Challenges: Tension, stress, harsh words, conflict, fights, arguments, quality of family life together, synergy, emotions that are rampant and patience wearing thin, upset at the smallest little thing. Lack of focus and direction.
Rewards: How you as a family can bond together and work through things, caring and supporting each other, even when the going gets tough, making the bonds and connections even stronger than before. Talking about things that are hard and how you are coping can be an eye-opener, sharing perspectives and solutions very empowering!
Providing stability, order, schedule, routine and a firm foundation amidst uncertainty is a huge responsibility BUT also an immense opportunity to reconnect with each other.
Getting, staying and keeping everyone else on track and organized, fed, clothed, taken care of, on time, where they need to be, when they need to be, in clean clothes and staying sane in the process can be quite the challenge for any single parent. The reward is that is provides you with the opportunity to inspire, engage and mobilize your kids into and in your family unit. They take part in building and shaping their own happiness, family life and future. That is the great reward. A new start and beginning, possibilities and potential. Keep focusing on the positive as opposed to dwelling in and upon the past. It is of extreme importance that anyone and everyone stay connected, have a voice, speak up, communicate clearly and check in with each other regularly. This is the perfect opportunity to help starting the healing process, strengthening the bonds and connections between parents and kids, individually and collectively as a family unit.
You are the authority and disciplinarian in the family unit. Demand and earn respect, trust and honesty. Be fair, open and consistent. Do not over-react and set some rules that you all can live with in this new situation. Organizing and customizing your lives the way you want it. Who gets to do what, when? Which sports and after-school activities, weekends and hobbies and more can be discussed and decided together. The sole parent, guardian and champion of course has the final say and input.
Do everything in your power to foster your children’s uniqueness and personality. Everyone has something that makes them unique NEVER FORGET THAT. Encourage their self-sufficiency and independence. Let them do chores around the house, take control of their lives and stop acting like victims, try and play guilt-games or manipulate, disobey, rebel or act out. Teach them to respect you, each other and others at all times.
- How does your family (new) handle conflict, stress and crisis?
- Are there verbal arguments in the household?
- Can you still love and care for each other, despite the difficulty and or words that you are having? How do you stay grounded and connected with each other?
- Are there opportunities for the family and you and the kids, one-on-one to discuss how they feel, what they want, concerns, disagreements?
Communication lays a solid and important foundational element and nature to the family relationships and unit. It strengthens it and deepens the bonds, connections, trust and intimacy you share. Making it a home of comfort, reassurance and shared love.
Modeling effective communication as a parent is a refined skill. Showcasing what you would like to see and be treated can help give ‘voice’ and coping skills to your kids to deal with expressing how they feel, what they need, want, desire, fear, are anxious about. It will make them more brave to open their mouths and hearts and you will all benefit from this open platform sharing in the family.
Negative communication like sarcasm and ridicule hurts and should not have a place in your home from or directed towards anyone. Kids will mimic what we do. If we do see behavior or expression that is inappropriate, we have to start in our own backyard and change our own ways FIRST! What example are you setting for your kids?
SIX KEYS TO UNLOCKING COMMUNICATION IN YOUR NEW FAMILY:
- Expressing thoughts and emotions openly and honestly and sharing experiences, fears, uncertainties, feelings, memories, pain, hurt, loss, concern, worries and more. It is healthy to talk about how and what we feel, need, desire and want – even what we miss. It helps us heal and reach out, bond and connect with each other MORE.
- Explaining things , making them clearer and leaving no room for misinterpretation, manipulation or misuse. Sharing our opinions, beliefs, perceptions, interpretations, points of view with each other, helps us look at things from each others’ and different perspectives (even multi-angles or from opposing sides). This brings us calm focus and the ability to solve problems, not emotionally over-react just because we are upset per se.
- Asking questions, probing for understanding is a great way for family-member to reconnect, celebrate a life and plan a future!
- Confrontation of unacceptable behavior, language or treatment is also important and it cuts both ways parent to child and child to parent (and yes, throw in sibling rivalry here too!) Respectful disagreement and speaking up when you feel that you have been wronged in any way is imperative.
- Resolution and resolving of issues, hurt, pain, distances, problems and even disagreements can be mighty powerful.
- Not everything in the family has to be about fighting and arguments. Create and environment that encourages, rewards children to speak up and model good behavior that makes them confident to voice what they have to say. Create a risk-free, safe environment where open communication and honesty is encouraged and valued. You are in effect enabling and empowering your kids, preparing them better for life, their future and adulthood.
Repressed anger, silences and punishment can have quite the opposite effect on them. They will detach, not say what is on their mind, defer to others, be followers and just accept things for what they are, without probing, questioning or verifying if the information is correct and reliable, worthy of being followed. Plan to set your kids, yourself and your family on a good path. Not only to recovery, but coming together as a unit, preparing for life, now, here and now, but also for the future, what lies ahead and whatever life might still throw at you.
