I was carpooling today with another mother following a bus to our children’s field trip. We were chatting about all sorts of things, small topics and large when the topic of when I became a newly single parent worked its way into the conversation. (By the way, lots of MY circumstances have changed since then…but that’s a time of my life that remains unforgettable.) I am aware of the overwhelming statistics when it comes to children of divorce and the vulnerabilities they may face. Trust me when I say, this is not what I had planned.
But I’m grateful for where we are today and the journey we took together to get where we are. I found myself saying to the other parent some of the things I’d like to share to any parent that might be facing the daunting overnight life change that I had to: Becoming a single parent and raising them right without screwing them up.
Here are my 5 Things for a New Single Parent to Remember:
1. Be honest
Age-appropriately, of course. When you and your children go through any kind of traumatic event, be it a death of a spouse, a divorce, abandonment of a spouse, fleeing for safety….whatever your truth is….trust me, the kids know something is up. You can only sugar coat it so much.
And with any kind of trauma, there is a sense of loss. All of us need to know what is real and what isn’t. And EVERYONE needs to know that there is someone who will be HONEST with them. No, this doesn’t mean trash talk. That is damaging and vilifying. But if someone’s gone – someone’s gone. If you don’t know for how long – you don’t know for how long. You need to be honest. With your kids…and with yourself.
2. Be Solid
When there’s trauma, you need to be the parent. It’s not fair, because you are going to need a rock, too. But these kids are going to need to know that no matter WHAT – whether they misbehave, lie, cheat, steal, mouth off, YOU aren’t going anywhere. You are still going to PARENT. Bedtime, routine, dinnertime – it all still happens under your watch.
3. Be human
But guess what….sometimes, with the trauma…dinnertime might just not be as routine as it once was and you are going to need to forgive yourself. You are going to not be at your best sometimes and you need to forgive yourself.
There were times I would yell and scream and then hate myself after and one of THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I DID was to take the time to make us all sit down and talk about it. I would tell them that I messed up. That I’m not perfect and that I’m only human. I would ask for their forgiveness and I would also model that I could forgive myself. It’s so important to teach kids to forgive themselves – the way they learn this is by seeing adults that can model it for them.
4. Be real
It’s not a bad thing for kids to know that their parents have feelings, too. Through this, they learn about empathy and compassion. I’m not saying to fall apart and hide your head under a pillow…no one has time for that. (Not to mention, if you’re your’re under a pillow…no one is doing the parenting…no good!)
But to be militant, to behave as though you are not allowed to feel…that’s not real. That’s not authentic. Allow your children to live authentically. It’s OK for them to know you can feel a feeling and express it. Plus it gives them the breathing space to know it’s OK for them to feel, too.
5. Be their family
This one doesn’t need much explanation. This is what you are. This is what you do. This is it. Enjoy it. Relish it. Breathe it in. Laugh when you can…Laugh hard…I mean it…the belly laughs will carry you through. Cry together when you have to. Hold each other. Celebrate together. You’re the family.
No matter what happens, my children know they have me as their family. We have created an unshakable bond unlike any other. No matter what, we are family. And from the stacks of other statistics I’ve heard about….as long as there is at least ONE SOLID PARENT….the kids? They’re good.
Just love them….truly love them and yourself. Be yourself. Trust yourself and be honest. And remember…you’re family. Enjoy it! It’s the best! And I’m so grateful! I’ve never been happier!