By Caroline Tapp-McDougall
The past few housebound months have brought even more challenges than we thought possible for our youngsters, ourselves and our partners. Frustration, hard-to-handle behaviours, cancelled appointments, closed schools, working from home with kids underfoot and ‘masking up’ are all new things for everyone to deal with.
We know that friends and family can make a difference in our lives, but sometimes, as parents; we need to take the time and make the extra effort to help each other. And, believe it or not, research shows that being kind to each other can actually make us genuinely happy in all sorts of ways.
Here are several chill ways to “be kind” and take a little bit of the pressure off of your partner:
- Working from home? Give your better half a solid chunk of time in the morning or afternoon to go about their business and make calls, do paperwork, catch up on emails, etc. By ensuring that the kids are kept busy and making yourself available to calmly handle their needs and potential interruptions, your partner’s work will get done in a more productive, calm and rewarding way.
- “Me time.” Create space to let your partner get re-energized and enjoy him or herself. Do they want to exercise? Take a nap on the weekend? Meditate? Don’t make a fuss or land a guilt trip on them. Just make it happen.
- Wash, dry, fold and iron all of the laundry. And, put it away without saying anything. It’ll be a load off their mind when they discover your kindness.
- Get outside. Put your baby in the stroller and take your kids to the park. Try not to be on your phone. Encourage kids to ride their bikes, kick a ball and play games—the goal is to have fun and tire them out.
- Be the coffee shop. Pick up coffee or make and deliver it first thing in the morning—in bed (if there’s time). You could even show up at their home desk mid-morning with a fresh cup and a treat. Guaranteed to make them smile!
- Don’t hide in the bathroom, or elsewhere, even once this week. All of us tend to take longer taking out the bins or washing to avoid things when the going gets tough. Be kind. Don’t leave your partner to deal with a fuss or a mess on their own.
- Hugs and kisses. Give your partner a quick smooch or a hug at a random time in the day.
- Sneak in a drink on the porch of an after-diner walk around the garden. Even if the destination is the old oak tree at the bottom of the garden, it’s a chance to take a breather.
- Keep kindness simple. Take a small task off a partner’s plate—empty the dishwasher, unload the groceries, pay a bill—without telling them first. Just do it.
- Listening is key. Try to understand your partner’s perspective. Hold their hand. Be comforting and patient with your answers. These are challenging times for all.
- Run a warm bubble bath. Turn on some relaxing music. Light candles and close the door for an hour. Tidy up while they rest and look forward to a refreshed partner.
- Offer to cancel something, even if it’s with your family. There’s a lot going on right now, it’s better to keep it simple. Sometimes making a decision to skip a class or activity is the right thing to do.
Deciding to be generous activates the striatum, the part of the brain that responds to things we find enjoyable or rewarding, which in turn, creates that ‘warm glow’ that generates an improved mood, a higher level of energy and, according to some studies, well-being throughout life.
So, what’s stopping you? Pick a task from one to 12 and do your first “kind” deed a day. You’ll be glad you did.
Being a single parent
No doubt about it, transitioning to the role of a single mum or dad is not easy. Here are things that others have told us might help.
Go one day at a time: Don’t look too far forward and worry. Take it step by step. Make a list and find pleasure in crossing things off that you’ve accomplished.
Be financially resourceful: Living on a single income or child support can be quite a stretch. Find ways to cut your expenses that are creative. How about sharing your space with a college student or friend in exchange for their help? Shop in bulk with friends. Budget for yourself as well as the kids. Share school driving and meal prep.
Strive for honesty: It’s okay to tell it like it is and feel down once in a while. This is a new journey and you should be ready to ask for help and support as you assume new responsibilities, Hiding things or pre- tending only makes it worse for you and the kids.
Your career: Be open with your employer about your current needs and discuss options to make things easier at work and home. Most jobs can offer some flexibility and accommodations for families and often have benefits you may not know about. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s available for you. Finding an optimal mix be- tween career and parenting requires creativity, flex and a bit of grit.
Look for others: After work, taking care of kids on your own can be both tiring and lonely. Reach out to family, friends or neighbours to help and try to plan time for yourself each week. Build a network of other single parents around you so you can share activities and help each other out in an emergency. You’ll be amazed at how many other parents are single as well.
Be patient and hopeful: Be kind to yourself and plan time for just you. Things will get better. Know that the more you can look after yourself, the less stress your kids will feel.
Don’t criticize your ex: Sometimes the less said the better, especially if things aren’t good. If you’re disappointed, or bitter, remember, it’s not your children’s fault. They deserve to see both of you at your best.
Stick to a schedule: Co-parenting can be confusing for you and the kids. Talk to each of them and let them know what to expect. Try to stick to the same routines at each parent’s home. Prioritize homework, mealtimes and bedtime.
Have fun! Make things interesting and easy to learn. Best not to be too serious or boring. Playing games, laughing at something silly or watching a funny movie, can help reduce everyone’s stress When you’re happy, you’ll do a much better job of keep your kids feeling relaxed and secure.