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Parenting Without a Partner

I don’t have a partner. How can I do this by myself?

Here are some tips to help you be the parent you really want to be.

Take time for yourself. It is impossible to give others our best when we do not feel our best. It’s very important to take care of ourselves first so that we are able to take care of our children. This may mean recruiting family members to help out or hiring a babysitter. Establishing a support system is crucial to successful parenting.

Use all the resources you can find. This may include state and federal government programs, community programs, work related programs, family members and friends. Be aware of what’s available to you by making phone calls, talking to friends and co-workers, browsing social media sites for local groups and businesses, reading newspapers and talking to other parents.

Set some family ground rules. It’s hard to play by the rules when you don’t know the rules. Setting standards and expectations up front can cause a lot less backlash during your daily routine.

Enforce the family rules. Every single day. Rules should apply to all members of the family and everyone should be held accountable for upholding the rules. If a member of the family breaks a rule, they should be disciplined every time with an age-appropriate punishment.

Spend quality time together. Quality time is a little deeper than just time spent driving to school in the morning or getting ready for bed in the evenings. It’s about being able to really focus on one another and talk. When we spend time together we learn about each other and have the ability to enjoy each other’s company. It shows our children that we value them and being with them is important to us. We should spend time together as a family and with individual children as time allows. A child who feels loved has increased self- esteem, which can keep them from falling into bad patterns of alcohol and drug abuse, failing grades, eating disorders and other risky behaviors children, and especially teenagers, may engage in.

Have regular family meetings. Having regular, set family meetings (perhaps weekly or monthly) let kids know that they will have their chance to speak about issues they are unhappy with at a time when you can listen and help come up with solutions to the problem. Family meetings get the whole family on the same page so everyone knows the problem and everyone can be part of the solution. People are much more likely to follow an idea if they helped to create it. This is the perfect chance to give everyone the opportunity to be a part of the solution instead of the problem. Set ground rules for meetings:

  • One person speaks at a time.
  • Everyone will have their chance to speak.
  • Be respectful of others.
  • Try to see where the other person is coming from (put yourself in their shoes).
  • Don’t be a naysayer. You will have your chance to present an idea you think is better.
  • Be compassionate toward other people’s feelings.
  • No cell phones or other distractions during the meeting.

Eat at least seven meals together each week as a family. We all have to eat and this can be an easy way to get some great quality time with your kids. There are no rules for which meals you need to eat together, so if you have more time in the morning, then have a family breakfast. Being together and talking to each other is the most important part of the meal. Restrict TV, cell phone and other distractions. You may need to entice your kids with their favorite meals to get the process started and then convince them how fun and heartwarming eating together as a family can be by showing genuine interest in their day, what’s going on in their lives, what they need help with, or new things they are interested in.

Remember that the biggest way we teach our kids is by role modeling. Sometimes we worry that we don’t have enough time to teach our kids important things, like how to manage money, how to get along with others or how to manage daily routines. Whether we realize it or not, kids learn the most by watching their parents. Our attitude, habits and practices have the most influence over our children and their future behavior than any other person or thing, so make sure it’s a positive influence.

For more information: Contact Ami Cook, M.S., C.R.C., WVU Extension Service, Families and Health Instructor – Braxton and Clay Counties at Ami.Cook@ mail.wvu.edu