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At times, it may seem like it takes a village to raise a child, but for single p arents, that village often

feels like a party of one. Single parenting poses cha llenges for even the most organized mom or dad, and without an extra hand, it ca n seem like a daunting task. A moment alone may seem like only a dream when you have the role of both mom and dad. According to Jessica Stebbins, a Florida-based family therapist, it is cru cial for single parents to focus on the positives in their lives and the joy tha t a child brings. It is essential to accept that life changes with a baby and come to the conclusio n that this is a positive thing, Stebbins said. To that end, with resources and s upport systems in place, single parents can find the perfect balance while raisi ng a healthy child. Facing the Challenges Ahead Whether you re nurturing an infant or a teenager, going it alone can cause single parents to experience not only a loss of freedom, but also a lot of stress. A fl ood of feelings can be overwhelming if you re not prepared. A single parent may feel increased stress due to having to find child care, work and care for her baby as well as feeling guilt for not spending the time that sh e would like to with the baby, Stebbins said. All of these factors could interfere with creating a bond with the baby or cause the mother to feel more guilt and p ut her at higher risk for postpartum blues or depression. Sleep deprivation can enhance the intensity of a single parent s risk of depressio n or postpartum blues, says Carole Arsenault, author of The Baby Nurse Bible. The challenges are often compounded in a single-parent situation because he or she of ten does not have the emotional or logistic support to smoothly get through midn ight feedings and soothing sessions, Arsenault said. As your child grows, the emo tional toll of battling the terrible twos or teenage angst can also lead a singl e parent toward feelings of helplessness without the support he or she needs. With only one source of income, financial strain often causes anxiety for single parents, too. While raising her children, Jennifer Maggio, single mother and au thor of Overwhelmed: The Life of a Single Mom, faced similar challenges. Beyond pr oviding a stable home for her children, Maggio and many single parents are faced with the cost of child care, teenage activity fees and school supplies while go ing it alone. Not only does a single mother deal with the obvious challenges of motherhood that include learning to care for an infant, irregular sleep patterns and postnatal hormone adjustments, but the struggle is much deeper, Maggio said. She does not ha ve the luxury of a spouse in whom she can share her concerns -- one who can offe r those necessary words of encouragement and a listening ear. As children grow and get involved in sports, dance or music lessons, all requiri ng transportation from one activity to the next, Maggio says the balancing act c an be demanding as a single parent. "It is necessary for every parent to learn b alance to effectively manage this new stage of life, but with a single parent, i t is critical." Fun-Filled Activities on a Single-Parent Budget Just because you are supporting your family on a single income, it doesn t mean th e fun has to stop. With a little creative budgeting and planning, you can foster memories that are both fun and free. According to Nancy Butler, a Connecticut-based certified financial planner, low-

cost entertainment options are unlimited for families on a budget. Butler recommends taking advantage of local parks and campgrounds. Teach your to ddler how to ride a bike, fly a kite or prepare a picnic lunch for a day at the park. Enjoy an evening under the stars by pitching a tent in your backyard, comp lete with a campfire and s'mores. If your teen is interested in the local arts, volunteer the entire family to ush er a local play or volunteer as stage hands to get behind the scenes. Giving bac k to the community through volunteer work can foster a sense of charitable respo nsibility within your children. It gives the whole family a way you can share the experience, says Butler, "and you are not spending money, while you are feeling great about helping others." Finding the Support You Need Single parenting requires creative planning and crafty juggling to maintain a he althy household balance for both you and your child. In order for any parent to b e as effective as possible with their child, they need to have some time for the mselves and relaxation, Stebbins said. Family can be a big help for some, but it i s also important to find support from other sources. Try nurturing your mind and body with a healthy routine of exercise with your ch ildren. A daily walk in the stroller may help to soothe both of you and prepare you both for a much-needed nap. A 10-minute soak in a hot tub can do wonders for a single parent's peace of mind. Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercis e will provide the energy level a single parent needs to go it alone. Stebbins recommends finding fellowship from church members, mom groups, neighbor s and single-parent support groups. Join groups where your child can mingle with other children, and consider a child swap with friends and neighbors to allow f or some time out for yourself. Carpooling with other parents will also cut back on your time in the car, transporting your children to and from practices and re hearsals. Asking for help is necessary when you feel stressed. Arsenault recommends tappin g into online support groups or a local mom to talk through challenges of raisin g either a baby or a teenager. It can work wonders for emotional support, Arsenaul t said. Dr. Savitri Dixon-Saxon, a single mother and associate dean for Walden Universit y s School of Counseling and Social Service, says that it is crucial for single pa rents to establish a support network with others who understand the unique chall enges of single parenting. "Single parents often feel increased vulnerability an d think about 'what if something happens to me and I can't take care of my child ,'" Dixon-Saxon said. A network of parents may provide you with the reassurance you need as well as the time to meet your needs and the patience to meet your ch ild's needs. A support network can also get you and your children out and about with others for affordable day trips, group activities and meals in a supportive environment. Above all, it is important for single parents of both babies and teenagers to em brace the blessings that come with single parenting and accept that you are one person, not a village, raising a child. It s important to learn to forgive yourself for all the things you want to do, but can t, Dixon-Saxon said. Spend quality time with your child and let go of the idea of perfection. In the end, quality time i s more important. Sponsored Links

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