Being a parent is challenging. But being a single parent comes with its own set of stressors and obstacles.
Research shows that single parents have significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety than their partnered counterparts. In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, single parents were also more likely to indicate feeling overwhelmed and unable to keep up with daily tasks and responsibilities.
If you're raising a child on your own, it's still crucial to look after your mental health. You might be pressed for time, money, or resources, but here are some tips that can help.
Find Your Tribe
Even if you're parenting alone, that doesn't mean you are alone.
All parents need support. Having a validating community can help you navigate some of the inherent challenges associated with your daily responsibilities.
Ideally, you want to surround yourself with positive influences who make you feel better about yourself. Whether these relationships are face-to-face or virtual, it's the quality of the friendship that truly matters.
Remember that it's okay to talk about your mental health. The people who care about you want to help you. Likewise, holding it all in will likely make you feel more depressed, anxious, and isolated.
Ask For (And Accept) Help
Some single parents feel like they need to do everything themselves. If this is you, you might resist reaching out for support. Even when the help is appreciated, you may feel guilty accepting it, as if you are somehow "cheating" or "wronging" your child.
Try to avoid these negative thinking traps. The 'village effect' is real when it comes to raising a family, and it's important to take advantage of outside support when it's available to you.
You aren't doing anyone any favors if you're taking on every burden alone. This stress can compromise your mental health and adversely affect your child.
Furthermore, you should want to model the importance of humility and boundaries to your child. You don't want them growing up with the assumption that they need to handle everything alone.
Stick to a Routine
Routines are great for children, but they can also be invaluable for parents. Maintaining a sense of structure throughout your day provides a sense of predictability. It keeps you focused and on track, which can be a saving grace when life feels chaotic.
Of course, based on your child's needs, the routine should be realistic and age-appropriate. You want to have some sense of what's next, but you also want to be flexible enough to know that you can cope with changes should they arise.
Ideally, optimal routines include:
waking up and going to bed around the same time
eating at least one meal together as a family
having predictable and consistent limits around screen time
leaving for school/work at the same time
planning reliable activities each day or week
If your child is enough, it can be beneficial to involve them in helping establish the routine. For example, if they keep fighting you about bedtime, consider collaborating directly to determine what they think is the best solution.
What time would they like to go to bed? What routine would they like to engage in before falling asleep? And if you have hard limits around bedtime, are you willing to let them play or read quietly as long as they stay in their room?
Avoid Badmouthing the Other Parent
It can be tempting to criticize your child's mother or father, especially if your child complains about them, but try to avoid engaging in this behavior.
Children need to know that you are secure and confident despite any parenting conflicts. They also need to know that you have their backs- even if they feel a sense of loyalty to the other parent.
Badmouthing other parents invariably places children in awkward, lose-lose situations. They may feel like they need to defend the other person. Or, they might "side" with you only to feel like they have to choose one person over the other.
If you're struggling to co-parent, you're not alone. However, you should consider seeking professional help.
While co-parenting isn't easy, it's important to put your child's needs first. Learning how to compromise and keep the peace can make your life easier- and it can be profoundly beneficial for your child's development.
Single parents face numerous obstacles when raising their children. But in taking care of your family, it isn't healthy to neglect your own needs. It's important that you continue honoring your mental health.
At The Mental Health House, we believe in helping families live meaningful, satisfying lives. We understand that families come in all shapes and sizes. We also recognize the unique issues our clients face when it comes to receiving adequate care.
If you are struggling with your mental health, we are here to support and guide you! Contact us today to learn more.