You're probably familiar with Stephen R. Covey's popular self-help book titled "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People," and spin-offs such as Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Families." But what about the habits of highly successful single parents? Developing the following practices will dramatically improve both your home and personal life.
Create a Community of Support
Having a support system you can count on is absolutely vital, not just to "surviving" single parenthood, but to maintaining your sense of self at the same time. Single moms and dads should develop support in three key areas: local family and friends, local single parents, and online single parents.
Consider how you can develop a combination of local individuals you can count on to help you with practical issues, like driving the kids to and from activities, with online support you can reach out to as needed, 24/7.
As a single parent, it is absolutely vital you schedule down time in your life to rest, recuperate, and refuel. Begin by marking off just two "dates" with yourself over the next four weeks. If necessary, schedule a babysitter, or swap child care duties with a friend. Then, when the time arrives, go out and do something you enjoy: take a yoga class, go window-shopping, or see a movie.
In addition, try to give yourself one night a week to set aside work, chores, and obligations and do something for yourself after the kids have gone to bed: take a bath, read a book, or catch up with a friend over the phone. Building these small pockets of "me time" into your life will help you maintain the stamina you need for raising your kids.
There are a lot of things you need to say "no" to in your life: Your kids' tendency to manipulate you into giving in, the guilt that's been weighing you down since you embarked on this single parenting journey, the expectations of others who have no idea what it's like to walk in your shoes. It's not always easy to say no and set firm boundaries in your life, but it's important to remember being willing to say "no," when necessary creates space in your life for the things you really want to say "yes" to.
One of the questions I often ask my coaching clients is "What gives you energy?" Nine times out of 10, that answer includes some variation of "my kids do." Being in the presence of your children, playing with them, and giving them your attention doesn't just meet their needs, it also satisfies your deep need for meaningful interaction and purpose.
The next time you come home exhausted and utterly spent, try setting everything aside for a few minutes and just enjoying your kids. You'll quickly find that playing with and engaging your kids has the power to almost instantly sift your true priorities from those things that are non-essential.
Your attitude is entirely contagious. Not only does it affect your kids' ability to handle everyday ups and downs, but it also has the power to impact whether the future for your family is born of hope or despair. One way to change your attitude is to begin journaling on a regular basis. Once you start writing down the challenges you face every day, you begin to see solutions right there on the pages in front of you.
One of the most challenging—and powerful—habits you can develop as a highly successful single parent is to live within your means. Don't get into the practice of living on credit or relying on the promise of money you may or may not receive.
Instead, learn to make wise financial decisions, like choosing a home you can truly afford to maintain, and trimming unnecessary costs out of your budget.
This final habit of highly successful single parents will help you to further develop a life beyond caring for your kids, as well as open new doors to career advancement, and, over time, even grow your income potential.
Consider taking classes at a local college, taking courses online, or even just taking advantage of the free resources available to you through your local public library to learn about topics that interest and inspire you.