By Cami Sullivan
My years as a single mom taught me how to strengthen my family and become a better mother.
When I left my husband 8 years ago, I was an emotional train wreck. My very young daughter was clueless as to what was happening, but she knew things had changed and she didn’t like it. It was a dark and scary time for us. I clung to the Lord, and He led me every step of the way. I learned how to create a strong family amidst the rough battle of divorce.
There were, surprisingly, a few perks to my new reality; it was a relief not to worry about dividing my attention between my spouse and my child, and being able to make all the decisions without having to compromise was a huge plus!
If you find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you will find use of these 6 ways to ensure a strong family as a single parent:
1. Speak kindly of your ex.
I could write novels about all the terrible things my ex did during the course of our marriage and fill bookcases more of all that has transpired since then. But as far as my daughter knows, her dad is an angel. She adores her dad, and I’m thrilled that she feels that way. No one wants to hear that someone they love has done something wrong. Your children should not know what caused the separation. They should not know when your ex does or says something mean. It is your responsibility to protect them from the pain and disappointment. If you need to vent, write in your journal or call a friend when you are certain the kids can’t hear your conversation. This step is vital!
2. Schedule time together daily.
Show your children that they are a priority by spending time with them daily. Help them with homework, play a game, watch a favorite tv show. What’s most important about this time is that it’s free of distractions (especially phones and tablets), and that you are doing what your children want to do, not what you want to do. Take an interest in their interests, learn what makes them annoyed and what thrills them. Do this consistently and without a hidden agenda. Soon, they will trust you enough to tell you the things that they fear, things that they are tempted by, and their innermost hopes and dreams.
3. Continue routines.
As much as possible and as is appropriate for your family, continue the routines your children were used to. Like you, they have been through much change and need some consistency. Routine can feel like a safety net for children. If you have always read a bedtime story to your children, keep reading! If every Friday you order pizza, don’t stop now! It will be wonderful for you all to have something familiar during an unfamiliar circumstance.
4. Start new traditions.
While it’s important to maintain normalcy, it’s also important to start some new traditions as you form a new identity as a family. This can be a great discussion you have with your children- maybe each of you could choose 1 new tradition to start. Keep in mind that your visitation likely does not allow you to see the children each holiday, so you may need to celebrate Christmas a day early or Valentines a day late. My daughter told me the best part about having divorced parents is getting to have Santa visit her twice!
5. Make rules clear and consistent.
It is so difficult for children to go back and forth from Mom’s house to Dad’s house with new rules and guidelines at each place. Something you can do to ease their burden is to be very clear about what you will and will not allow while they are in your home. When is bedtime? How much TV is allowed each day? Be clear about consequences, and always follow through. Your children need boundaries, now more than ever.
6. Be strong and optimistic about the future.
If you are constantly negative about your circumstance and expressing worry for what’s to come, you are saying to your children that life is miserable and it probably won’t get better. It is alright to be upset, sad, and worried. But it is not alright to be transparent with your children about those feelings. Be the pillar of strength they can cling to when their world tosses them around.
Raising children alone is difficult, and sometimes feels impossible. But by following these steps you can increase the likelihood of happiness within your family!
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