15 Tips for Single Parents
"The first six months is important because you are just getting your bearings," said Brenda Rodstrom, LCSW, a therapist in private practice in Manhattan. "It's a process. I recommend to anyone, even if they are seeing me privately, to get into a group. There is an isolation that follows divorce and death. You need to de-isolate."
According to Rodstrom, 59, who is also a former divorcee, there are some very concrete things you can do to help get yourself organized and lessen the stress. "I came up with a single parents survival kit to help with the common problems we all face once we are on our own," she said.
1. Get some kind of support group
"If you can't find it in your community, you can find one online," she said. You have to make a concerted effort to start to build your new family based on reciprocity and support. "It can also help to start building self-esteem. You realize "I am not the only one.
2. Make an emergency list
Decide who is going to be on your list for emergencies.
3. Assign days to support group members
Divide up days so each of member of your support group takes turns watching the kids so the other can have time alone.
4. Cook with the group
Get together once a month or week to cook en masse and divide up the meals.
5. Focus on personal growth and stress reduction
"So much of being a parent takes an emotional and physical toll on you that you have to get out and do something for yourself on an ongoing basis," she said.Try an activity that you never did or go back to something you gave up in your marriage. "I rediscovered my love of hiking after I got divorced," said Rodstrom. "I love music so I took up an instrument. Put yourself out there. Try anything creative."
6. Minimize the tough times
"Holidays are hard when you don't have your kids, so make a plan," she says. "Know you will feel bad and know it will end."
7. Go out of town and visit a family member or friend
"Christmas day is the best day to travel. No one travels on that day, and it gives you something to take your mind off the holidays."
8. Spend a holiday with single friends
"A friend of mine doesn't have her kids every other Thanksgiving, so she gets together with other single parents who do have their kids. They don't feel the pain so much," said Rodstrom.
9. Holidays are just a date on the calendar
Celebrate your holiday with the kids when you can. "And it doesn't have to be a one day event," she said. "Celebrate for the whole month of December and do something every day so it takes the sting out of the actual day."
10. Call on your friends for support when you have to see your ex
'It's like an article I wrote, "Who gets custody of the school play?" said Rodstrom. "If you know you have to see your ex and the new trophy wife at the school play, your initial reaction might be, "I won't speak to him.," she said. But you have to because you are co-parenting, and your child is watching. "Go with a friend, who acts as a buffer and you will owe that person a favor. This is called swapping," she said. "Plan something to say to the ex and trophy wife that is civil and brief. And then walk away." Later that week, plan a treat for yourself. "You deserve it, so go get a manicure or facial," she said.
11. Avoid being competitive with your ex
"It won't get you anywhere," she said. "You can't compete with taking the kids to Disney World. And kids do not love the one who gives the bigger presents more."
12. Create new rituals for yourself
"Find new, fun things to do. Go bowling on Saturday. Branch out with the kids," said Rodstrom.
13. Move your bedroom to a different room in your house
Make the old one a study or kid's play room. "Redecorate to reflect your individual tastes and make the house more of your home," she said.
14. Consider a pet
"If you don't have one, think of getting one," said Rodstrom. "It takes the focus away and puts it on something else. Animals spread love around."
15. Learn to be alone
"It never occurred to me when I was married to go to a social event alone. You can do that. Don't date too soon. You can fall in love too quickly. You can't be a great parent unless you are a great person," she said.
Lenore Skomal is a career journalist with 25 years of professional writing experience for newspapers, broadcast and the Internet. The author of nine books and columnist of an award-winning weekly column in the Erie, Pa., Times-News, she also teaches college journalism in Pennsylvania, where she resides with her husband, son and assorted Canada geese.
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