If you suddenly find yourself alone due to a partner or spouse leaving, it is crucial to maintain stability for your child. Many parents believe a “consistent schedule” equals stability. In fact, many believe having your child on tight school, social and even meal schedules supports healthy emotional well being. Although that is certainly part of it, there is a more complex blue print that should be considered. I have identified three key areas single parents can tie together to ensure healthy development and security for their children. These three keys are for YOU, the parent. Your mental, physical and financial well-being determines your family environment.
Key #1 Mental health
There are many facets of a healthy mind. I identify two important concepts that will help many single parents: Isolation and Self-talk. Isolation quickly leads to depression, sedentary life style choices and in some cases, anger. In the Psychology Today article, “The Dangers of loneliness”, there are clearly explained ties to the deeper impact of Isolation. After affecting you mentally and emotionally, isolation begins to tear at your body physically. Avoid isolating yourself by going to church, community events, work events or even signing up for a craft class. You may feel apprehensive at first but the alternative is much more harmful to you and your children.
What about your personal “self-talk”? What does this dialogue look like? If your inner dialogue is filled with “can’t”, “won’t”, “not possible”, “loser” – don’t be surprised when your brain follows YOUR WORDS. Many of my readers are aware of numerous studies on self-talk. But what if negative self-talk has been your habit for years? How do you break it? Start with small steps of change. Instead of “can’t” try “I am” or “I will”. It is up to you to change your internal dialogue – YES, you can do it!
Key #2 Physical Health
- Group activities
I recently took a Zumba class for the first time. Wow! I was so energized the night after and into the following day. I personally know how much of a positive impact exercise makes on my mental health (Key #1) and physical wellbeing. When I bring up the gym to some single parents, the first reaction is “I don’t have the money.” I firmly believe where there is a will, there is a way. It may be true that you cannot afford membership to a high end gym. But the YMCA has very affordable memberships that include access to machines, classes and pools.
Group activities make the experience much more enjoyable. This can be as simple as meeting with friends or co-workers for a walk or having a weekend group of yoga enthusiasts. Group activities also help with accountability. When you have others depending on you or expecting you to show up, it’s more difficult to talk yourself (self-talk) out of going.
Key #3 Financial Health
- Part time work online
- Comparison shop
I used to believe I didn’t have ANY spare money for retirement or investing. But after years of reading, research and now investing our retirement funds, I realize that I really missed out on compound interest. If your company offers a 401k plan, join up! Even if you only contribute 2% you are still earning interest, rate of return and planning for retirement. If you don’t have a 401k plan at work, visit the sites below for other savings options. Finding part time or online work is not as elusive as in years past. I found a number of job opportunities through Facebook, Twitter and CareerBuilder that can be done from home. Your last step is comparison shopping. Some parents believe shopping at Goodwill stores is more budget conscious. This is sometimes true, but not always. I have found brand new quality jeans and shirts at Wal-Mart and Ross for about $1 more than Goodwill or thrift stores. In some cases, Goodwill is pricier. This does not mean I am an advocate of always buying new clothes. Gently used clothing that your child will soon grow out of is a great idea and a wise financial choice. But buying a new pair of jeans or a few shirts once a month will give a boost to your mental health (Key #1) as well as your child’s.
Finally, maintain consistency in your home. Emotion upheaval will run rampant in your home when single parents are visibly stressed, worried or angry. When there is instability, kids worry. Whether we realize it or not, our kids believe parents are super-heroes.