Whether because of separation, divorce, death, or abandonment, more than 13 million people in the United States are dealing with the challenges and dilemmas of single parenthood.
The good news is that there is a lot of support available for single parents. The fact that you 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 who need help can find it, whether it’s emotional, physical or financial.
The responsibility of raising children alone can be overwhelming. You might feel like you need to spend every minute that you’re not at work, at home, to “be there” for your kids.
Ironically, this can be counter-productive or even damaging. You will undoubtedly start to feel isolated, with no one to talk to except your family. The pressures you’re under, however, are not something you should be sharing with your kids. Particularly if they’re younger, it would be quite upsetting for them to hear you talk about topics that are best shared with other adults, especially emotional topics like wondering if you’re making the right decisions, or how worried you are about “making it” as a family.
Children don’t need a fairy-tale, but they do need to see their caretaker as someone who knows what they’re doing, and who has a positive, optimistic attitude.
But of course, you can’t always feel optimistic. That’s why it’s important for you to find a place where you can talk to other adults who are in the same situation as you are.
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. 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.
Role Models And Mentors
If you don’t have a collection of family and friends with whom to easily and casually interact, your kids could be missing out on the diversity of “role models” they need to develop a unified and healthy conception of the world at large. Having grandparents is a big help for the one-parent family, but the more models the better. Uncles and aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters, kids from intact families as well as from other single-parent families–all help your children find their place and feel comfortable in it.
If you don’t think your kids are getting enough of that kind of environment, 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:
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
Making It On A Single Income
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
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