Welcome back to Mama Bear, Amazing Moms. In today’s blog, I want to take some time to encourage single moms as well as the dads that are no longer with them. Single moms face a unique challenge, especially if they have the kids a majority of the time. They not only face that long 98 hour work week that the study found the average mom experiences, but now they face doing that without a partner, without someone to step in when things get rocky with the kids.
Single moms often find themselves under more financial pressure. As a result they have a harder time finding breaks for themselves as well as finding time in each day to enjoy their children. Dads, this is where you can help even if you’re no longer with them. There are a number of things you can do as dads that will support your kids’ mom and thereby really give your kids the best shot at growing up in a healthy, positive, confident, successful manner.
Dads help your Ex
As I’ve worked with families that have been through divorce, one thing that I’ve seen too often is parents not being able to let go of the past hurt, which can lead to ongoing bitterness and conflict between the parents. This doesn’t help a single mom do a great job and lead to kids growing up in a confident, healthy way. Dads, please stop and ask yourself if you’ve been providing your ex wife the support, the encouragement, and all the assistance you can provide, if not for her, for your kids. Do it for their development so that they grow up without the baggage, without the wounds that can take them down negative paths that none of us want to see our kids go down.
I know sometimes it’s really hard for us men to see our weaknesses, to own them and then to apologize. But that’s what I’m going to ask you to do. If God’s tugging on your heart and you’re thinking maybe you haven’t done all you can do to really provide a stable foundation for your kids by supporting your ex wife, perhaps apologizing is a step you need to take. I know an apology and a shift in your attitude along with adopting a generous spirit can really change the dynamics of any situation. This change will bless your kids in so many ways and help protect them from all the dangers that are out there in the world. While I wasn’t planning to go there on this broadcast, it’s what God put on my heart. So here we have it. Dads, I know it’s hard, but listen to the Holy Spirit inside your heart and please support your kids by being positive, generous, and encouraging with your ex. If you haven’t listened to this whole series, you may want to. It may help soften your heart and give you some ideas of ways you can step in and be a great dad for your kids. You can go back and listen to the whole Mama Bear: Amazing Moms series by referring to our podcasts.
Single Mom’s Kids are Often Better Prepared
Single moms, I know being a married dad there’s no way I can fully understand everything you face, but from reading what I’ve read and working with single moms and their kids, I know the stress, pressure and loneliness you face is real and significant. I want to encourage you because as I’ve worked with some of your kids, even those that are struggling, I often find that they are less entitled, more responsible and better prepared for life on their own as they hit the adolescent years than kids growing up in married homes.
The fact that they need to pick up more responsibility around the house, do laundry at younger ages, help with the cooking is not a negative thing. In coaching single moms and their kids, there are some things that I have learned that are really important for single moms to be aware of and to incorporate into their lives so they can remain positive and happy.
A Story Single Moms Can Take to Heart
I’ll never forget one single mom who reached out to me about a year after she came to one of our Influential Parenting events. She said, I need some help. My daughter’s struggling and I don’t know where to turn. She was fearful because her daughter was beginning to react, was as big as her and had actually gotten physical with her, which turned into an all out brawl. There were a number of things that contributed to this outcome.
Probably first and foremost was this mom wasn’t happy. She was running herself ragged and hadn’t really found the time or the help to recover and heal from what she had been through in her marriage that led to the divorce. She threw herself into work, struggling to keep her head above water financially and found herself feeling a bit trapped, which came out in various ways with her daughter. This left her daughter feeling distant and like she was the cause of her mom’s issues. Since her mom really never took the time to stop, grieve and heal from what happened in the divorce the daughter felt like she needed to be strong for her mom at age eight and nine when the divorce occurred. The daughter hadn’t really stopped and processed what had gone on either. She hadn’t dealt with some of the things that she had experienced with her dad. She hadn’t dealt with the loss of her family.
The lack of dealing with the pain, as God designed it in terms of grieving, led to the breakdown in their relationship. At first they were close after the divorce. Her daughter picked up responsibilities, even did some cooking, cleaning and laundry. But as she grew older and her adolescent brain kicked in, she started to forget some things. Added to this was that her emotional regulation went offline and many of the hurts buried down inside her with her Dad, the divorce and her mom began to surface. Her mom interpreted what has happening as bad behavior and tried to fix it, which led to increased conflict. They were triggering each other’s unhealed hurts. leading to bad behavior on both sides. When the mom tried to correct her daughter it lead to more frustration and hurt. The mom was trying to fix her while not fixing herself. Their conflict left the daughter feeling completely alone and drove her into seeking some escape behaviors with her friends that caused the brawl incident.
