Being a single parent presents the same challenges all parents face but you have two less hands to help. When you are raising a family by yourself you are the one getting lunches ready, giving baths, and driving to and from football practice. You can’t use the good cop/bad cop routine. You don’t ever get a break. Many single parents work long hours or even work two jobs. You are faced with the financial and time constraints of a two-parent household with one income. Luckily, there are a few simple changes you can make that will help you support your child without adding stress to your already busy life.
Create a “home base”
For your “home base” you will need a calendar, a basket for incoming schoolwork, a spot for backpacks, and space to write. Your home base can be a corner of your kitchen, a side table in your living room, or an office. Announce this spot to your children as the hub of your home and remind them to use it as such. Use a different color pencil for each child’s activities to keep your children’s schedules straight. Encourage your children to keep track of their own activities. Designate a basket where your children can put notices that you need to see and forms you need to sign. Keeping all the forms in one place ensures you don’t miss important information. Keep pencils and pens next to the basket so you can fill out forms immediately and put them right back into your child’s backpack. Your time is valuable, and having a home base keeps you from wasting time searching all over the house for forms, notices, and assignments that need to get sent to school.
Ask for help…and return the favor
Don’t be afraid to ask a neighbor or friend for help. Most moms know that no matter what the circumstance, being a parent requires lots of juggling. Asking a neighbor to drive your child to school in the morning is fine, but be sure to return the favor and drive the kids to the school dance over the weekend. Remember- a simple thank you goes a long way. A bouquet of flowers, a gift card for a coffee shop, or a batch of cookies are inexpensive ways to show you appreciate the support you get and it has not gone unnoticed. A handwritten note to say thanks for the help does the trick, too.
Communicate with the teacher
Let her know what days or times are best for you to meet or to speak on the phone. Give her a time frame in which you intend to return her calls or notes. If you know you work late and don’t always get to her notes right away, let her know she can expect to hear from you within 48 hours. If you have a day off during the week, ask for her consideration when scheduling meetings. Being clear about communication with your child’s school leads to consistent and open interactions.
You can’t be in three places at once so choose the meetings, school events, and games that mean the most to you and your children. Include your children in the process by letting them choose an event they want you to attend. Be honest with your children about why you can’t be at all their events but don’t dwell on it. Refrain from constantly reminding them that you are the only parent helping out- they know this and you should vent to your friends, not your children. When they get home ask specific questions about what happened in the big game or the school play. If you want to volunteer at your child’s school but can’t be there all the time, ask if you can help stuff envelopes or make phone calls and do some of the behind-the-scenes work for events.
Remember that you are one person taking on a huge job and can only do your best each day. Pat yourself on the back for maintaining your children’s safety and security. Give yourself credit for taking care of all the day-to-day responsibilities by yourself. Enjoy the time you get to spend with your children and stay positive- your children will model your attitude and you can be a happy and productive family together.
Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.