The challenges and rewards of single parenting are intricately interwoven. They are like flip sides of the same coin.
There are different stages in this process of becoming, living, functioning and thriving as a single parent:
- It starts out with a situational assessment and reality check. FACING FACTS AND REALITY: Transitioning into being a single parent
- GETTING PRIORITIES IN PLAY AND PLACE: Structuring and organizing the new family unit, circumstance and surroundings
- FUNCTIONING AS A FAMILY: Fostering relationships and bond, trust, honesty, disciplines, roles and responsibilities etc.
- SOCIETY AND SUPPORT: school, family, friends, dating, family management
- DEALING WITH SPECIFICS: Death, Divorce, Abandonment
Others depict this process as a gradually unfolding series of events in which parents must:
- Master new demands
- Help children cope and thrive (despite change, loss and adjustment)
- Coping themselves and on their own
- Moving from old to new context and reality (even uncertainty)
This is a work in progress and it will take time.
TWO KEY STEPS THAT HAVE TO BE TAKEN ARE:
Breaking with the old on the one hand, and Getting on with the new on the other. The first deals with the emotional side and the empathic responses, whilst the second deals more with direction and strategic aspects of the single parenting, road ahead.
1- Breaking with the old
This would mean that the single parent has to at the very least take the time and effort to…
- Address hurt and pain, loss and/or betrayal, abandonment etc.
- Dealing with very real feelings and emotions like denial, anger and protect self/children from pain, trying to focus on the positive and the memories
- Giving each other some space to work through it in their own way
- Ensure self and children are emotionally ready to confront the reality (old and new)
- Not trying to hold on, allowing to be mourning or grieve
- Help wounds to heal (own and those of the children)
- Not feel guilty or inadequate, no blaming
2 – Getting on with the new
- Accepting and embracing the new situation and life in general
- Accommodate and understand
- Allow room for everyone, individually and collectively to deal with this in his/her own way
Always remember that NO TWO PEOPLE ARE THE SAME. EACH OF OUR JOURNEYS AND PATHS ARE DIFFERENT. WE GO AT IT AT OUR OWN PACE…
BREAKING WITH THE OLD AND GETTING ON WITH THE NEW!
Certainty/secure Uncertainty/ non-secure
Old and valued New and Different
Moving out Moving on/in
Away from Towards
Breaking with the OLD and getting on with the NEW
Recalibrating, re-aligning and reorienting your life and that of your new unit family is what this single parenting cycle and journey is all about. You can see it as a chore, mountain to overcome or a wonderful journey. That is up to you. There is attitude and aptitude, persistence required for this role. It will take an inner strength, commitment and deeply rooted love for your children to make the most of this unfortunate hand you are dealt. You can be a victim of fate or you can be a magician for the future of both you and your kids!
It is of utmost importance that you sort our for yourself what your situation exactly is, be realistic and plan for success, NOT FAILURE! Compromise is not an option. Results matter and you will get you and your family through this.
Having realistic expectations is part of the answer and solution. Lots would say it is part of a ‘get your ducks in a row’ , getting your house in order phase of this process. It requires that you and your kids set out to rebuild and strengthen your life, your family, your future…
YOU WILL BE SHAPING IT TOGETHER!
Communicating clearly during this time, addressing expectations, fears and establishing some form of security, platform and certainty is essential.
Breaking with the old situation, circumstance and context, might bring with it some unpredictability, loss, insecurity, confusion…
The new situation may bring with it anxiety, excitement, possibilities, anticipation and a fixed routine, security and clear messages, open communication channels and nurturing support will see you and your family through this transitional phase of your life
(YES IT TOO WILL PASS!)
We spoke about expectations earlier. There are THREE elements present here in dealing heads-on and hands-on with this transition:
- What you believe will happen – how you predict your life, family and future will be from here on moving forward
- What you want, desire to happen – which reflects your ambitions for you and your family
- What should happen – dealing with your expectations of what needs to/can/might occur
As an example, some teenage moms opt not to give their babies up for adoption. They choose to be mothers and the sole parent and custodian of this little life. It takes lots of understanding and loving care to raise a child/family.
