Parenting is a difficult yet rewarding job even in a two-parent home. If you are a single parent who struggles financially, the rewards may be overshadowed by constant worries about money, as suggested by the Healthy Children website. Finding ways to stretch your budget can zap your energy and leave little downtime to relish the joys that children bring to your life.
Bringing Home the Groceries
Single moms or dads often grow tired of cooking inexpensive meals based on rice or pasta and cheap cuts of meat to make the meals stretch farther. Visit food banks at churches and other places in the community to supplement your basic grocery needs. Often these places provide nutritious foods free of charge if the individual shows proof of residence.
Apply for free or reduced lunches for your children to help lessen the cost of food, as suggested by the United States Department of Agriculture website. In some areas, after-school snacks, meals during the summer, breakfast or additional food supplies are available through these programs. Don’t worry that the children will be ostracized or made fun of for receiving free food; in most areas, students just punch in a code in the lunch line just like everyone else and no one knows. You may also be eligible for food stamps from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or other programs sponsored by the government.
Providing the Children's Needs
Children can be very fussy about their clothing, backpacks and other necessities. Wearing trendy brands is particularly important to middle and high school adolescents. It is possible to find inexpensive, pre-owned name brand clothing – sometimes with the tags still on them – at garage sales, thrift shops and clothing exchanges in your community. Being flexible and thinking ahead is the key when buying secondhand clothing and other articles, according to the NARTS website. You may find a perfect winter coat for your little one in the middle of summer. These places are also wise resources to find slightly used backpacks, trendy shoes, scarves and other apparel. If your teen is old enough to work and sneers at used clothing, advise her to get a part-time job so that she can buy her own clothing. Once she has to work for the money, she may find that the high-priced apparel simply isn’t worth the cost.
Spending Fun Time Together
It is important that single parents have time to refresh and restore their energy. Consider trading babysitting time with another single parent; this gives you time to recharge and enjoy downtime away from the kids and you will be helping out a friend. Don’t feel guilty about asking your children to help with the chores. This teaches them responsibility and gives them a sense of self-esteem knowing they are helping you out. Once the chores are out of the way, play board games, work puzzles together or cuddle up on the couch to watch an age-appropriate movie. Plan inexpensive outings like riding bikes to the park, having a picnic by the lake or attending a free or inexpensive church or community event together. Spending enjoyable time together gives you opportunities to bond and solidify as a family unit.
Making Ends Meet
Even elementary-aged children can understand that mom or dad has to work long hours or at a second job to provide for the family. Assure your child that you are thinking about her when you are away. Make an effort to spend time with your child each day talking about her interests, problems she may be having in school, day care or with her friends. If you cannot be there when an older child arrives home from school, schedule a phone call each day just to check in with her and make sure she arrived home safely. Working long hours may seem to zap all your energy, but setting aside time each day to connect with your child – whether it is at breakfast or when tucking her in at night – makes her feel secure and loved.