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Single parents are often so absorbed in tending the needs of their children that they neglect taking care of their own well-being. With proper coping skills in your emotional toolkit you can better overcome challenges as they arise and maintain better mental and physical health. Here are some great tips to help you develop a self-care routine to stay happy, healthy, and in turn be able to offer more to your children.
Single and stressed. The American Psychological Association explains that many singles “unrealistically expect that the family can function like a two-parent family, and may feel that something is wrong when it can not. The single parent may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of juggling caring for the children, maintaining a job and keeping up with the bills and household chores. And typically, the family's finances and resources are drastically reduced following the parents' breakup.”
Sound familiar? As a single parent you face a number of stressors in your daily life that nuclear families do not. Conflicts with your ex, visitation and custody issues, reduced opportunities to enjoy your children, complications from dating and new relationships, seeing the effects on your kids, and disturbances in the relationships with extended family members can be complex challenges for single parents. It’s a struggle that can strain and damage your well-being.
First-aid. Experts cited by Psychology Today recommend establishing a “first-aid kit” to help you recognize and heal emotional damage that comes from stress:
Your toolkit. Taking care of yourself will help you overcome and heal emotional damage to maintain good mental health. Add these tools into your self-care program to support your emotional and physical needs:
Coping skills. When the going gets tough, employ deep breathing exercises, yoga and meditation to help you stay in the present instead of being distracted by the past or the future.
Good habits. Keep some structure in your days so you can find time to tend your basics. Eat right, exercise and get enough sleep. An established routine will also reduce your child’s stress and help you stay organized.
Positivity Maintaining an optimistic, positive attitude helps you overcome emotional challenges when they arise. Reflect on your successes by listing things you have accomplished for you and your children. Avoid comparing yourself with others and how you see their progress as parents.
Support network. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out you should not isolate yourself with busyness or try to be entirely “self-sufficient.” Reach out to family and friends but don’t underestimate the power of flexible childcare. Drop-in childcare offers single parents a safe alternative to creating “latch key” children. Flexible care doesn’t lock you into a set schedule and is an ideal solution when you work multiple jobs, need last-minute care, or simply want to have an hour of time to yourself.
Control finances. Money can be a big stressor, so experts advise that getting a handle on your situation will help you feel more secure, even if funds are tight. Establish a budget and set aside money for the future.
Time in nature. Single parents often are running to and from obligations and spend very little time savoring the outdoors. Being in nature reduces stress levels and promotes mental health.
Developing a self-care program can help you navigate obstacles and stay healthy and happy. You’ll be a better parent with more to offer your children, instead being run ragged. Learn to recognize when you need some first-aid, and put tools in your toolkit for better coping and psychological health. You deserve emotional well-being and a good self-care program!
By Daniel Sherwin