1. Stay flexible. As a single parent, it’s important for you to be able to cope with transition and change. You may already be in the midst of this process, dealing with the circumstances that have led you to become a single parent. To best handle this transition and master new ones, develop and maintain a can-do attitude. Keep positives in mind, recognize your strengths and be realistic about what you can do. It’s also helpful to develop a resource system that enhances your family’s security and stability, and to feel confident that you can count on your resources when you need them.
2. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Recognize that you can’t do everything single-handedly, and try to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Learn to share the load with your family. To accomplish this, communicate to your children that your family is a team. Hold weekly family meetings to enhance the family’s decision-making process. By doing this, you will improve your children’s capacity to cooperate by listening to them and considering their points of view. If you involve your children in the process of deciding on family rules, your family life will run more smoothly.
3. Balance work and play. Playtime is important for children, and scheduling structured playtime with them helps you all grow as a family. Make sure that you save time for play and don’t let work (household chores or professional duties) interfere with these play times. If it’s hard for you to relax, learn some relaxation techniques to help you cope with stress, and share what you learn with your children. Allow each member of the family time to pursue his or her own interests separately from the family –and make sure you take time for yourself as well.
4. Acknowledge your children’s bond to their other parent. Though you may have problems relating to your ex-partner, you need to encourage your children to honor their relationship with him or her and be supportive when the children are under the other parent’s care. The better you can communicate with the other parent, the happier your children will be and the better they will cope.
5. Celebrating family rituals enhances everyone’s sense of continuity and stability. Try to continue to celebrate traditions from your former two-parent family, and incorporate them into your new life along with more recent rituals that are unique to your present-day family.
These are only some of the principles and skills described in my new book, 50 Wonderful Ways to Be a Single-Parent Family (New Harbinger, 2003). Each chapter is short, easy-to-read, and full of practical advice. I include brief vignettes and suggestions for incorporating the skills into your daily life. Practice is essential – the more you and your family use the skills, values, principles and methods found in my book, the more satisfied you will be with your family life and with yourself. Enjoy.
Barry G. Ginsberg, Ph.D., has been a practicing child and family psychologist for more than thirty years. He is the Executive Director of the Center of Relationship Enhancement and Ginsberg Associates, a child and family psychology practice in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Ginsberg has hosted a twice-weekly Cable TV program on parenting and contributed to a column on parenting in the local newspaper. He has conducted many parenting seminars for thousands of parents and presented workshops and training programs to professionals on parenting, couple and family relationships. His has also written Relationship Enhancement Family Therapy (1997, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.;2004, Relationship Enhancement Press)