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For Single Parent Families

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Airplane flying 101.

“Put your oxygen mask on before assisting anyone next to you”. My favorite metaphor for self care that can usually elicit
an eye roll or a list of tasks that are “more important” than taking some time
to indulge oneself. This response is especially true with my single parent
clients. This notion of self care takes a back seat to the day to day tasks and
chores that fall solely on your shoulders. Let’s also not forget that it takes
a lot of time and money to engage in the typical self care like a massage, spa
day or a night out. So what do we do when something seems out of reach? We
don’t prioritize it. Instead we make time for the more tangible self care such
as eating unhealthy food, a couple glasses of our favorite beverage, and
cancelling on social plans to stay at home in comfy clothes. When we don’t tend
to our own needs, but consistently prioritize other’s, is the breeding ground
for anxiety, depression, anger and resentment. Prioritizing healthy, regular
self care is necessary for you to live a more joyful life and it is also an important
skill to model for your children. If you can’t take the time to prioritize and
take care of yourself, how can you teach this skill to them? Re-defining what self care looks like to
better fit your life style is key to actually engaging in it. Below are some ideas and tips of how to make
self care work for you!

 

Do the boring stuff.


Self care isn’talways about pampering and indulging. Sometimes the best form of self care is organizing and
completing the tasks that we least want to do. Everyone has their certain chore
or engagement that they put off until the very last minute or blow off all
together. This can be paying bills, going to the doctor, sending thank you
cards or going grocery shopping. The common mantra of “I’m so tired I’ll do it
_____ (insert: later, tomorrow, next week, next month, never)” allows us to do what
feels comfortable with our time off such as sitting in front of the tv, eating
take out, having another glass of wine or shoving laundry into a pile. This
practice of avoiding mundane tasks can give us immediate gratification, but if
this becomes a common practice, can lead to increased levels of stress and
anxiety. Crossing the tough stuff off the to-do list regularly can be an
immediate source of gratification and accomplishment. I don’t think anyone has
ever had clean sheets on their bed or all the bills paid on time (or early) and
felt more stress afterwards about doing it. Setting a specific time to do
whatever you typically put off and holding yourself accountable to do it is
self care at its finest.

 

Ask for help.

We often put the expectation on ourselves that if we don’t get X,Y and Z done
independently or without assistance than we are less than or a bad mom/dad.
There tends to be a lot of shame around asking for assistance from friends or
family so we avoid it leading to packed schedules, a feeling of being stretched
too thin, and harsh self judgement. A good form of self care is asking for
help. Whether it is asking another parent to give your kiddo a ride to soccer
practice or home from school, reaching out to a close friend or family member
to come over and watch the kids one night, or taking that co-worker up on their
offer to bring you lunch one day. Help and support is an absolute necessity for
self care and decreased stress and there is zero shame in asking for it.
Chances are, friends and family will be more than willing to help you help
yourself.

Be kind to yourself.


We are our own worst critics. That little voice in your head that is constantly
judging or critiquing your every move, mistake and success can be absolutely
draining. A simple, but very challenging, technique to increase your self care
every day, is to increase the amount of kindness that you give to yourself.
Making time to reflect on something positive you have done, letting go of a
judgement you have placed on yourself, or affirming yourself can lead to an
instant increase in mood. Positive affirmations are a simple way to work this
type of self care into your daily routine. Positive affirmations can feel a
little funny at first, but there is plenty of research to show the positive
effects they have on self esteem and mood. Next time you find that voice in
your head being critical or when you are not feeling good enough, try replacing
that thought with one of these affirmations: “I am enough” “I can handle what
is put in front of me” “I am at peace even when life gets crazy” “I am doing
the absolute best I can” “I am a really good mother/father”. Even if you
struggle to believe what your telling yourself, say it anyway.

 

Get creative!

Self care doesn’t have to involve large amounts of money, getting away from long
amounts of time or needing child care. Get creative with what makes you feel
like you hit the reset button. Make homemade spa masks with your kids and have
a “family spa day”. Create a fun and cozy “reading corner” then take 15-20 to
curl up and read by yourself or with your little ones. Go for a long walk. Have
an at home dance or sing along party. Have a gardening day or a cookie baking
contest. Take what works for you and find a fun way to make it kid friendly.

Last but not least, if you can take the time to get a
massage or a night out with friends, take it with no guilt! Remember, if you
aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to give your best self to
your kids and those who you love around you.

By Stacey Ojeda

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist #100694

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Single Parent Advocate is republising this article written by Lynn Blaney Hess with permission for Single Parent Advocate's Community of Families. 

Lynn Hess | Making Life Work | Healthy Living Made Simple | Single Parent Advocate | Sam's Club

Lynn Blaney Hess is a copywriter specializing in health and wellness topics and a staff writer for HLMS/Ivie & Associates.  It was originally published in the July/August 2017 Healthy Living Made Simple | Sam's Club Magazine.

