Guest post by Kat Seney-Williams
Bringing up toddlers is hard work for any parent, but when one person is caring for a child 24/7 it’s not surprising if they end up feeling emotionally and physically worn out.
Here are some tips that helped me on my single-parent journey. They are relevant for all parents but I believe are particularly helpful for single mums and dads.
STICK TO A ROUTINE
Create a regular routine. This not only makes life easier because we are better organised, but it’s also incredibly beneficial for our toddlers. The predictability of knowing what will happen every day gives them stability and a sense of security. When we are co-parenting, it isn’t always easy to keep to the same routine in both homes, but aim to do this whenever possible. It’s also helpful if the contact our toddlers have with their other parent is regular and consistent.
Keep your stress levels to a minimum by preparing in advance – e.g. laying out clothes the night before and packing the nappy bag with everything you need when you are out. Ordering groceries online, planning menus for the week ahead, and bulk cooking meals to freeze and use on busier days will also save us time and stress. Some people find it useful to write themselves a daily to-do list, putting the most important things at the top and gradually working through it. (Don’t worry if you can’t get everything done, though – there’s always tomorrow!).
SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
Our toddlers need to know that when we say no, we mean it. This can be harder to do for single parents because there’s no one to back us up. When we’re exhausted and our toddler is whining or making ascene, it’s all-too tempting to simply give in. But if we don’t mean what we say, our toddlers will never know whether or not they can believe us. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF Don’t be too proud to accept help if it’s offered. You are only one person and no one is superhuman. If family or friends offer to help babysit or run errands, take them up on it. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Neglecting your own well-being isn’t good for your toddler or yourself, so try to eat healthily, exercise whenever possible, get enough sleep and find ways to give yourself some ‘me time’.
GET SOME PERSPECTIVE
I’m often asked the question, “Is it because I’m a single parent?” It’s borne out of a fear that any issues we’re experiencing with our children are because we are raising them alone. But my answer is always the same: all parents face challenging issues with their kids at one time or another. Toddler tantrums are normal! We’ll make mistakes and have bad days just like any other parent. It’s OK if the Duplo is scattered all over the floor some days, and it doesn’t matter if you end up cooking beans on toast for tea for the third time that week. None of us is the perfect parent, and you are doing so much better than you think you are … I promise.
Kat Seney-Williams is the Single Parent Support Coordinator at national charity Care for the Family and the author of Surviving and Thriving on the Single-Parent Journey. Find out more at www.careforthefamily.org.uk