Editor’s Note: It seems like every time I go on a mommy website these days there are tips for scheduling your day, weekly menus, to daycare or not to daycare, or managing your adult life with your children. While these are all great tips, I never see anything about help for dealing with all of those decisions when they take a toll on your sanity to a point of self-medication. We all have a hard day now and then, and some of us just want to decompress on the couch when the kids go to sleep. But there are others, quite a few I might add, who put them to bed and say the cliché “I need a drink”. AND they mean it whole-heartedly. This is a telltale sign of the parent struggling with keeping it together while raising little people who watch their every move.
How You Can Help a Single Parent Cope
Self-medication is a very common and harmful risk many single parents face. The stress of raising children alone can very easily lead to instances of alcoholism, substance abuse, or addiction as they seek ways to cope. If your friend or loved one is in this situation, you may not know how to help. Watching a person you care about abuse a substance, placing themselves at risk for addiction, is not something you want to go through. Instead, here are a few ways you can help the single parent in your life cope and avoid addiction.
Offer to Babysit
This is the simplest way you can help a single parent. Offer to take the kids off their hands for a few hours, and give them some time to unwind and relax. Time away from children is important for parents, no matter how strong the parent-child bond is. Parents need some time to let their guard down and not think about who is doing what and where.
Prepare a Meal
Between work and children, finding time to make healthy, home-cooked meals can seem next to impossible for a single parent. If you take a little time out of your day to cook dinner and bring it over, that’s one less thing for them to stress about.
If you want to go further, you might take one day a week to go over and help them prepare freezer meals for the whole week so that the parent will only need to defrost or throw the contents in a slow cooker before work. Having a steady stream of nutritious meals can also be a great way to reduce stress.
Plan Exercise Dates
Find a few times each week to get your friend or loved one out of the house and away from work for some exercise and social interaction. Make it a regular event for consistent exercise and stress relief. Some good times to do it might be early morning when the kids are at school or daycare or later at night if the kids have extracurricular activities to keep them occupied. If you need to take the kids with you, find a fun activity everyone can enjoy such as a hike or kids’ yoga.
Let Them Know You Are There
Sometimes, a single parent just needs a reliable person they can call and complain to or ask for advice. Letting your friend or loved one know that it is safe to talk to you and that you will listen without judgement can be one of the best things you can do for them. If you are worried for their well-being, you may want to be the one to start the dialogue. Be open, calm, and understanding. A negative response will quickly drive them away.
Helping a single parent cope and avoid the risk of substance abuse or addiction is not a difficult task. More than anything, they need a break and a friend. If you can provide that, they are already in a far better place than many single parents out there. However, if you are concerned that they are already self-medicating, do not be afraid to gently confront them and suggest they seek treatment. Even if they respond poorly, rest assured that only a good friend would want to get them help and that you are doing the right thing.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.