I recall what it was like to raise three children, working full-time, sometimes more than one job. Coming home and helping the children with homework, getting dinner on the table, trying to have some kind of normalcy in a broken household. Like many families, ours was a family of divorce. My children spent half a week with their father and half with me. It wasn’t easy for them and to be perfectly honest, it was harder for me. I felt like I had to be aware of what they were doing all the time, if they were safe, did they get their homework done, get to their activities… It caused a great deal of stress.
When parents get divorced, the whole family goes through the process. No matter how amicable the parents are in the process, the children feel the separation in a way they can’t always verbalize. As parents, we think it’s our job is to make everything as “normal” as possible. Frankly, that’s just not realistic. We have to accept the fact that the normal needs a new baseline. What the children remember from that time will be the simplest things that you might not think mattered. But they do. So often it surrounds meals or other areas where something pleasurable is done.
We had a Sunday ritual where we cooked a nice breakfast together before they left for their other home. It’s important to establish these types of rituals that children can count on to be consistent. It’s the consistency that leads to a new sense of normalcy. And it’s so hard to be consistent when your life is changing radically. You spend your day working hard to come home and work harder to make a home for your children. This can lead to exhaustion, not only from working hard but from lack of proper nutrition. The first thing you must do is take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else!
If you help develop the habit of your children making dinner with you, they will learn to take on more responsibility to help you when you don’t have the energy. Start when they are small and introduce them to the idea of being a part of the action in the kitchen. Introduce them to healthy nutritional choices from the earliest ages. If they don’t expect overly sweet, sugary foods, then they won’t grow up trying to continually satisfy that sweet tooth that seems to have a mind of its own! We know sugar is addictive so try to limit sweets to simple foods like fresh fruit. Teach them early to enjoy unusual flavors and spices. They are more open to these new tastes when they haven’t been plied with artificial flavoring and added sugars or worse – artificial sweeteners!
As they develop these tastes they will be able to make healthier food choices with what is available to them. Don’t be surprised when they ask for something that they can make themselves and provides good nutrition like ants on a log. By allowing them the freedom to explore new foods it will help free up your time in the kitchen as they get older.
Don’t forget that in the process of teaching your children about eating healthily you must set the example. Your eating habits will be scrutinized by your children. But more importantly in order to take care of yourself, you must eat a healthy diet too. Eating well will help you overcome many of the symptoms you experience when you are overtaxed. Give your body the fuel it needs to support the “heavy lifting” you have to do, whether you’re a single parent or not. Being a parent is one of the toughest things you will do – with no time off for good behavior!