Parenthood can be demanding and stressful for anyone, and that’s doubly true for single parents. Many single parents feel like they cannot go on holiday or enjoy some personal time due to the stress of taking care of their child, especially during a global pandemic. However, there are a number of coping strategies that single parents can use to overcome the challenges of parenting during COVID-19 and still keep their sanity in check. Check out these tips on how single parents can look after their mental health:
Plan ahead and create a routine
Maintaining a routine is one of the best ways single parents can make their day run smoother. From scheduling meals to chores to bedtime, a child that knows what to expect each day is more likely to cooperate without giving you grief. And that is also true when you are on holiday. Holidays and getaways can easily trip you up with unforeseen problems, so having an idea of what you want the day to look like will help you stay on track. If you are going to a theme park, for example, plan out which rides and activities you want to do ahead of time. Even if you are on vacation, try to keep a similar routine to when you’re at home. Try to wake up and go to bed around the same time and complete your same morning/night routine. This is especially important when you want to make sure that you are still getting adequate sleep, which is very important for mental health and often overlooked.
Consistency is key to keeping sane
Just like creating a routine is important for consistency, so is being consistent with your rules and discipline for your children. Talk to those who help you look after your children (ex-partner, childminders, family, or school) when you are at work, on how they should handle disciplining your child. When a child realises that certain family members might accept certain bad behaviours, the child will use that to their advantage, making it more difficult for you to keep discipline when you have the kids.
Get out of the house to lift your spirits
Part of the stress of parenting just comes from being cooped up together for too long, and that is especially true with COVID-19 restrictions and working from home. When you are a single parent with young kids and working from home, it is even more important to take regular breaks during the day, as well as short breaks to get out of the house to stay safe and healthy and prevent burnout.
A camping trip is one way you can keep your sanity in check while still practising social distancing. Fresh air and a change of environment can do wonders for your mental health. Just remember to pack the right camping gear to make your trip a breeze. Do your research on what you will need, especially if camping is new to you. Tents, sleeping bags, safety gear and lighting are all important things to consider. You can even bring a camp stove to help you cook some meals for your camping trip.
Set aside personal time
As a single parent, you may feel like you have to be glued to your child 24/7. And we get it, it is hard to find time to yourself when you’re solely responsible for a child or children. Still, everyone needs their own personal time. Self-care is extremely important when wanting to support your mental health, not to forget your physical health.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or take a ton of time out of your day. The end of the day is a great opportunity to wind down and focus on yourself, whether that’s watching your favourite show or having a glass of wine on your patio. Maybe try setting aside 30 minutes of your day to read your favourite book or join a hiking group if your child regularly visits its other parent or grandparents. There are many physical and mental benefits to hiking. In fact, any exercise in fresh air is a great way to lift your spirits, not to mention the positive effect it will have on your fitness.
You should also consider having at least one solo holiday each year, even if that means leaving your child with the grandparents for a few days, or even a week. This might sound bold to some, but single parents need to recharge their batteries, too. Taking time out for yourself for a small stretch at a time, is incredibly important for your physical and mental health and proven to prevent depression. Your sanity will thank you after and your kids are bound to enjoy the adventure.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Parenting is hard, and everyone can use a helping hand. Never feel guilty or blame yourself for being a single parent. Join support groups, try to meet other single parents for friendship and support. Call on loved ones and friends to help where they can. Even something as simple as setting up a carpool schedule with other parents can take some of the burden off yourself. If you’re considering a holiday or short break, try asking other families if they want to join up with you or join a single parent holiday. Building a support network can make a huge difference in combating the stresses of single parenthood.
Find the joy in your day
In this day and age, it’s easy to succumb to all the negativity that constantly bombards us. That’s why it is important to find the things that bring you joy throughout the day and focus on them. Maybe you enjoy gardening or cooking with your child, or maybe you really like taking an evening jog around the block. If you are still searching for that “joy” in your day – don’t stress over it. Just start thinking about what creative or fun things you can add to your routine. It doesn’t have to be something big or grand, just something that you can look forward to every day.
Seek professional help to improve your mental health
Counselling can be a lifesaver when mental health is at stake. Single parents face many different stressors every day, but it’s important to know that you are not alone. Seeking professional help doesn’t mean that you have failed, it just means that you are willing to do whatever you can to be the best you can be for yourself and your kids. Whether that means seeking a support groups of other single parents or having one on one sessions with a counsellor, therapist or life coach, any of these options can be beneficial.
Being a single parent is a challenging responsibility to take on. If you don’t have help, you might at times feel like you’re drowning. Just remember that it’s okay to ask for help and to always take time each day for yourself. Whatever your situation, we hope that some of these tips will help you manage your mental health and get you on track to feeling like yourself again.
Author bio: Jenny Hart is a health and wellness writer with a passion for travel, cycling and books. Her focus is topics related to women’s health and she is interested in research that can help women feel better in all phases of their life. When she isn’t writing or travelling, she’s traversing NYC with her two dogs Poochie and Ramone.