Neither mom nor daughter were bad people. They had good hearts and good intentions, but they were wounded. If you’re a single mom with an adolescent and you’re starting to see some of these things happen in your home, please feel free to reach out to me. Go to revive family.com. scroll to the bottom of the page, click on our contact form and contact me. Then we’ll set up a time to talk.
Seek Your Own Healing
If you’ve got younger kids at home, you’ve encountered a divorce and you’re now a single parent, learn from this story. Take time to do the work with God in your heart and your soul to bring healing so you can be happy and positive. It’s absolutely essential not just for you to be able to enjoy life but for you to be able to provide a strong stable foundation for your kids. Help them become positive, caring, compassionate kids who will go out and make a difference in a world.
As I was looking for information and ideas to encourage single moms, I ran across an article, 10 Ways to Reduce Single Parents’ Stress. It sites a study that states that one out of every four moms is a single parent. This article can be found on parents.com. The article begins by talking about finances and the severe financial pressure single moms often find themselves under, especially when child support isn’t coming in. While spending time on a budget may be one of the least favorite things for us to do as adults, I know how profound it’s been for my family when we’ve taken it seriously. Developing a budget and involving your kids in seeing that budget can be a lifesaver. The budgeting system that my wife and I were trained in right after we got married was just amazing. It take some time and effort, but it allowed us to save money while working as missionaries, raising monthly support. While a budget may seem restrictive, it actually results in much more freedom, especially mental freedom. It removes the financial pressure, decreases stress and worry, and allows better sleep at night, all of which are so important for single moms. A good night’s sleep can make the difference between having a long, hard day and a day where happiness can be seen in our eyes and faces.
A Support System is Vital
Another vital thing, according to the article, was developing a support system. What I have seen in my coaching is that every single mom who was struggling with a child did not have a support system. It left them feeling really alone and exhausted. Whether it is parents or friends who would step in and watch your kids or take them for a night so that you can get a break, you need to ask. It’s vital you to reach out and not feel like you have to do it all on your own. I know this can be hard. Research into loneliness shows that when we feel alone we adopt more anti social behaviors often isolating ourselves without realizing it. I believe this often occurs because we have been hurt and have not healed. We guard our hearts and do not want to risk being hurt or let down by others.
One of the things we do poorly in our culture is to open up and be transparent with our deeper thoughts and feelings. Most kids and many adults I work with still fear sitting down with their own parents to deal with issues or hurts. When we venture past our fears, share our hurts and work through them, great healing and closer relationships result most of the time. This can free us from those areas of sensitivity that cause us to react with our kids perpetuating a cycle we need to break especially if our kids have been hurt by a divorce.
Another way to facilitate growth is by risking it and opening up with friends, even casual friends at church. Allow someone in by sharing your exhaustion, struggles and fears. The Bible says when we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have true fellowship with one another. I’ve seen this over and over again, but I’ve also seen how strongly we fear truly opening up and being honest with those around us. Whether I’m coaching a teen, an adolescent or a parent, when I’ve gotten them to take that step, the response has always been far better than they imagined. It resulted in such great things in those relationships that they could hardly believe it.
So make sure you’re taking the time to deal with your own wounds and make sure you’re encouraging your kids to deal with their wounds. Part of the learning and healing is sharing transparently with one another. Sharing feelings and the hurts between you and your kids is one facet, but another is opening up with others and trusting God to bring a support network around you. I know that we often want to have the image of having it all together, especially within the church, but if you want to tear down the walls of loneliness and find some help to heal, it is essential to risk being open and honest with people selectively.
Routines Help Moms and Kids
Another way you can reduce your stress is to establish a daily routine. We’ve previously talked about it on our show that the brain is actually designed to seek rest. That’s why people form habits. It’s why they seek routines and can find themselves stuck at times because of them. But when you’ve been through a traumatic event like a divorce, you are dealing with a higher level of stress and pressure as a single parent. It’s easy to let the tyranny of the urgent take over. This turns you into a firefighters dealing with whatever flares up next, making it difficult to develop a routine and literally wearing you out. When you’re in a wounded place where emotions are taking you up and down and all over the map, adopting a schedule can seem daunting, but it really will help bring some stability to you and your kids.
In the article mentioned earlier, it suggests scheduling meals, bedtime and other family functions at regular hours so that your child knows exactly what to expect each day. This will help them feel more secure and help you feel more organized. It will only take a few days or maybe two weeks to fall into a routine which will bring a measure of mental rest and comfort.
The article also talks about being consistent with discipline, but given the negative connotation of that word today and how we tend to interpret that as parents, I would definitely under-emphasize that. I encourage you to take Influential Parenting today which will help you have deeper access to help your child heal and remain close to you heading into and through the adolescent years.
