Children’s lives are changed dramatically after a divorce or death, and sometimes even blame themselves for their parents split. The same is true for the newly single parent. But even though you may not think so at this moment, this is a challenge that you will overcome, and it does have some perks, once everything is in order.
Don’t be afraid to ask close friends and family for support. Inform your children’s teachers about what’s happening, and consult with the school counsellor, so as to arrange support for your children.
Even though children are adaptable, give them a chance to get accustomed to their new reality before bringing on any other changes. Allowing teachers in to help, also gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your child will be well looked after in cases where you can’t physically be there.
Do’s and don’ts
According to psychologists, single parents are initially very overwhelmed, and this can lead to problems with discipline. In most cases discipline is very extreme, with parents either being too lenient or too strict. Boundaries may also get blurred as the parent often feels guilty for the divorce or death. This is usually when parents avoid disciplining their children, or overcompensate by being overindulgent with gifts and being too lax on rules. Parents should always remember to stick to the rules that always existed, and should enforce them no matter how tired they may be.
Parents should not lean on their children for support, especially if they are not adults. Remember to make time for your child, and be fully present when you are with them. Plan getaways together and just remember to continue living.
Communication is essential in this instance. If possible, get a mediator to help with a co-parenting plan. This can be registered with at your local court’s family advocate offices, and Famsa is also able to help. Children’s wishes and views must also be considered during decision making.
Almost all single parents worry about having enough money to look after their children. Parents usually need to first adjust to their new lifestyle, and the sooner they make peace with this, the better. Taking charge of one’s finances is also very important.
Financial advisor Debbie Netto-Jonker says, “it’s not a bad idea to have a shoebox and put all your till slips into it for a whole month. You’ll be amazed at how much you actually spend.”
You need to know how much money comes into the household, how much goes out and what is left over. It is also important to learn how to budget within the constraints of your income. You need to make sure that you take charge sooner rather than later, and to educate yourself on how to become financially secure. It isn’t a bad idea to see a financial advisor either. You have to think about education, your retirement, investment, and saving for holidays, which are just as important to relieve stress.
Explain budgeting to your children – without stressing them – about the need to keep to a budget in order to achieve the beach holiday, for example.
If you have your finances in order, it is guaranteed that you will be less stressed.
- Put at least 10 % of any money you earn in a savings account.
- Save your bonuses.
- Bank your raises.
- After you’ve paid off all your debt, bank the money you were paying on that debt.
Do you know where the birth certificates, passports and life insurance papers are? If there is an emergency, who will know where to find these? Don’t forget to adjust your will. Make a list of all important papers and collect them all in one place. Assign a family member you can trust and let them know where they can find all these papers should the need arise. Also remember that if you are planning an overseas trip anywhere with the kids, you have to get written permission from the other parent.
Put up a calendar: Use a calendar to record your family’s main events, highlight days where the kids are with you, and when they are with their other parent. Choose a consistent day to clean your house.
Filing system: Set up an effective filing system. When you receive a bill, put it in the payments folder and pay all your bills at once.
School files: School newsletters and other important information relating to your child’s schooling should be filed in this folder. Keep separate folders for all your children. It’s also a good idea to have some money at home for small unexpected school payments.
Chores: Get your children to help with daily chores. Small children can clear away after meals, make their own beds, and do other small errands such as watering the plants, fetching the mail and washing dishes.
On the bright side
While being a single parent is stressful, it also has numerous rewards. For one you are the boss, and there is no-one to second guess you. You can get really close to your children, and you will also get to spend a whole lot more time together.
If you are getting divorced, you will have every other weekend off, when the children go to their other parent. This is a great time to get some me time, doing what you love. You will also learn a whole lot about yourself, and you will realise that you are a lot stronger than you initially thought.
Once the shock and pain has subsided, you have a renewed opportunity to redirect your life in a direction that would not have been possible previously.