This is a guest post from Laura Cecil.
There is a paradox for children living in a single parent home. Life at home is often more peaceful with a single parent, than it is in a contentious two parent family. Unfortunately, life outside the single parent home is more often troublesome for the child because of unfair stereotypes. Broken home and dysfunctional home are terms bandied about by those who don’t know what they are talking about.
These terms can be hurtful to a child and limit his normal social engagement with others. While many single parent homes result from divorce or dysfunction, there are many other reasons: military service, death, serious illness, and mental health problems. Regardless of the reason, however, the problem is never the child’s responsibility. Unfortunately, the responsibility for protecting the child from the insensitivity of others falls squarely on the shoulders of the single parent. He or she must develop certain habits to compensate for society’s false stereotypes.
Take care of yourself
The biggest parental enemy is stress. It’s worse for a single parent. A stressed out parent creates a stressed out child. Learn not to panic in pseudo-crises. Late for a ball game? So what. Apologize when you arrive and forget about it. Regardless of how busy life is, take time for personal care. Exercise, learn to meditate, enjoy time with friends, take walks, and read a good book. If you’re relaxed, children will benefit from your unstressed behavior.
Provide a Safe Home
The world is a scary place for children. Home should be a refuge; free from the threats and dangers of their normal day. Home should be where love and encouragement are offered freely; where understanding and forgiveness are standard practices. Affection at home can repair self esteem that has been wounded during the day.
Be positive about your own situation. What you lack in companionship and routine support, you make up for in freedom of choice and lack of conflict. Your former dependence may have provided some sense of security, but independence gives you flexibility and control. Don’t focus on negatives. Look at your world with a positive spin.
Don’t compensate for your single parent status by turning the family into a true democracy. Your relationship with the children should be one of benign dictatorship. You are the boss, without question. Let them know that, while you value their opinions, you are the disciplinarian. You’ll set limits, and you’ll often say “No!”
Prioritize and Share the Load
Children may be small, but they’re not fragile. They can routinely empty rubbish, wash dishes, rake leaves, shovel walkways, and clean cars. Chores build character, and they are a great help to the single parent. It’s also great training for the real world in their future.
Set Realistic Goals
Set realistic goals for the family. Include the children in forming these goals. Routine family meetings are a great way to discuss progress and provide opportunities for children to discuss other personal problems.
Recognize Your Limits
Remember that you are only one person. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t be all things to all people. Your children will sometimes be disappointed. Don’t be manipulated by feelings of guilt. Let them know that like them, you are doing your best. Do not accept disrespect.
Get Help When Needed
Sometimes the power of positive thinking falls short of expectations. When you feel overwhelmed, seek help. Meet with a friend, join a support group, or seek professional ministerial or clinical counseling. Sometimes a fresh set of eyes and ears can realign stressed out thinking.
Laura Cecil is a mom of three and the editor of www.Livesnet.com, a site that built with her several friends this year. Her single parent life was totally changed when she has herself focused on writing baby product reviews and sharing her parenting stories with her three lovely kids.