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The Single File - Single Moms Living Well (Yes, You Can!)

Many single mothers are raising their families on one income and often child support is iffy at best. But single moms can live well, manage stress and instill in their children a sense of self-worth and stability.

The following are some tips on how to save money and build self-confidence in the family’s ability to cope on one income.

Five guidelines for managing money and stress:

1. Attitude matters. How you think about the facts of your life will affect how much stress you experience.

2. What you say (and how you say it) to your kids will affect the way they view you, themselves and their family.

3. Budgeting is a process that will build stability by showing you what you have and what you don’t.

4. There will be activities and supports in your city, town or community that do not cost money.

5. Demonstrate to your children that you believe in them and in your family.

Eight tips for managing stress and money, and helping the kids cope:

1. Build a budget that is firm but flexible. Organize and stick to your budget. View it as a tool to build structure, rather than as a punishment. As children’s ages become appropriate, include them in information about the family budget. Live within your budget in a way that is firm, but flexible where necessary, creates stability and predictability children need, and gives you confidence.

2. Believe in your ability to manage within your budget. Keep your thinking from dipping too often into anger, fear and frustration. Trust in your ability to manage. Believe this and tell this to your kids, “Many families live within a budget, and we can too. If something special comes up that is not within our budget, let’s talk about whether it is something we can manage. I love you and I will do my best to see to it that you have what you need, even if sometimes our budget may not allow you to get everything you want.”

3. Find activities in your area that fit within your budget. Participate in school programs and projects that your child’s school offers; utilize free or low-cost city or town recreational activities; attend free concerts and library programs. Depending on where you live, enjoy parks, beaches, wooded (safe) hikes and other outdoor activities. Show interest in the ways your children play. Your love and caring does not require buying or spending, but your attention will build self-esteem in the kids.

4. Explore ways to cook nutritious, low-cost meals. Recipes for low-cost and nutritious meals can be found online. You can also share recipes for economic and healthy meals with other mothers, single or not.

5. Refrain from burdening your children (or yourself) with resentment. While you may have negative feelings toward the parent who does not come through with support, expressing these feelings to the children can burden them with fear about the family’s ability to manage. Use adult support to work through your resentment.

6. Learn how to stretch your food to save a bit of your budget. Consult with a home economics teacher or look online for tips on how to stretch your food. For example, a cooked chicken can provide several meals. You can make casseroles, soup or salads that offer balanced nutrition and taste. Put the bit you save into your rainy-day fund.

7. Establish supportive relationships with other single mothers. There is strength in numbers. You can take turns watching each other’s children in order to have some cost-free reenergizing time. You can form support groups where you and other single mothers can share your own management experience, as well as express the fears and insecurities that are best not discussed with the kids.

8. Help your kids make sense of the family’s financial situation. Believe this message and tell it to your kids in age-appropriate words, “There are many families today who have to pay attention to what they spend.”

Following these guidelines and tips can put a mega investment into the fund of self-esteem and self-respect for yourself and your kids.

Bette Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, is a member of NASW with a background in parenting, women's issues and stress management. Bette specializes in offering practical wisdom for coping with difficult life situations. In addition, Bette conducts workshops and seminars focused on coping strategies, couples’ issues and emotional wellness.


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