A look at the challenges single parents face and where they can turn for support

 Making Life Work by Lynn Hess for Healthy Living Made Simple Magazine with permission for Single Parent Advocate


We encourage you to visit the URL above, and read the whole artical.  Below are a few highlights:  

Whether you’re a single mom or a single dad, being a solo parent isn’t an easy job.

Single moms often struggle with self-worth, says Stacie Poythress, president and founder of Single Parent Advocate, a nonprofit that provides training and support for families.  She advises moms to surround themselves with positive people and deliberately choose their perspective, focusing on the good qualities in themselves, their families and their lives rather than comparing their situation to others. “Make a list of all the things you ARE instead of the things you’re not. All types of families can be whole, complete and fulfilled,” she says.

Moms also must take good care of themselves so they can take good care of their families.  Look for low-cost, efficient ways to work out, like an online program to do when the kids are in bed, and consider a meal co-op with other moms to share cooking duties and to save time. 

Single dads often encounter a lack of outside support considering men’s traditional reluctance to ask for help. Dads can also feel uncomfortable in traditionally ‘mom-dominated’ places.   

Whether you’re a single mother or father, daily life can feel like walking a tightrope.  Despite the seemingly superhuman effort, raising kids solo also comes with many rewards, including unique qualities it can instill in your children.  The struggles, effort and devotion are worth it. 

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Divorce: The Best Option for Your Kids and Youdecision.jpg

I never bought the act that my parents played out for me.  They sat next to each other at meals, coordinated schedules, bought each other Christmas presents, the whole shebang.  But I saw the space between them, full of distaste and bitter words that were far from unsaid.  And while the charade certainly kept my friends and I entertained if nothing else, I was tired of sleeping with headphones in to avoid hearing my parents arguing.  So when they did divorce, my response was less, “My life is falling apart” and more “Finally.”

Staying together for the kids is a common occurrence, too common if you ask me.   Often, parents are scared into staying together after seeing the frightening statistics on children of divorce.  However, all of these statistics tend to have one thing in common.  They are comparing children from a single-parent household to those from “wholesome” traditional families.  They provide an answer for what would happen if those specific parents stayed together or separated. You can’t compare family situations, because they will always be different. The behavior of the “wholesome” family will remain unchanged, but if parents stick it out for the kids, you can bet that there will be some unresolved tension there.  I’m glad my parents separated, for several small reasons, but there’s really only two that matter:

They’re Better Off

Look, I get it, parents are supposed to sacrifice everything for their kids, but let’s just take a step back here.  Their happiness has to count for something.  They’re people too, as much as I am.  I want to see them smiling, not snapping at each other’s heels.  Yeah, I recognize that it would’ve been a lot easier for everyone involved if they had gotten along, but that wasn’t an option anymore. Something shifted, and they just aren’t the people that they used to be. They needed to separate to be happy again.  They couldn’t pretend everything was okay or ever had a chance of being okay.  It was over, and the healthy thing to do at that point is move on.   

It might take a while for parents to recover, but they are eventually able to shed the disappointment and depression of their failed marriage.  They’ll even begin dating again.    Parents’ quality of life should be considered as well as the child’s.  Speaking of the kids…

We’re Fine, if Not Better Off

82% of kids from divorced homes are glad that their parents didn’t stay together. I know that for some kids, divorce can be particularly jarring, but so was the first time they had to clean their room by themselves.  They may crave stability and need comfort right after, but most of us move on just like mom and dad.  In retrospect, we recognize that it was needed.  

Furthermore, don’t think that we’re missing out.  While some lament that limited resources mean that children of single parent households can’t participate in extracurricular activities to the same degree, it’s completely blown out of proportion.  Sometimes there’s scheduling conflicts, but there are more and more resources to overcome this problem in the technological age.  Single parents can now utilize kid-friendly carpool apps, online music classes, and crowdfunding for youth sports.  Believe me, kids don’t have to miss out on anything they don’t want to.

As for quality time with both parents, there’s no reason why we can’t still have that.  I couldn’t just walk across the hall to talk to my dad anymore, but they both still guided me during problems and praised me during success.  They both still parented me.  And if one parent mysteriously disappears after the divorce, you can bet that he or she wasn’t doing much parenting to begin with anyway.

In households where the parents do stay together for the kids, no one is under any illusions. The parents are obviously not satisfied. The kids are picking up on the little things, like how Mom and Dad never eat together anymore, as well as the big things, like how Mom and Dad are always screeching.  All this fighting increases children’s cortisol levels and stresses them out.   We might not be included in the fight, but we still feel the tension.  When parents can’t resolve that tension, the only real solution is to walk away.  

Divorce is a long, stressful process that doesn’t end when the ink dries. It feels as if you will always have this weight on your shoulder, but you will be able to cast it off with no regrets.  Know that you did right by you and your children by separating.  That is not to say that all divorces are a good idea.  Rather, if the only thing preventing you from getting a divorce is your children, then that’s not much of a reason.  Parents aren’t doing anyone favors by staying unhappy, least of all their kids.

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