Ask any parent. Raising kids is hard work. And it can be an even tougher job if you’re raising your kids without a partner. There are more than 20 million children in the U.S. growing up in homes headed by a single parent, according to the most recent U.S. Census. As a single parent, you probably find yourself pulled in many different directions—caring for your children, working to support your family, handling household chores like laundry and grocery shopping, helping with homework, making sure you have adequate childcare coverage.
Having all those responsibilities on your plate can create stress for both you and your children, and that can have a negative effect on your family’s physical and mental wellbeing over time. There are ways you can lower your stress levels. The key is to find the ones that work best for your family.
- Don’t go it alone. You don’t have to let being a single parent be a solitary pursuit. If you’re close to your parents or siblings or have some close friends, ask if they can help by picking up the kids from school or daycare or making a grocery run when you’re unexpectedly out of milk and bread. It’s also important to build friendships with other parents, singles and couples, who you can share tips with or just vent about a tough week. Other parents can also be a great resource for carpooling, swapping babysitting, and giving you the chance to get out and socialize.
- Take good care of yourself. It’s easy to get run down with all you have to do. That’s why it’s important to make sure you take care of yourself physically and mentally. Get your yearly doctor and dentist check-ups, eat healthy, and take whatever opportunities you have to get some exercise, whether it’s walking at lunch or going for a run while your kids are at soccer practice. By staying healthy and managing stress, you’ll find you have more energy and a more positive attitude. And try to do one thing you enjoy every day, whether it’s reading a book before bed or listening to your favorite music on the way to and from work. Simple things can make a big difference.
- Be prepared. It’s better than being surprised. You can cut your stress a great deal by thinking and planning ahead. Set your clothes and your kids’ clothes and school things out the night before. Make and freeze a few dinners on the weekend for hectic weeknights. Carry toys, a book, and snacks that can keep your kids busy and happy in your purse or backpack so they don’t get antsy when you have to wait in line. Keep an extra set of clothes for your kids in your car in case there’s a spill. By putting in a little extra effort upfront, you can make your days run more smoothly.
More than anything, you’ll lower your family’s stress level by making a little time every day just to relax together and enjoy each other’s company, whether you’re reading a story, talking about what you did today, or taking a walk together.