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Being a parent means that you are responsible for laying the foundation of your children’s future. So what is the right approach to some common challenges that arise during parenthood? This section equips you with up-to-date advice.

In recent years, single-parent families have become more common than ever. Although common, life in a single-parent household can be quite stressful for the adult and children alike. Learn how to manage the unique challenges associated with being a single parent with the tips in this section.

The teen years pose some of the most difficult challenges for families, often filled with conflict and confrontation between parents and their children. But it is also a crucial time to help your teen develop important life skills as he or she transitions from childhood to adulthood. For some practical advice, see Parenting in the Teen Years.

While parenting can be hard work, listening and talking is essential for building and maintaining a healthy connection between you and your children. Communication Tips for Parents provides you with some guidelines to help you build and maintain a healthy relationship with your children.

We understand that parenting is often the most important and challenging job of your life so we’ve prepared useful tools and resources to help you navigate through parenthood.

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In recent decades, single-parent families have become more common than ever. Although common, life in a single-parent household can be quite stressful for the adult and children alike. There are additional pressures that the traditional nuclear family does not have to face, such as visitation and custody issues, financial difficulties as a result of reduced income, and less opportunity for parents and children to spend time together. Others issues can include disruptions to the extended family, as well as the potential problems caused by the parents’ entering new relationships.

Although single parenthood may be a dramatic change from the life you once had or imagined, it can be a workable, rewarding family situation. Parents all over the world are successfully and joyfully raising children by themselves. Learn how to manage the unique challenges associated with being a single parent with the tips below:

  • Create a routine and set reasonable boundaries: Having structure and a reasonable set of house rules, such as bedtime and limits on computer and TV use, helps your child know what to expect.
  • Schedule in daily family time: Each day, set aside some quality time with your child.  Make sure there are no distractions.
  • Include in your life members of the opposite sex who aren’t romantic partners: According to Mayo Clinic , members of the opposite sex, such as uncles, aunts or close friends, can help serve as role models for your child. It can also show your child that positive relationships with members of the opposite sex are possible.
  • Accept help: Being a single parent doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Reach out to loved ones and friends you can trust in times of need. Community groups and social services can also provide support.
  • Take care of yourself: Don’t neglect your basic needs. Incorporate exercise in your daily routine, eat well and get the recommended amount of sleep. Try to put some time aside for your social life too.
  • Plan ahead for urgent situations: It’s important to plan ahead for crisis situations, such as if you are struck with a virus and are too sick to care for your toddler. Put together an emergency list of family and friends you know you can turn to in these types of situations. It can also help to research emergency babysitting services close by.
  • Be patient with your child when introducing a new romantic partner: It is often best to wait until you are in a solid relationship with someone before introducing them to your kids. When you’re ready to introduce them however, give your children some time to get accustomed to your partner and let them organically develop a relationship.
  • Talk to your child honestly about separation or divorce: If you have become a single parent following a divorce or separation, speak to your child openly about the changes that have occurred and try to answer his or her questions honestly. Do not speak negatively about the other parent and make sure to remind your child that he or she did nothing to cause the divorce or separation.
  • Don’t attempt to force a reluctant parent to have a relationship with your child: If you try to force a relationship with your child’s other parent and they don’t want one, your child is bound to feel disappointed and rejected. Just leave the door open for responsible contact between the parent and your child.
  • Build a community: Solo parenting can be isolating, but a strong community can provide much-needed emotional support. Joining a single parent support group can also help you find mums and dads in similar situations.
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The teen years pose some of the most difficult challenges for families. Teenagers are dealing with hormone changes and can feel as though no one understands them. They are in the midst of their identity search while confronting issues about peers, sexual behaviour, drugs and alcohol.

While teenagers are developing more independent thoughts, feelings, and values, it is only natural for them to question their parents’ rules, beliefs, and expectations. For parents, dealing with this can be both frustrating and challenging.

It can be a great help to understand that there is a purpose for all the turmoil and that it is this process of conflict and confrontation that helps teenagers transition from childhood into adulthood.

