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Single Parent’s Tips and Budget Talks

Q: I’m a single mother of a son, 9, and a daughter, 6. I never seem to have enough of anything – time, money, sleep. Help!?

A: Parenting is the hardest job there is, and when you are doing it on your own, it is especially demanding. It sounds like you are feeling overwhelmed with the never-ending demands of life. I have a few suggestions that can help alleviate some stress.

First on your list is time. There never seems to be enough of it, but organization and routines can help minimize wasted time. Simple things like packing lunches and backpacks the night before, having a family calendar, and designating an area for important papers will help you have more time together instead of wasting time finding that missing field trip permission slip!

You also need a strong support system. Every parent requires time to recharge his or her batteries, along with time to spend individually with each child. Ask a trusted friend or neighbor to watch the children for a few hours over the weekend and use that time for you. Then, offer to do the same for them. Explore if you can ways to create a schedule that would build in some alone time every week or month. This can make a world of difference in your attitude and stress level.

Money is another big pressure, especially in today’s economy. It is more important than ever to have a budget and to stick with it. Teach your children healthy money management skills so that as a family, you are working together. Believe it or not, children want to spend time with their parents more than they want the latest toy.

Finally, adequate sleep is necessary for health and optimum functioning. Set up healthy sleep routines for the entire house and stick with them – even through the upcoming winter vacation. This will keep you all on track.

It is important to be kind to yourself and know you’re doing a much better parenting job than you think.

Q: We can’t afford to celebrate the holidays like we have in the past. I’m worried that my children – 15 and 17 – will be disappointed about not getting a lot of gifts. I feel guilty that our holidays will be ruined. Suggestions?

A: I certainly can appreciate your feelings and I know that you are not alone in having to adjust your holiday budget this year. When something is out of your control, like the economy, it can leave you feeling worried, guilty and even helpless. I would suggest having some honest conversations with trusted friends or family so that you can share your feelings. It helps to have support when you are experiencing difficult times.

I also would have an honest conversation with your children. Because of their ages, they will understand what is happening and will appreciate your honesty upfront. It will mean a lot to them that you view them as mature enough to be part of the conversation. I would let them know now that the holidays are going to look different. Acknowledge their feelings, and allow them the opportunity to express themselves. Some simple reflective statements such as “I hear you saying you’re disappointed” will help your children feel understood.

I encourage you to set the tone for the holidays. There is no doctrine that says your holidays will be ruined because the gift total is less. Think about what makes the holidays special for your family and develop activities that foster those feelings. Create new traditions this year and as a family, discuss the old traditions you really want to keep.

Denise Noble is a mom of two and has master’s degree in counselor education. She is affiliated with, the parenting education arm of Greater Richmond SCAN, and has coached parents and worked with families for nearly twenty years.
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