It's a new year! There are plenty of people making resolutions for change in their lives. I'd like to focus on making changes in your parenting, particularly for single parents. One of my closest friends is an outstanding single parent. He successfully manages more in one day than anyone else I know. Yet, at times he still fights the fear of failure. I have also helped many single parents in my practice under a variety of circumstances. Single parenting is one of the toughest roles to successfully navigate because the pressure to succeed is high, you are often battling guilty feelings, and learning to accept that no one can be a perfect parent. It takes courage to trust that no parent ever hurt their child by making a few minor mistakes. It's okay if you forgot to pack his lunch for school, or bought her the wrong size shoes. Consider that making errors and accepting them will teach your child not to be too hard on himself as well. Being a blessing as single parent takes amazing COURAGE.
First, it takes Courage to accept the all the responsibility of a single Parent. Successful single parents accept the responsibilities and challenges of single parenting. They neither minimize nor exaggerate problems but seek solutions. They acknowledge the difficulties (such as a lack of personal time, a restricted social life, sole responsibility for meeting multiple needs, and financial stress) without self-pity or bitterness. One of my client's had a husband who died suddenly and unexpectedly after 12 years of marriage. She was left with 2 sons to raise. She was devastated for a time. Ultimately she made a plan and carried it out. She was able to provide well for her family.
Second, it takes the Courage to have faith in a firm commitment to family first. Successful single parents make the family their highest priority, which often means putting the needs of the child first. They genuinely sacrifice time, money, and energy for the sake of the children. They try to be supportive and patient and help children cope. Like other effective parents, they are consistent and not highly punitive.
Third, it takes Courage to take the time to foster Open Communication as a single parent. Despite any lack of time, successful single parents encourage clear and open expression of thoughts and feelings in the family as a key to developing honest and trusting relationships. Talk to your child about your day and invite him to talk about his. Each evening at dinner, share something you liked about your day (the best part) and something you didn't like about your day (the worst part). Allow your child to do the same in return. Sharing creates a stronger bond and helps you and your child understand that having a bad day is okay. You'll also support each other by communicating. You won't feel so bad about feeling overwhelmed and he will recognize that everyone has days that aren't so great. Such communication can foster individuality within a supportive family unit.
Fourth, it takes Courage by single parents to keep discipline at home. Successful single parents manage the family needs well. They strive to be well organized and dependable, and they work hard to coordinate schedules. They take pride in their ability to financially provide for the family, although finances still remain a struggle. Many parents make the mistake of trying to make up for a divorce or bad relationship by giving their child everything they can. Your child will start to take advantage of that and may become "spoiled". Realize that it's okay to discipline even though you feel your child has been through a lot. In fact, it's healthy to teach your child that something he did was wrong by enforcing it. Whether you use time-outs, take away a reward (toys, TV, video games...), or ground a child, understand and believe you are helping your child to become a strong and well-rounded person. You are not a bad parent because you are not giving your child everything he wants.
Fifth, it takes Courage for single parents to maintain self-care and traditions. Successful single parents take care of themselves. Despite lack of time, these parents recognize that caring for themselves is also important. They do so through physical, spiritual, emotional, and social means. They are connected to others on whom they can call on for practical and emotional support. Get advice on how to handle situations and relieve some fears about raising a child alone. Often, others can help you put thoughts into the best perspective. Do not feel as if your not being successful because you aren't handling the stress alone. Everyone needs someone and it's okay to get help from others. Research shows that successful single-parent families also maintain traditions, whether bedtime rituals, special family times together, or holiday celebrations. Maintaining traditions is a stabilizing force, because its something that can be depended on.
If you are a single parent, make it a resolution to parent your child courageously!