Family values are shaped as time passes by. The single parent is not the embodiment and ‘enforcer’ if you will of these values, authority and discipline. Norms, rules and guidelines for behavior needs to be laid down, boundaries set and some ‘security’ and known lines in the sand so to speak drawn. Kids need to know what is acceptable and what is not. As the single parent you will state, shape and build these into your daily lives and routines. IT IS UP TO YOU TO ESTABLISH WHO AND WHAT YOUR NEW FAMILY IS, BELIEVES AND HOW THEY TREAT EACH OTHER AND THOSE AROUND THEM. You will set the pace and the nature of these ‘family rules’. This is where kids will not learn right from wrong.
Again, there are FIVE KEYS to unlock this phase of the transition. They are as follows:
- Stating clearly any demands, rules and orders with authority and consistency
- Setting limits and boundaries for them to live by, obey and use
- Probing and asking lots of questions
- Discussion, conversation and confrontation (if required and necessary)
- Discipline and consequences if they are not adhered to (also reward if they are stuck to and good outcomes need to be celebrated)
All of a sudden, when dealing with your kids there is no ‘backup’ It is because you say so and they have to accept it. It will not always be smooth sailing and sometimes kids will act out, rebel and not want to listen to you at all. Kids do not like NOT getting what they want and parent do NOT like NOT being listened to. This can be a recipe for disaster or a perfect opportunity for some great discussion and communication, bridging the gap so to speak and finding some common middle-ground both sides of this loving family equation can live with.
Work towards conforming, compliance, obedience, respect, love and trust and you provide security for your family and life-rules to live by now and in the future. Discipline can be hard for a single parent, but when it is necessary, do not let ‘guilt’ stand in the way of doing what is right, fair and acceptable.
You are not in this family to win a popularity contest, this is about being the parent, not merely the friend! You give direction and shape to the lives of your children – no-one else is going to do it for you or on your behalf. You need to personally embrace the fact that you are now the sole ‘leader’ and provider of this house, which included the authority and discipline aspects of parenting. THIS DOES NOT MEAN CONTROLLING OR MANIPULATING YOUR KIDS TO DO YOUR BIDDING AND BEND TO YOUR WILL!
It has to be from a position of love, care and respect. Giving your permission to ‘rule their lives’ , consenting to the adult in the house, through careful supervision, guidance, structure and pro-active, positive exchange and dialogue is the best.
You will oftentimes find yourself explaining and persuading, giving some feedback. Guard against criticism and judgments.
Insisting that things get done (like chores and homework) can be hard on and for both parties. It is not necessarily nagging, but it needs to be done, repeated and enforced.
Consequences for actions, discipline and/or punishment is the hardest thing for any parent to do, yet it is almost most important for children to learn. DO NOT EVER PHYSICALLY HURT YOUR CHILD! It instills fear and mistrust. Deprivation is negative, reparation and the chance to make things right again to be encouraged.
Dealing with discipline can be a challenge. Curbing freedoms and taking away privileges (like video-games or computer access for example) has been shown to be effective in the short-term. Making discipline a pleasure not a chore and using it as a positive experience to bring you and your children closer together is the task at hand for the single parent – regardless of how agitated and angry you might be at what has transpired.
Establishing the roles and responsibilities, as well as the acceptable behavior guidelines, boundaries and actions make it easier to operate and function as individual within this family and out in the real world, together. Remember to not be ambiguous or inconsistent. Be clear and purposeful in your punishments and communications. Lead by example and do not have double standards.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RULE YOUR HOUSE WITH AN IRON FIST! Discipline can be done in loving, caring, yet strict and firm way.
IT IS NOT ABOUT SHOWING THEM WHO IS BOSS OR AN EXCUSE OF TREATING YOUR KIDS BADLY! YOU DO NOT HAVE AN EXCUSE OF PERMISSION TO DO SO JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE THE PARENT!
Getting your children to a comfort zone, prepared to deal with life and taking care of themselves requires fostering some sense of responsibility, self-pride and independence, self-sufficiency. As the single parent it is now up to you to equip them for living their lives. What a wonder, what a weighted task! It is here, at their home base and in this risk-free, ,safe environment that life-skills are practices and come to fruition.
Creating the right atmosphere, security and environment for them to thrive in is what is important. Picking up your stuff, doing your homework, helping with the chores in and around the house, getting to and from school for example are all great ways to practice these responsibilities, ,skills and freedoms.
Letting go and allowing them these freedoms involves risk and letting go. This can be extremely hard on single parents who instinctively want to shield, guard and protect their kids from any more hurt, pain or failure. You have to empower, not debilitate your kids. Allow them to experiment and live their lives. They have to be able to learn to be self-sufficient and do things for themselves (make their bed, breakfast, get dressed themselves, pick out their clothes and more.) You can worry – all parents do, but it should not interfere with the lives and activities of your kids. There is truth in the saying IF YOU LOVE IT LET IS GO FREE! Discussions on consequences and possibilities are essential to unlocking the secret of working together and not only finding yourselves at opposing sides of the fence, battling each other and getting nowhere fast!
