Life in a single-parent household can be stressful for children as well as parents, especially with the constant time crunch everyone faces. According to a survey by researchers Laurel Hornbergera, Ramon Zabriskie and Patti Freeman, published in the 2010 issue of "Leisure Sciences," single-parent families experience significantly less leisure time than do families in which both parents are present. Becoming organized can help you free up time for you and your kids to enjoy.
Establish a daily routine so all the kids know what's expected of them. Bedtime, chore time, meal times -- have all of this planned out ahead of time. Post a dry-erase chart or calendar on the refrigerator so you can keep track of any special events or circumstances such as after-school activities and doctor appointments. This will help the whole family know who is supposed to be where, and when, and what everyone needs to accomplish each day.
Have a family meeting and discuss what chores need to be done on a daily and weekly basis. Divide the chores up fairly, and decide whether you want each child to be responsible for a particular task on an ongoing basis, or whether everybody prefers to rotate or switch off tasks occasionally. Establish when and how each chore is to be completed, and post a chore chart in a prominent place so each family member can check off a task as it is completed.
Plan meals for a week in advance, with each child contributing to the discussion. Meal preparation can be included as part of the chore list, or you can, if time permits, decide to prepare meals together in order to maximize that precious family time which is so often in short supply in the busy single-parent household. Even shopping trips can be used as family time, with the added benefit that if you all shop together, each child can weigh in on his preferences.
Set aside some space for each family member to store essential personal belongings such as keys, wallets, homework, library books or any other items that are needed for the day. Designate a spot on a shelf, use cardboard boxes or plastic storage bins labelled with your names and hang pegs for jackets, purses and backpacks by the front door. That way, if everything has a place, there's no excuse for any last-minute scrambles to find missing items before heading out the door.
Use file folders and a filing box or cabinet to store all of your important papers in one place. These should include birth certificates, school documents and medical records, emergency contact information and copies of your will and guardianship plan in case anything should happen to you, the sole caregiver. Make sure each child who is old enough to read knows where to find this vital information, so everyone can be prepared in an emergency.