Managing as a Single Parent

Parenting expert Jan Faull, MEd, advises a soon-to-be-single mom to create a routine that focuses on family time without compromising her needs.
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Q. "My husband and I are getting separated. It's tough enough accepting the fact that our relationships is ending, but the thought of being a single mom of three children hurts and scares me. How should I handle this situation with my kids? What can I do to prepare myself for single parenting?"

A. Your situation is so unfair. Here you are a mother of three children and now you're left on your own to raise them. No doubt you have a difficult challenge ahead. In order for you and your children to survive in the short run and thrive in the long run, you'll succeed best if you focus on three aspects of single parenting.

First, it's important that you take care of yourself so you'll be able to take care of your children. As a single parent you'll need sound emotional health and physical strength in order to be the best parent of your children. Here are the obvious ways: find a single parent support group, exercise and eat right, and for personal satisfaction and practical reasons regarding finances, work to sustain and eventually advance in your career, or find and prepare for a vocation.

Second, develop a simple, consistent daily routine. This is a challenge, especially if your job requires you to work unusual hours. But it's essential. Find a time, perhaps during breakfast, dinner, or before bed, when you can connect with your children. Meals are ideal for family time; it solidifies your family unit by valuing the presence of each person. You can maximize this time for yourself by keeping dinner simple -- macaroni and cheese with veggies is fine. Next is the homework hour between 7:00 and 8:00, with the TV, Internet, and telephones turned off. Last it's time for bath and bed. The whole routine starts over again the next day.

If you're working when your kids are at home, you can still establish a routine. Make a habit of calling them every day at the same time. You can find out how their day went and make sure they're doing homework.

No doubt, there will be disruptions in the schedule. But when life without Dad seems out of control, this plan will hold you and your kids together.

Third, ask for help from family members, community groups, or a religious organization. This period in your life is when the phrase "it takes a village" will really have meaning for you. There are loving people out there who can drive your kids to sports practices, aunts and uncles who can provide care when one of your children comes down with a cold, and community associations that provide meals or childcare when you need a break from the rigors of single parenting.

Be sure to tell your children that although their dad will no longer be your husband, he will always be their dad. Parents divorce each other, but parents do not divorce their children. Adults are responsible for a divorce, not the children. No matter the difficulty, your children need to hear this information from you, the responsible caring parent.

Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.


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