How to cope as a single parent - tips to help you along the way

Single parenthood can be a tightrope walk - a balance between the workplace, domestic life and the needs of children prone to act out when there’s no Dad or Mum at home. But there are some simple tips to help the family live happily in a hectic world.

Single Parents - take back control

Single parents overwhelmed with their kids’ behaviour need to get organised and assert their role as the head of the household. But this message is often lost when children’s behaviour spins out of control. The Supernanny team suggests the following to help parents take back control:


Share time together 

Tips to connect with your child

  • Build a strong Family Routine and stick to it. Allocate time for chores and time to spend as a family. 
  • Use mealtimes as ‘Us Time’ 
  • Plan structured time to help your child with their homework 
  • Switch off the TV and get into a routine of family games in the evenings and stories before bed for younger kids. Watch this clip from the show to see how shared play can re-forge broken bonds and pull the family together again. 
  • Spend alone time together. One to one bonding with each child can help older and younger kids alike feel secure in their new environment. Build it into the family routine and stick to it. 
  • Spend Sunday together. When was the last time your family spent an entire day together?

According to Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, children of families that eat together are less likely to exhibit behavioural problems, including experimentation with drugs and alcohol. The same children are also less likely exhibit symptoms of depression, and more likely to excel academically.

Time spent together is where behaviours are shaped and reinforced.

Stay in control

Establish ground rules

Raising kids by yourself means you don’t have anyone there to back you up if they won’t play nicely. Keep them co-operating by making expectations clear when it comes to behaviour. The first thing Supernanny often does on the show is establish a clear set of House Rules, so that the family can agree consequences for not sticking to these rules. Jennifer Wolf, a Parent Coaching Institute certified parent coach, suggests the following for single parents:

  • Establish ground rules: Communicate a set of three to five rules before children misbehave.
  • Use praise: Misbehaviour is often a search for approval in disguise. Find opportunities every day to praise good behaviour. Reward Charts are simple and effective ways to encourage good behaviour. 
  • Develop a firm and serious tone of voice. Lowering your voice can be a good tool for effective parent-child communication. 
  • Set boundaries: Children need to understand when their behaviour is crossing a line. The House Rules will help them remember what behaviour has been agreed as unacceptable. 
  • Redirect/separate: A child who displays persistent bad behaviour can be redirected. If the problem is fighting over toys, take them away; if it is about television, turn it off. 
  • Ignore it: When misbehaviour is tied to a desire to draw attention, do not allow it to succeed. 
  • Time out: Choose a place, such as a chair or corner, where children are challenged to think about bad behaviour. A good rule of thumb is a minute for every year of age. Take a look at how Supernanny uses the Naughty Step Technique to enforce time out on the show. 
  • Loss of privileges: Children need to learn the cost of bad behaviour. 
  • Natural consequences: Sometimes a child’s behaviour can induce its own negative consequences and lessons. A child who talks back at school, for example, may receive detention.

More tips to connect with your child 

  • Play reporter: Interview your children, and let them interview you. Understand their needs, wants and personal goals. 
  • Practise active listening: Your child will open up when you try to understand their world. 
  • Validate your children’s feelings: In a child’s world, big things may be small, and small things big. By understanding his or her feelings, a parent can guide a child toward an understanding of complex situations.
  • Ask questions: Family decisions can be better understood and better received if a child feels his or her point of view is considered.

More Tips for single-parent sanity 

  • Take care of yourself. 
  • Build a community of friends, co-workers, support groups and other single parents. 
  • Ask for help, and don’t shy away from help when it is offered. 
  • Share the childcare with others. 
  • Don't take your anger out on your children. 
  • Be honest with your children about the changes in your life. 
  • Recognise that you can't be both parents. 
  • Share the job of parenting with the other parent. 
  • Remember there is no such thing as a perfect parent.

Finally, remember that you are not alone. You’ll find single parent support groups in most towns and cities, and the Supernanny Forum is open 24/7 to hear your thoughts, tips and problems!

Related links

Find out more

Singleparents UK: brings together information, advice and first-hand experiences to help you manage and enjoy life as a single parent. 

Gingerbread/One Parent Families offer extensive and helpful information

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