Both boys and girls will be equally adept at learning all these tasks, and best of all, they will take a lot of pride in keeping track of the money they’re helping to save.
A very good site for budgeting help can be found here:
If you’re simply not making enough to meet your financial needs, you might want to consider some government assistance. The topic is very broad and you’ll want to do your own research, but here are some links that can give you an idea of the main sources of aid available:
- HUD – Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet
- Local HUD Information by State
Food and Nutrition
A good all-around place to start is your state’s welfare organizations. Whether you need financial assistance or not, this is a centralized location where you can find information about single-parent workshops, community groups or counseling. They may also be able to refer you to organizations that can locate daycare, after-school programs, and other resources. For a state list of welfare agencies:
Naturally, the internet is a great place to find tips on raising kids as a single parent. Just a sampling of sites you’ll find when you do your own Web searches:
- Raising a Child Alone: How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Child Without a Partner http://www.suite101.com/content/tips-for-single-parents-a44077#ixzz1FY4bZjb5
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