Single parents have all the responsibility that comes with raising kids – except they’re on their own. And while some mums and dads make it look easy, it’s a tough job – especially when your child has additional needs.
We spoke to Lidia Peto, a Life Coach and Personal Trainer from Surrey, who is bossing single parenthood. She moved to the UK from South Africa for a better life with her daughter, who was only seven years old at the time.
So, if you’re a single parent or new to single parenthood, snuggle up with a brew and read this advice from someone who has been there. And don’t forget to share your tips too!
1. Learn to love and accept yourself.
‘It’s easier said than done – but learning to love and accept yourself is key. It’s only natural that we put our children first, but when we live with negative feelings about ourselves and our bodies, we have the tendency to neglect ourselves.
‘Being a single parent is tough, and we often deal with stress by smoking, drinking, over eating…the list goes on. It’s easier giving in than to be positive and healthy each day, but guess what, you will still feel crappy.
‘Staying positive, grateful and healthy will change your whole life, I’m not saying it’s easy, but the effect it will have on your life is incredible. See yourself in the way your children see you with unconditional love and acceptance.’
2. Give yourself a break
‘There are days when I discipline my daughter and I beat myself up because I feel I was too hard on her. When she says she hates me I feel like a failure and a bad parent. The thing is, I’m not – and neither are you. In my case, my daughter is just a teen. In yours, perhaps it’s just standard toddler behaviour.’
3. Do the best you can for your children
‘As parents, we often intend to do what’s best for our child. But sometimes we feel confused between what we want to do VS. what we need to do, often overcompensating or giving in to their demands.
‘So when you initially know that what you are doing is the best for them, even if it means they get upset, keep on doing what’s best, not what’s easy. You will reap the benefits of this.’
4. Be selfish once in a while
‘My daughter said to me the other day “Mommy you are so selfish sometimes”. I was quite shocked but then I thought about it and wondered why she said this to me. I realised that I am selfish, but in a good way. I take care my daughter’s needs and then mine, always making sure I am ok before I think of other people.
‘I know it sounds selfish, but if I am not a complete and fulfilled person how can I support and be strong for my daughter?’
5. Don’t take life too seriously
Be yourself. Have fun. Be crazy and weird even if it embarrasses your kids. Dance, sing, and laugh as much as possible. If there is an opportunity to smile and laugh with your children, just do it. Laughter is the best medicine for your soul.
‘Embrace this fun and laughter always as some days it may feel very limited. Laughter can create amazing memories to think back on. Being silly sometimes will help you realise that life shouldn’t always be taken too seriously, you can let loose every once in a while.’
6. Live without resentment
‘Resentment is a destructive emotion, and holding resentment towards your child can be damaging. I learnt a very valuable lesson. Sometimes resentment and hate can creep into your life as a single parent. In my journey with my daughter, I gave up a lot of dreams, passions, and even relationships. Ultimately, I had to end up in a relationship to show me that I had so much resentment towards my daughter and blamed her for me not being able to live my life the way I wanted to. This was so wrong and I had to deal with it. After all, it was me that brought her into this world.
‘I was given the amazing calling of being a mother. It was not her fault. So try and deal with resentment – as this can haunt you and cause separation and bitterness between you and your child.’
7. Have goals, dreams and passions
‘Being a single parent doesn’t mean you have to give up on all your dreams and passions. But it may mean they need to be postponed, adapted or reviewed during times when your child needs you more.
‘Even if you take five years to achieve your goal, making a goals list and believing in yourself is essential. Believe you can and you will.
‘I have been able to follow many of my dreams, and now I can experience this with my daughter by my side. Some of them have been on hold for a few years but I am now able to follow my health, fitness and inspiration passion to help others in similar situations.’
8. Evaluate the advice you’re given
‘People often mean well, but don’t always give accurate advice. Many people do not ‘get’ our unique situations, so take what others say with a pinch of salt and assess their advice yourself.
‘I’m not saying ignore advice from people, friends and family. Just evaluate the advice and ask, “do they actually get me and my situation?” You can then choose to accept the advice or put it on the shelf.’
9. Just breathe
‘There will be days when nothing helps a situation except breathing. Pouring fuel on a fire is not good. It has taken me 13 years to walk away from a raging child and sit down and breathe. I have tried all methods and this is the best and easiest one for me and my daughter.
‘Breathing helps calm you and makes you think and react with clarity and not with impulse or anger. I have found that meditating or just being still for a few minutes on my own works wonders when it’s a bad day for us.’
10. Take ‘me’ time
‘Take a relaxing bath. Do your nails. Call a friend. Go to gym. Go for a walk. Mediate. Read a book. Watch a movie, have a nap, have a spa day, visit a museum, or take a dance lesson. Always make ‘me’ time, which is so beneficial for your body, mind and soul.
‘Making ‘me’ time basically means refuelling. You really need this. Trust me. And please don’t feel guilty investing in yourself. As a single mother, I never wanted to spend time, money, or energy on myself. But I have learnt that for me to be the best parent I can be for my child, I need to invest in myself and make the effort to have ME time.’
Lidia Peto is a Personal Trainer and Life Coach based in Surrey. She is a single mum to her 16-year-old daughter, who has additional needs. To find out more about Lidia, check out her new website here.
Friendili is a social networking app. for parents who have children with disabilities, health conditions and special educational needs. It can also be used by mums and dads facing their own health and disability journeys. To find out more, see here.