For them predictions, ambitions, expectations, might take somewhat of a back seat for/to other pressing priorities. Finishing school, getting and education, while raising a baby/child on their own is a big responsibility and task to take on. YET, IT IS DONE AND QUITE POSSIBLE WITH SUPPORT NETWORKS AND A CLEAR-CUT PLAN TO SUCCEED! Putting you and your family FIRST, is a priority, regardless of your single parent situation.
One of the biggest problems single parents face as well, is dealing with the loneliness, alienation and isolation they sometimes experience. Stress and depression are real risks here too. Keeping your attitude positive and setting priorities, goals and working towards them every day really help too.
TIP # 1 FOR SINGLE PARENTS: NEVER FEEL GUILTY ABOUT ASKING FOR HELP!
Pay close attention to the small and immediate details, where to live, what to eat, how to provide and care for your young family, social assistance, support groups, cooperative baby-sitting, parent support, education, medical and financial, even special needs that need to be addressed with urgency!
Single parent should take care NOT expect too much from themselves or from their kids/family. Being, keeping others and staying realistic is essential. Nobody is perfect, so try and keep the guilt at bay… avoid I should have, could have, or I will, I should… I have to, which just increases your stress and anxiety in these circumstances.
Try and depersonalize issue and tasks at hand and focus in setting up and organization your family to the best of your ability, quick and provide the security and stability, certainty and comfort you all crave and deserve.
TIME TO MOVE ON…
Watch for suppressed anger and emotions and allow yourself and your kids’ time to work through the transition, challenges (and rewards!) this new situation, circumstance and context brings with it.
YOU DID NOT PLAN IT, BUT YOU CAN COPE WITH IT, LEARN AND MASTER IT!
In these type of situations and relationships, our behavior and actions can take any of the following “faces”, identities and tones:
If can sometimes be a combination of all three and is so easily misunderstood or underestimated. In a single family, keeping the communication lines open can again be BOTH challenging and rewarding, BUT IT IS ESSENTIAL! This is where you learn and practice to deal, express and handle your emotions and those around you.
You are in a situation that you might feel is unwanted, unasked for and undeserved. Voicing this to your kids is not acceptable, fair or right.
Model how to deal with anger and emotions. Teach your kids the difference between getting angry and staying angry. Rather invest your energies in making and building a BETTER LIFE together for you and your family! It is better use of your energy, time and effort, than dwelling on the past or negative emotions, blame or verbal tirades.
Protest and rebellion from kids are often very common. This is their way of coping with things and quite normal. They did not want it, expect it and have to accept all the changes, NEW situation, rules, adjustments etc. It is a huge task for them. They have to be provided with the environment in which they can handle and address this on their terms.
Talking to your kids and discussing with them how they feel are great ways to be proactive about this. Reestablish control in your household, make it safe, secure and predictable. Enable and empower your kids to voice and speak their minds, even if they are angry.
The parent is still the one with the last say and try to be fair, allowing them to vent their anger and frustrations as well, to an extent that you are comfortable with. Openly discuss emotions and feelings and do not judge or criticize.
Listening without getting defensive is key too. As a single parent you are not the ‘silver bullet’ cure for everything that ails your child. Not even the loss, hate, guilt, resentment, blame and judgments that they so easily swirl at you - know that they do not mean it! This is their way of working through it.
Try and focus on Freedom from old things, hurt, pain and Freedom to and for new things, possibilities. Try and have a healthy balance and when you are all ready to move on and forward, you will know. YOU WILL ALL BE READY FOR IT AND EMBRACE IT!
Fears, insecurities and unknowns have to be dealt with too. They can be very real for all parties involved in this family unit going through transition right now. Routines and family-special moments can all help you through these difficult times. Breed familiarity and comfort within unfamiliarity and unknown.