Being a single parent is one of the biggest challenges a parent can face. Here is some advice single parents that have come to me for 1-to-1 counselling have found useful.

Are you a single parenting family?

Parenting is tough, the hardest job we ever do and it is great when we can handover to our partner when stressed or about to lose it. What can you do when you are parenting alone? Supporting yourself helps deal with the day to day challenges that parenting brings.

Single parents need to take care of themselves first

A helpful hint I picked up from a single mum was that after she put her children to bed, she did not allow herself to do any more work. Knowing that at 830pm or so that the evening was her own, meant she looked forward to relaxing and taking time just for herself. She used the time to re energise whether it was a candlelit bath or a relaxation exercise or to watch a favorite show or catch up with friends and make plans to meet up.

Single parents need time out

We know that we cannot take care of anyone until we first take care of ourselves, therefore look after yourself – for your children sake! Taking some time out means we recharge the battery, and my experience is that if I am not happy, no one else in the house is happy, as I am cranky, irritable and impatient.

Minding yourself means you will mind your children better

See the difference it makes when you treat yourself, schedule Time alone, time with friends (perhaps with your children in the Park) and watch how patient you will be, improved form and calmer.

Exercise to de-stress

Finding a half hour to exercise can make the rest of the day more managable. Exercise is proven to be the No 1 stress buster and as a client said to me ‘things were getting on top of me, however when I exercise, it doesn’t happen, it’s like I’m on top of everything’. You can carve up the thirty minutes into three ten minutes, so walking part way to School or Work counts, vigourous housework like hoovering or washing windows and using your childs skipping rope are all possibilities.

Support to single parents

‘A problem shared, is a problem halved’ the saying goes for good reason as we need to talk about our worries or concerns to a friend or we can become overwhelmed by them. Remember, most of what we worry about never happens anyway but finding a way to discharge our feelings is important and we come away lighter and more able to cope.

Children’s challenging behaviour after separation

‘If what you are doing is not working, you may as well try something different’.

I simply wanted my children to change – however we cannot change another person, we can only change ourselves, but the good news is that as I changed my interaction, my children changed their response.

Understanding challenging behaviour

Looking back, much of the time, I had a lack of understanding about what was behind their behaviour and I used ‘consequences’ to shut down their difficult behaviour. An over reliance of consequences is not good and does not work in the long term, we need to find ways of winning our childs co operations through enjoying a good relationship with them that is positive and loving and telling them the behaviour we wish to see.

Causes of challenging behaviour

So much of children’s behaviours are a cry for help to the parent – that goes unheard – so tune into how they feel and when you respond to their feeling and they feel better (more loved) the difficult behaviour will stop. Therefore, compassion and love is the No 1 response to difficult behaviour and through speaking with the child – Kindly, compassionately finding out the reason for the misbehaviour (sibling rivalry is often due to feeling that you love the other child and that you do not love them – so does it make sense – punishment is the wrong response – instead giving 1:1 time to change the feeling the child has means if they feel loved – they don’t need to strike/push/pull the sibling!

Top tips for managing challenging behaviour

Stay calm as your calmness calms everyone else
Stay separate to child’s behaviour
Their behaviour is about them, so do not personalise instead figure out the ‘why’
Come down to their eye level, use their name and say ‘when you calm down we can talk’
Ensure that their tantrums does not get them what they want
As soon as its over, give them your attention
‘Deal with it later’ best response in the heat of the moment or it escalates
Talk about what led to the behaviour later when all are calm
Remember, the more positive attention we give – The Less they Demand!

For more practical parenting tips, why not try:

One day parenting courses run monthly
Parenting talks for schools/companies
Cyber bullying talks for junior/senior schools
In-house corporate talks and workshops for working parents groups