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The Single Parent

Are you a single parent?  Congratulations for the job you are doing.  You are here reading this blog.  That tells me you are a pro-active parent.  My favorite kind.  Here are some thoughts just for you:

On Being a Single Parent

Are you a single parent?  Congratulations for the job you are doing.  You are here reading this blog.  That tells me you are a pro-active parent.  My favorite kind.  Here are some thoughts just for you:

1. As a single parent, my first recommendation is getting help from others. Actually, I recommend that all parents develop as wide a support network as possible. When that can be family, that’s super, but it is fine to reach beyond family. It is perhaps harder to find “dad’s groups” rather than “mom’s groups,” but it is not impossible and you can start your own. Use organizations like “meetup.com” to join or start a group of parents. The nice thing about starting your own group is you can structure it however you like, say “Meet ups for parents of 3 year olds who love baseball” or “single dads who love to hike.” That way it can be both support and fun. As you get to know these parents find the ones you like as people. Offer to swamp babysitting for a few hours. Not only does that give you a few hours for something else, more importantly, it gives your son a chance to develop a friendly relationship with other caring adults. As the years go by, this caring adult can be someone your son turns to. This is excellent. I always told my daughter, “Collect as many moms as you can! I cannot be everything you need.” By having other caring adults in her life, I had a network of people who could help—some who baked, some who sewed, some who were just really good, non-jugemental listeners, some who didn’t overreact the way I always seemed to! Kids learn and get new perspective from having a circle of loving adults to look to.

2.  Have an enormous amount of empathy for yourself. You are going to screw up. Lots. All parents do. Don’t worry about it. Just learn what you can from the screw ups, apologize and figure out what you are going to do to make things right. Parenting is a skill. It is not something we are born knowing how to do. As you go along, you will learn what you need to learn. To accelerate your learning, take advantage of online parenting webinars and classes and join FB groups where you can post questions. People will give you lots of advice. Listen to it, thank them for it, and then weigh it against your own gut. You are your son’s dad. No one knows him better. Trust your gut because what worked for some other well meaning parent might not work for you and your kid. There a lots of ways to be a good parent.

3.  Have an enormous amount of empathy for your child. Children are works in progress. They have a lot to learn and are going to need to hear the same thing over and over again. It is not easy to do all that learning. It’s frustrating and stress inducing. Tension will build up in your child and will spill over into violent outbursts. Your staying calm and reassuring him that he will get better at managing his emotions will slowly teach his brain to self regulate. Keep in mind that misbehavior is just an unmet need. Offer empathy at his frustration and when he has calmed down help him put his emotions into perspective. Help him brainstorm what he can do next time instead of getting mad. (Find friends you can vent to who can relate to your own frustration and help you calm down!)

4.  Remind your child all the time that there is nothing he can do that will make you stop loving him, that no matter how mad or impatient you get, you will never stop loving him. Remind him that even when you are limiting his behavior that you and he are on the same team. You may have some struggles with each other while you are teaching him how to behave, but you are not against him; it is always you and he solving the problem (of learning self-control or righting a wrong or getting to school on time, etc) together.

5.  Finally, trust that you are enough. It is hard for a single parent not to feel guilty and doubt one’s self. Of course, in many ways the job is easier with two parents; and in some ways it is harder. It certainly is hard to feel “the buck stops here and on no one else.” And at the same time, I coach lots of parents whose fighting over how to parent is their biggest stressor. Understand that as a single parent you get to decide what is important, what values to impart, where to put your parenting energies. That can be a big advantage.