I taught my son to fail. What are you teaching your children?

I taught my son how to fail well

On first hearing his words were an insult: ‘you taught me how to fail well’. Once I got past my hurt pride and could listen to the rest of what he was saying, I realised these words were a compliment to my parenting. It took me to move my focus from the word ‘fail’, to hear the words ‘taught … well’.

When he was little and we were at the beach, he loved to walk in my footsteps. His little legs leaping from one footprint to another as he tried to match my steps.

Now as a young man he was telling me how he was practising what he had seen me do. He was walking in my footsteps.

Until he made the comment about failing well and we discussed it, the lesson I had taught my son of how to fail had been through role modelling. Over the years he had watched me write, produce courses, learn how to use websites and manage the administrative aspects of business. He had watched my lack of success by worldly standards and my desire. He saw me maintain my passion, problem solve, learn from the experience and most importantly get up to try again.

I was completely unaware that through this process I was teaching him to pursue his dreams and showing him that failure along the way was both okay and a necessary part of learning and moving forward to achieve the dream.

This was a good affirmation for my parenting. It showed that I had changed and was practising what I preached. As previously I hadn’t done this well.

I taught my daughter how to put herself down

In the early days at the end of my marriage my self-esteem was battered and I put myself down in both attitude and words. When I spoke to my children I used words of affirmation trying to build their self- esteem. I was unaware of the incongruency of my role modelling and how I was trying to parent my children. It wasn’t until I heard my daughter describing herself with words she had heard not from me to her, but from me to me. Instead of being inspired to love herself and see herself positively through my affirmation of her, she had watched me at the mirror. She had watched me respond to mistakes by putting myself down, and that was the example she was following.

What are you teaching your children?

Today’s blog is not structured in the usual six steps of ‘how’ … but is a challenge to reflect on what you are teaching your children.

Whether you realise it or not, whether you are intentional in what you teach or not, your children are learning how to do life from you. They are walking behind you, watching you, sometimes listening to you, stepping where you have stepped.

Your children will learn from you

  • how to care for themselves. This includes respecting themselves, practising healthy behaviours and their self-esteem
  • how to relate to others. This includes showing respect, being forgiving and having personal boundaries
  • how to manage their emotions. This includes naming their emotions, recognising the impact of their emotions and having strategies to deal with them
  • how to learn. This includes their attitude to learning, understanding their way of learning and putting it into practice
  • how to cope with challenge. This includes problem-solving, their view of challenge and resilience
  • how to manage growing life. This includes prioritising/time management, understanding consequences and specific life skills
  • how to pursue their dreams. This includes their view of the future, belief in them self and how to fail

Putting legs on it

If you would like some help to assess your role modelling, click here to download a copy of: ‘Your children are watching you: 6 questions to assess your role modelling’

 

How to play as a single parent

I wrote, ‘Single parenting is the hardest, most emotionally challenging, fatigue inducing and energy sapping torture I know and I really do love my kids!’1 My feelings on being a single parent immortalised on paper and in an e-book for anyone to read. Nearly a decade later with an almost empty nest there are still moments as a single parent where I could say those words.

In spending time with single parents, I realise many of us have lost the ability to play as an adult. We are too busy running the household and making sure everyone is where they’re meant to be with what they’re meant to have. We are too busy caring for and nurturing our children, meeting their needs at the expense of our own. We are focused on controlling everything and have forgotten how to play.

As a single parent I feel guilty about playing. In my mind when I play, I’m ‘unproductive’. Playing is foreign to my sense of responsibility. It undermines my worth because I place value on myself based on what I do, not on who I am.

When did you last play? I mean really play? When did you stop thinking about your ‘to do’ list, your finances, your work, your worries and find pleasure in the moment doing something enjoyable?

Benefits of play as an adult

You need to play. Adults need to play. But we forget how to play.

Research is showing there are benefits to adults in rediscovering how to play. Play decreases stress and improves well-being. It improves brain function and creativity. If you think about children, they learn through play. It can improve your relational well-being as you cooperate and interact with others.1

Chris Kresser, a functional medicine practitioner says, ‘Play is not simply a frivolous luxury. Pleasure, play and social connection are all deeply nourishing and restorative on both a physical and an emotional level and can provide a powerful antidote to stress.’2 He says this is because pleasure increases the secretion of the chemicals called endorphins which react in the brain to decrease perception of pain, boost the immune system and create feelings of euphoria.3

The ‘Help Guide’ says, ‘Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets and children is a sure and fun way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities and emotional well-being.’ 4

Play has no goals. You don’t focus on what you need to achieve from it or what the outcome is. You just get into the moment and play.

How to play

Play comes naturally to kids. As adults we need some help to do it. What’s a good blog without three steps to guide your practice?

  1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play
  2. Make time to play
  3. Play

1. Discover or rediscover your favourite ways to play

Both articles in the resources have lots of ideas on how to play at work, how to play with your children and how to create opportunities to play.