Always coming to their immediate defense, rescuing and bailing them out is not the answer. Accountability, consequences, aftermath are all part of growing up. You have to allow your kids to go through these things, even if it is hard for you! It is the only way they will learn the difference between right and wrong, that decisions and choices are responsibilities and freedoms, with rights!
Mishaps and accidents do happen, how you deal with it, not blaming, letting them cope and rectify the situation if they can, will give them coping skills for life, developing into well-rounded individuals and human beings.
Operating independently and by/for themselves is very important (if age appropriate of course) It will help you out tremendously balancing the loads and demands on time, energies and help your family to get done what has to be done and live and enjoy your lives to its fullest potential! YOU HAVE THE RIGHT AND MEANS TO MAKE THIS A HAPPY HOME!
Stop trying to be everything for everybody and DO EVERYTHING FOR THEM! This behavior is not helping them to be able to help themselves and others. Rather ask yourself how and what you can do to boost their confidence and build or refine their life-skills. Naturally we want to nurture, foster and protect, we have to learn to let go and have them try (even fail) for and by themselves. It is the only and best way to equip them not only for living their lives in this new family unit today and move on, but also for their lives and futures ahead.
Honesty, truth, safety, intimacy are all qualities you have to strive for in your family. It is up to you and your kids to create the atmosphere and environment that you want. You enable, control and orchestrate your lives, living conditions and emotional well-being. You opt how to treat yourself and each other. Being truthful and earnest goes a long way to strengthen the bonds and connections in your family. Lying undermines all of the above! NEVER LIE TO YOUR KIDS (not even convincing yourself that you are protecting them by doing so!) They will lose all respect for you as a person, parent and human being. Ensure that you have all your facts straight before acting. DO not be misled by half-truths or outright lies – probe and ask question, ,to ensure you do not give permission or say no, when you should not have. There are many reasons for kids to lie to you and they do is seemingly so easily these days! It happens, there is no denying it. Sometimes it is meant to avoid painful consequences, hurt, anger. Your kids might not be feeling so good about themselves or what they have done, covering up, not wanting you to know, being involved in something they do not have permission for or know is wrong.
Kids can be master manipulators. Beware and not taken in by these, look for evidence and confront when necessary. Always letting them know that you love them and want to trust them, that it is the behavior you do not condone. THERE IS NO PLACE FOR MISLEADING EACH OTHER AND SUSPICION. Get the communication channels open and encourage sharing openly when problems or challenges come up. Rules set by parents help and assist children to develop into well-rounded, decision-making, self-sufficient adults, without it, it will simply NOT HAPPEN. Parents do not necessarily like making or enforcing rules, but they are an essential part of your kids growing up. You are shaping their future and writing on the slates of their lives, whether you want to or not. Kids do not like rules (even if they know it is for their own good) They might rebel or try to push the boundaries, make you feel guilty and/or even retreat or give up! DO NOT QUIT!
You are all that they have. Without you there will be no guidelines, no boundaries and no learning taking place to prepare them for life in the real world. The rules of the house and family that you lay out, need to be respected, followed and adhered to. You need to make it clear and stick to them consistently.
Be sympathetic and understanding, yet lovingly firm and stick to your guns! (figuratively speaking)
The home and family is also where we learn to treat ourselves and others with respect. You set the tone and behavior in your own home. We like routine, habits and repetition. It is how we learn and master. We are creatures of comfort and habit. You can use these to set up your new family rules quite easily. Practice makes perfect. Assign chores and see that they get done – that simple. Involve and engage your kids in family life. Do not try to do everything yourself or go it alone all the time. Allow them to help out, ,build their confidence and thrive in the space and new context that you are shaping and creating together.
Teaching them to have a balance between self-interest and the interests of others is extremely important. We do not have or give permission to be treated or treat other badly. We need to be sensitive, compassionate, compromise when necessary and give back, treat others like we would like to be treated. Fair and acceptable behavior and treatment of others will be front and center in a multiple child household, but is also just as important for a one-child family! If they do not learn it at the knee of their single parent, where will they?
Foster two-way communication, open and honest exchange and good connection, giving and receiving, with trust and respect. Do not allow kids to be selfish and get away with it. Do not let your kids walk all over you, take advantage of your good, forgiving heart and hold them accountable for their actions.
Actively seek some middle-ground when required when there is conflict or difference in opinion about something. Learning to compromise, even share and being unselfish are all part of life-lessons in the family home. Finding your family’s unique way of dealing with things can be quite the unifying principle “This will be our way of/for dealing with things, OK?” generates buy-in and compliance, acceptance and practice. Teach kids that not everything in life is about instant gratification. You can not always get what you demand and want. Life does not work that way. Help them save for something special for example, as opposed to just buying it because they are asking for it.
Consideration and compassion for others need to be taught at home too. There is no-one else that will be looking our for the emotional well-being of this family. It is up to all of you. Pushing each others’ buttons, soft or weak-spots to get your way is unacceptable and this needs to stop before turning into abuse, bullying or even worse, permanent distrust or abuse.