The next point in the article is really important, but the title itself is a bit misleading. It says, treat kids like kids, which might immediately lead you to think this means not giving your kids some additional responsibilities like laundry or cooking a meal at age eight, nine or ten. As I share those ages, some of the parents may be saying, no way you can’t do that. They’re not using a stove. It’s too dangerous. Given what we teach and how we approach them, kids, ages seven to ten are capable of taking on very real responsibilities and handling them incredibly well.
Do not rely on your Kids for Emotional Comfort
What the article meant by treat kids like kids was not relying on them heavily for comfort, compassion, sympathy and emotional support. We need to see them as kids who are more emotional than us. They have their own emotions that they’re trying to deal with and we need to help draw them out, express and deal with them. It’s especially important to guard against letting our frustrations with our ex spill out and undermine the relationship our kid has with their parent. According to all the research, both parents are essential to developing confident, secure, successful kids that won’t end up with mental health issues.
This is where that support system and transparency can really help you out. Find some people you can begin to share with openly so that you don’t feel like you need to share it with your children. The next part of this is so accurate and also really biblical. Abolish guilt from your vocabulary. This is important not just for you but also for your kids because the research shows that most kids following a divorce feel as if in some way, shape or form, it was their fault. Your kids could be dealing with guilt as well.
The Past is Behind You
If you’re a believer, your sins are forgiven past, present, and future. Dwelling on past mistakes makes us more negative about ourselves. It can keep us in a frustrated or negative mindset and literally prevent healing. Here’s an example. You fall down the stairs and bruise your arm and your ribs and the next morning get up and are really sore. You look at it in the mirror and there’s a big bruise and you say, well, I’ll start feeling better tomorrow. Yet if the next morning before you go look in the mirror, you punch yourself in that same place in the ribs.it’s not going to look better and it will not feel better. In fact, it may look and feel worse, which is what guilt can do to you. It can keep you trapped in a wounded place. Accept God’s forgiveness, put away the negativity and shed some tears of grief. Allow yourself to go through the grieving process because it’s biblical. The word grief or grieving appears 64 times in the Bible.
Take Time For Yourself
The next two things kind of go hand in hand. Take time for your children and take time for yourself. I would invert these two and make it take time for yourself and take time for your children. Here’s why. If you’re not taking time for yourself, doing things that will recharge your batteries, you’re not going to be much good in the times you spend with your kids because you’re going to be exhausted. You’ll have a hard time being excited, playing a game or simply being emotionally available for your kids.
If you don’t take time for yourself, you may have a hard time paying attention and listening which is essential for your kids’ feeling valued, understood and loved. Time to yourself is essential to your having positive regular time to enjoy your kids and have fun together. Pull out a card game, pull out a board game, go for a walk, play with your pets together. This fun time is essential for our hearts as parents and it’s vital for our kids. It really does help us get into a better mood and stay more positive.
Taking personal time will help you get up in the morning with the sense that it’s going to be a good day or a great day and will translate into your morning with your kids. It will be contagious with your kids and it will positively impact your day and productivity at work.
Involve Your Kids in Planning
Involve your kids in working out, planning meals, shopping for and cooking your meals. All of these can reduce stress and help you feel more organized and positive about yourself. It’s so tragic today because so many adults and kids that I work with have adopted really negative core values about themselves. It’s tragic because it’s just not the way God sees us. He doesn’t see our failures or our sin. He doesn’t focus on our weaknesses. He wants his love, His grace and His forgiveness to lift up our spirits. He doesn’t want us to beat ourselves up over our failures. When we beat ourselves up, it’s been proven that it’s hard to go back, reflect, learn, and heal.
God wants us to invite Him in and to allow His Spirit to change our hearts. He wants to circumcise our hearts, to sanctify us from the inside out so that we’re not having to control ourselves and be self-disciplined. He loves us and wants to transform us so we are positive, not reactive, and in close relationships with our kids.
We’re adopted. We’re heirs because He loves us unconditionally in spite of all of our weaknesses. If God is not focused on them, why should we be? So adopt a positive mindset about yourself. It’ll help you adopt a positive mindset about life and your kids in spite of their weaknesses and failures.
Please contact me if you’ve got questions or concerns or for the coupon code you can use to take our online Influential Parenting class for free. Leave this series feeling positive about yourself and giving yourself the freedom to take breaks. Allow yourself to grieve and let the hurts out. Invite the Holy spirit in to heal your heart. Work to take some of the pressure off and help your child seek healing within as well so you both have a positive outlook and perspective of each other and the new reality of your family.