Here some ideas to play with your kids that are free:

  • Board games (my now adult children still enjoy these)
  • Who can shoot the most hoops at the local basketball ring
  • Put a mattress on the floor and all watch DVDs whilst eating home-made popcorn (we still do this but use the couch!)
  • Take the dog for a walk and enjoy watching how the dog explores a neighbourhood
  • Join the kids in play at the local playground

Play can be a timeout activity for you, refueling you. You just have to remember how to do it! Think back to when you were younger and what you enjoyed doing then. What did you use to do that gave you pleasure? What activities did you lose all sense of time in?

Take a moment to write a list, then decide what on the list still stirs your soul and is something you can do now to play.

 

2. Make time to play

If you are like me and live a regimented life of schedules and to-do lists you will need to put time on your calendar to play or prioritise playing on your to-do list, otherwise you will see it as an interruption. For me, I will also need to work on my mindset to value me enough to give myself the gift of time to play, allowing myself to have fun, because I’m worth it.

3. Play

Do it. Stop reading this and go and play!

Putting legs on it

Complete steps 1 to 3 above.

Resources

Kresser Institute: The role of pleasure and play in stress management 

Helpguide.org: The benefits of play for adults 

References

  1. V Legge, New Life in the Mourning, Sid Harta, Melbourne, 2010 p.144-145.
  2. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://kresserinstitute.com/role-of-pleasure-and-play-in-stress-management/?_ke=dmlja3lsNUBiaWdwb25kLmNvbQ%3D%3D&utm_term=pleasure-and-play&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ki-blog&utm_content=&utm_source=klaviyo

And L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults, Helpguide.org, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

  1. C Kresser, The role of pleasure and play in stress management, Kresser Institute for functional and evolutional medicine, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://kresserinstitute.com/role-of-pleasure-and-play-in-stress-management/?_ke=dmlja3lsNUBiaWdwb25kLmNvbQ%3D%3D&utm_term=pleasure-and-play&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ki-blog&utm_content=&utm_source=klaviyo
  2. Ibid
  3. L Robinson, M Smith, J Segal and J Shubin, The benefits of play for adults, Helpguide.org, 2017, viewed 18 November 2017, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

Photo credit:

(balls)Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

(girls) Photo by Ariel Lustre on Unsplash

 

 

Rest and Restoration

It’s the holiday season and people talk about having R and R – rest and recreation.

R and R could also be rest and restoration.

What is rest?

For some the image of rest is taking a nap undisturbed or having time off work. But rest is bigger than that with many meanings and can be described as many things.

Rest is the ceasing of labour. It is having a break from work but it is more than not being at the office physically. It’s not allowing work to intrude into your home life either electronically or in your thought life. So resting may mean not checking emails and turning off your phone. It’s taking a break in your head, choosing not to ruminate on the thoughts of work or its worries when they occur.

I am taking an electronic time out from Friday 22nd December to Sunday 7th January. This includes checking emails, writing and editing, even reading other blogs and articles and completing online courses. Although the last two would be good for me, the danger is once I am on the computer I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing more. I have told many people this, including you, so I can be held accountable. Instead I will read, walk, cross stitch, jigsaw, catch up with people and importantly just be. This will be my way of having two weeks of rest and restoration.

There is a natural cycle of rest. You can see this in the seasons. So, you need to find a rhythm of rest, weekly, monthly and yearly.

Rest is stewardship; self-care so you can care for others.

What is restoration?

English dictionaries define restoration with lots of words beginning with ‘re’; renew, rebuild, re-establish, revival, restitution, renovate, reconstruct.1  It is returning (another re word) something ‘to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition.’2

R and R

Restoration begins with rest – you can see it in the English word structure. Rest means you are not in control. Rest lets the universe run itself. You cannot be restored when you are controlling everything.

As 2017 closes, take time to rest and be restored ready for 2018.

Take action (putting legs on it)

The difficulty with rest and restoration can be actually doing it. You need to take action. As a single parent this can be tricky. Here’s some ideas and I’d love to hear yours:

  • have a pyjama day – where no one has to get dressed, you eat only food that you can find in the house that doesn’t require much preparation and everyone just chills by doing their own thing
  • set aside an evening to play a board game as a family
  • have a play date where the kids can play and you can talk to another adult
  • find a way to switch off from work during the holidays – such as an electronic time out, if work thoughts intrude write them down to action them when you return to work and then turn your attention back to having a break
  • make some time to do something that you really enjoy like reading, journaling or a craft – you may need a DVD to distract the kids or find a baby-sitter if you can
  • take the kids for a walk and stop to look at flowers, trees, the colour of the sky and any interesting things you find on the journey
  • make sure you are getting enough sleep
  • take the kids out to a museum or a playground, it doesn’t have to be somewhere that you pay to visit
  • let yourself enjoy the moment

References

  1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/restoration accessed 21/7/16.
  2. Ibid

Photo credit: Kalen Emsley unsplash.com

5 ways to break practiced patterns of pessimism surrounding Christmas

Each draft of this blog I started in different ways but kept ending up in the same place.  It was like my words spilled out, flowing into the ruts of practiced patterns of pessimism.