  • Be flexible with non-destructive influences: Teens challenge rules and values to establish their own identity. Teenage rebellion, be it in the form of objectionable hair styles, clothing, or music, messy rooms, or who they hang out with, is often a part of this. Your child may have friends and interests that you don’t approve of, but before you place restrictions on your child, ask yourself one question: Is your child hurting anyone or being hurt by what he or she is doing, listening to, wearing, or who he or she is spending time with? According to the Institute of Child Health and Human Development , if the answer is “no,” you may want to give them some leeway.
  • Respect your child’s thoughts and opinions without judgment: Good communication with your teenager is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. Even if you don’t agree with your child, make it clear that you want to know what his or her thoughts are, without the threat of punishment.
  • Listen more than you problem-solve: When your teen does open up to you with a problem, resist the temptation to relate his or her complex feelings back to your own experiences. Often the best thing to do is to listen attentively, sympathetically, and uncritically.
  • Allow your teen some choices: Instead of allowing your anxieties to make you overly restrictive, give your teenager choices to make them more aware of their power and responsibility. This helps them to build self-confidence and exercise their decision-making abilities.
  • Be honest about your mistakes: To build a trusting and real relationship with your child, you only have to be human. If you have made a mistake, admit it. “I’m sorry” are very powerful words for a teenager to hear from parents.
  • Allow your children to be who they want to be: It's normal to want your children to avoid the challenges you may have faced when you were their age, but let them be. When you allow your teens to make some decisions you know aren’t the best, but that won’t be dangerous or hurtful, you build their self-awareness. Inevitably, they will learn from their mistakes and take ownership of their successes.
  • Make a habit of talking about your teen’s hobbies: Whether your child is interested in sports, clothes, video games or friends, show interest and learn what’s going on.
  • Eat together whenever possible: Mealtimes are good opportunities to talk, listen and spend quality time together.

If you identify dangerous or destructive behaviours in your teen, consult a doctor, counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional to help find appropriate treatment.

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While parenting can be hard work, listening and talking is essential for building and maintaining a healthy connection between you and your children. Below are some tips to help you communicate effectively with your children:

  • Start communication early: Speak openly and honestly with your child when he or she is young, so your child becomes accustomed to taking part in two-way communication. As your child gets older, it is easier to keep those lines of communication open.
  • Be available for your children: Whether it be at dinner, on the way to school, or first thing in the morning, notice times when your kids are most likely to talk and be available for them.
  • Don’t start all conversations with a question: It is tempting to begin chats with your child by asking questions like, “how was school today?” Instead, initiate conversations by sharing what you’ve been thinking about or the things you’ve been doing, and then ask them questions about their day.
  • Stop lecturing your children: Parents are often guilty of talking too much or lecturing, rather than asking questions to help them understand their child's world. Knowing where your child is coming from can help you guide their thoughts, instead of pushing them to rebel against your lectures.
  • Talk about important issues outside of stress-packed situations: In his book ‘Family First’, Dr. Phil McGraw, one of the most renowned mental health professionals in the world, discusses the importance of timing when it comes to communication. He explains that too often, the only communication that takes place between a parent and a child is when conflict has erupted, such as when a child breaks curfew and comes home late. Instead, set the rules before a crisis and discuss consequences of breaking the rules once you’re calm and the heat of the moment has passed.
  • Listen to your children’s chatter: Sometimes kids just like to talk. Even if you aren’t always able to follow their chatter, allowing them to share gives them a creative outlet and builds their confidence. If you seem distracted during the conversation, they may feel as though they're not worth your time.
  • Spend one-on-one time with your children: Find time every week to engage in one-on-one activities with each child. This helps to build a stronger foundation of trust and communication.
  • Remember that you are your child’s role model: Kids most often learn by imitating. Generally, they will follow your lead in how they deal with anger, solve problems, and work through difficult feelings.
  • Listen to their point of view: Listen to your kid’s point of view, even if it's difficult to hear. Don’t be intrusive and allow your child to complete his or her point before you respond. Sometimes it can help to repeat what you heard them say, to ensure that you understand them correctly.
  • Focus on your child’s feelings rather than your own: During a conversation or conflict, focus on your child’s feelings and resist arguing about who is right. Instead, acknowledge that it’s okay to disagree and express your opinion without putting down theirs.
  • Soften strong reactions: According to the American Psychological Association , kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive. So before you react, take a moment to manage your own emotions.
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