Tag Archives: Problem Solving

Organization Is the Key to Success for Single Parents

Guest Blog: Daniel Sherwin

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Single parents face unique challenges. You have to succeed at work and at raising children without a co-pilot. While it can be difficult, establishing a routine and having good organizing strategies can help keep you sane. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and at your wit’s end, consider the following tips to give your sanity a boost.

Work on the morning rituals first

You can’t be late for work and your kids can’t be late to school or daycare. So morning rituals are important. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to get up at least 30 minutes before the kids. This provides you with enough time to put yourself together and have a few moments to prep for the day ahead.

Make sure each child knows his or her individual drill. This may look like “get dressed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, grab your bag, and let’s go.” Or it might look like “eat breakfast in your pajamas, shower, dress, brush teeth, and grab your bag.” The important thing is to do it the same way every day so that children know exactly what to expect.

While you are getting into the rhythm of this time-saving routine, post a chart that shows, in pictures, what each child is responsible for doing.

Keeping breakfast simple on weekdays will make it much easier to manage the mornings. Children are capable of getting their own cereal at a young age. Protein bars are even easier. If you’re feeling guilty, you can make it up to them by cooking pancakes and bacon on weekends.

Many parents think that preparing for the morning the night before is the hot ticket. Certainly there’s no harm in having your children pick out their clothes and get their backpacks and coats in order prior to bedtime. And, if you have to make lunches, making them the night before can eliminate a lot of morning stress.

Staying organized

 When you have a hundred things to do in one day, it’s easy to drop a ball or two. And you can’t afford to forget a dentist appointment. Have at least two fully itemized calendars, one on a wall of the home and one on your phone’s calendar program.

To create the wall calendar, get a big chalkboard and put a 31-space grid on it. Chalk in the days of the month for each slot. Make sure there’s enough space in each day’s slot for all family activity. Children over six should be able to post their own activities to the calendar. The chalkboard system allows you to change the schedule as you go along, and it gives you a broad overview so you can easily see a conflict or make changes.

Google’s calendar app, loaded to your smartphone, will be a godsend. Program it to beep at you 15 minutes or more before a scheduled activity. Be sure these reminders give you plenty of travel time to get where you need to go. If your children are old enough to have phones, they should do the same.

It also helps to keep your home as organized as possible, within reason, of course. If you have an organizational system in place for most rooms, and if the entire family sticks to this system, it can make for easier mornings and smoother weekends when it comes time to clean.

Balance children’s needs fairly

 It might be tempting to keep children busy, busy, busy to deter misbehavior. But you need to stay in control of your children’s evening activities, as children need more sleep than adults.

The National Sleep Foundation has a schedule for how much sleep children need at every age. Keeping in mind how early your child has to get up in the morning, make sure no scheduled activities will routinely keep any child up past his or her bedtime.

It’s also important to make sure the family schedule doesn’t play favorites. Just because your daughter shows huge promise as a violinist doesn’t mean the family never goes to your son’s soccer games.

It’s particularly important that no child’s passion gets squashed because of scheduling conflicts. Depending on the size of your family, you may need to limit each child’s after school activities to one or two.

In short, the keys to successful single parenting are organization and balance. Talk to your children about their priorities. Ask them to choose after-school activities and lessons carefully. Make sure they understand your priorities and why getting to bed on time is more important than adding raku classes to the end of the day. And have redundant systems in place for tracking everyone’s day. In the end, a little extra planning and forethought can keep the gears of your household machine running smoothly, and save your sanity to boot.


Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At DadSolo.com, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

Promoting Resiliency

The idea of fostering “Resilient Children” is a hot topic in parenting and child psychology right now, and for such a seemingly simple concept, it’s actually a very complicated and many-layered issue. Perhaps one of the best ways of defining what ‘resilience’ is looking at it as our human capacity to “bounce-back” from difficulty or adversity in our lives – it’s a pattern of positive adaptation.
Be Your Own Hero
It is very hard to tell if someone “has” resiliency – there isn’t really a valid measurement tool, and people can be extremely resilient in some areas of their lives and very vulnerable in others. Some people have said it’s easier to spot a LACK of resiliency than it is to identify resiliency in action – sometimes it’s easy to see when people are having a hard time coping with stress in their lives, but even this isn’t always true (some people look like they’re doing just fine to other people, but are struggling internally). Resiliency looks different in and to everyone.

There are quite a few things you can do if you’re a parent and are looking to help your child become more resilient. Here are some of the most basic:

1) It seems very obvious but the first thing that you can do is create a loving, supportive and communicative home environment for your family. This means being demonstrative of your affection, open and approachable to talk about ANYTHING, and encouraging of your child’s endeavours. It is also very important for your child to feel safe at home, and for you to spend time together as a family.

2) Set clear boundaries and rules with real consequences, and monitor your child’s whereabouts – trust them to do things on their own, but show them that you care deeply about where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. Part of resiliency is allowing our children to learn from their mistakes — we can’t expect to have independent problem-solvers if we are always fixing things for our kids. But our children do need to know that somewhere, someone is thinking about them and loves them, and that they have responsibilities to these other people in their lives.

3) Promote healthy relationships with other adults. Kids need a variety of safe “Important People” and Role Models to turn to in times of crisis. Support your child in having positive relationships with other family members, teachers, coaches, youth workers, etc. Promote healthy peer friendships in the same way. There are going to be times in your relationship with your child where they just might not be able to come to you with their problems. Make sure they have somewhere else safe to go to in times of need.

4) Have high, but achievable expectations for your child. Everyone needs something to look forward and live up to, but we also have to set our families up for success – be reasonable about what you expect your child to achieve. Empower a sense of self-esteem and the belief that your child has control over the things that happen to them, so they don’t feel helpless or lost when things don’t go according to plan.

5) Get involved. Engage in your child’s school and extracurricular activities. Go out together in the community and be part of something bigger than your home environment, like helping out at one of Calgary’s many amazing volunteer organizations, creative arts or sports organizations, or religious organizations. Surround your child, AND YOURSELF with a wide support network, because it is so important for you to be happy and healthily functioning too!

Creativity, your child, and you

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
– Pablo Picasso

I love this quote, even though it reminds me of the many people I meet who say that they are terrible at drawing– the many adults who say this, and even older kids. But, younger children never seem to think that way on their own. The question is “why not?”

If your child sees you confidently experimenting with art, they are more likely to do so themselves. This is what I feel is the biggest barrier to creativity: when we, as adults, say “I can’t”, our children hear this and think that they can’t either. As adults, we are the primary models for our childrens’ behaviour. If you do a creative activity with your child, you should both be exploring together. Let your child take the lead and explore while you do. Discover how to make new colours together. Take your time. I have to emphasize this last point, as I think in this current age, it is so very important to emphasize that by taking your time, you are giving your child the most valuable gift of all. Your art making and spending time together should not be about making something quickly as though it is part of a rigid schedule. Nor should it be about making a cookie cutter type of craft that always looks exactly the same. There needs to be room for spontaneity and discovery (as well as creative messes). There needs to be a time where we can turn off the phone and the screen and just focus on the few small details that are there. This attention to the present moment also allows us to have a shared moment. I would argue by sharing creative moments, we also build essential feelings of trust and confidence in our children. You are giving them the sense that they are worthy of attention, and that the discoveries they are making by themselves are important and worthwhile. It isn’t about just saying “Oh, that’s nice honey,” and returning to your last text message. It is about sharing a genuine, authentic moment with them on their level. And trust me, I am not saying that we can do this all the time as parents, but if we can dedicate some time to letting our children have free, unstructured play with creative materials, I think more magical things may happen and we’ll all remain artists well after we’ve “grown up”.