The more you focus on enjoying your family, the better you'll handle the challenges you face as a single parent. As a single parent, you do the work of two people without the backup and support that a partner provides. Are your priorities realistic given your situation? Do you expect to have a spotless home and to put a special meal on the table every night? Or are you willing to let the dishes sit in the sink while you have a pizza and a game of cards with your child? By compromising about things like housework and making your family your first priority, you'll have more time to enjoy each other.
Here are some suggestions:
• Take some time each day to enjoy your child and relax together. Sit and listen to one of your child's favorite CDs together, take a walk together, or just sit and talk.
• Spend relaxed, unstructured time just being together. Children want and need lazy time at home with you. In today's busy world, many children's lives are highly structured and scheduled. Lazy time with you isn't a waste or something to feel guilty about; it's what your child needs and wants. Being together doesn't have to mean an endless stream of organized activities. It can mean hanging out together baking cookies, walking the dog, reading on the couch, or curled up together watching a movie on a weekend night.
• Make family meals a priority. Even breakfast can be a sit-down meal to share if everyone is up at the same time. Delay supper until everyone is home from activities, and use that time to talk about your day. Turn off the television and don't answer the phone during dinner. Studies show that children who eat regular meals with their parents are less likely to use drugs during the teen years.
• Take advantage of your commuting time with your child. Use travel time in the car, on the bus or train, or while walking to school with your child to talk, tell stories, sing, and connect. Turn off the radio and ignore the cell phone. This tells your child that he or she is your priority.
• Avoid multitasking when you're spending time with your child. Make the time you spend with your child special by really focusing on her. Avoid doing other things at the same time. When you can, let the answering machine pick up, turn off the TV, move away from your computer, stop the chore you were doing, and focus on your child.
• Make a game out of certain chores. For example, when picking up toys before bedtime, see who can get the most red ones in the toy box first.
• Read together every night, or at least several nights a week. Even if your child is a preteen, he may still like it if you read to him. Read a chapter a day of Harry Potter or Charlotte's Web. A librarian will be able to point you to some other classics that you may enjoy together.
• Give your child an occasional bedtime extension. Let each child stay up 20 or 30 minutes past bedtime, say, every other week, and use that time together playing a game, snuggling together, or working on a project.
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