Practiced patterns of pessimism

So, let’s get the negatives out of the way, naming them and recognising that for some single parents, Christmas can be fraught with difficulties:

  • Just saying the word increases your stress levels as you think about strained finances and trying to buy Christmas presents on top of an already stressed budget.
  • It can remind you what has been lost – the loss of a significant other from your life and now there’s been no one to buy you that special present and no one to plan what to buy the kids and enjoy wrapping their gifts together.
  • Instead of doing Christmas as a family you may now have to share care, negotiate with the other parent and plan with precision who will have the children when and how handover will take place.
  • If the other parent is absent this may increase the pain for the children,
  • Christmas can create a sense of isolation and failure as you feel like everyone is gathering in perfect families together whilst you are doing life on your own.
  • Some single parents may end up spending some of Christmas alone.
  • There can be anger at the situation.
  • There may be sadness that there aren’t as many presents under the tree as there used to be.

I could keep listing and I think that would just reinforce the practiced patterns of pessimism that exist with single parents at Christmas time. So enough of the difficulties.

All the negatives may cloud your perception of Christmas and obscure the joy. But your kids may not be seeing it like that.

Part of your role of being a parent is creating happy childhood memories of Christmas for your children. So how can you do this?

  1. Remember the positive feelings of Christmas from your childhood

Think back to your childhood memories of Christmas. For most children Christmas is a time of great joy, expectation, food, family, presents, pageants, Father Christmas. In Australia it’s the long school holidays so it’s a time of catching up with friends. The weather is warm so there is swimming, daylight saving so staying out in daylight hours till early evening. It’s a time of relaxation and fun.

Plan how you can do some of these things with your children over the Christmas holidays.

  1. Role model

You are a role model to your children. They will be picking up cues from you about Christmas. If they see your doom and gloom, your pain will colour their view of Christmas.

So, find ways to deal with the difficulties of Christmas so that you can find your joy in Christmas.

It may look different from how you always thought it will be. You may need to grieve again your dream of the happy family and what Christmas looks like in this fairytale. Find someone that you can express your hurt and your grief to. This could be a friend, make sure they are safe, or it could be in a formal counselling session, but process your grief so Christmas pricks the wound less.

  1. Reframe some of the difficulties of Christmas into opportunities.

Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

When the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by, I am spending part of Christmas alone, this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe it to saying,  ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’ Click here to read more

  1. Put the children first.

Find ways to negotiate with the other parent keeping any angst and difficulties away from the children. Click here to read the blog  The one step when dealing with the other parent.

  1. Find ways to create new family memories around Christmas.

Firstly, remember you are a family. Click here to read 8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one. Find ways to play as a family. You can also play as an adult.

Putting legs on it

Identify your practiced patterns of pessimism and seek help if you need it to deal with the grief or anger.

How can you reframe Christmas into an opportunity for you and your family?

Think of one new family activity you can do that will become part of your family experience and memories of Christmas.

Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash

 

Today Show video: To All The Single Parents Out There: We Honor You.

Your life is important. What you do matters. You matter.

You are seen.

Don’t read the comments that come after this video. Like society’s attitudes to single parents, some comments are supportive, others are dismissive and/or downright hostile. Whether you became a single parent by choice or circumstance, you have value and worth.

What you do is tough. It takes strength to do all that is required as a single parent; to provide, protect, feed, raise, referee (if you have more than one child), make all the medical appointments, give your children time and attention, balance the family budget. It takes guts to wade through some of the negative attitudes and prejudices to attend family events, juggling your schedule to get there. It takes determination to fight for your children and what is best for them.

You are strong. You have courage. You are enough. You can do this.

For a moment forget about the tiredness, the battles with kids, the financial pressure and the endless to do list. For a moment stop and breath and say to yourself, ‘I matter.’

One Together provides resources and some wisdom to help you in your journey as a single parent. One Together aims to help single parents be their best. The name One Together acknowledges that – yes, you are ‘one’ as a single parent but you are not alone, and ‘together’ you can learn to nurture your family so it flourishes. One Together has ideas on how to be the best parent you can be and grow your best family.

To read my chapter ‘Successful single parenting’ click here

As a Christ follower I believe you matter to God. He cares about you. He cares about your children. He loves you. He sees you. He can boost your strength and courage. He can provide for you.

If you would like to read a short devotional ebook to find out more, to know you are seen and loved by God click here

But I don’t have a choice!

I replied to his solution with, ‘but I don’t have a choice’.

I’ll preface what happened with – I am working hard. My old neurological symptoms are active again, and I have some new ones. Despite continuing rehabilitation, muscle wasting on my left shoulder blade has triggered a cascade of problems. So for most of this year the physio, chiropractor, osteopath and my GP have been fighting with me, to keep my shoulders moving and pain free. It was a relief to have my routine appointment with my neurologist for his expert opinion.

After responding to his ‘what’s been happening’ question with the edited highlights of my year thus far: moving parents from interstate, having them live with me, then moving them out to new house a 1 ½ hour drive from me, and the usual trials and tribulations of being a single parent to young adult children, working multiple part-time jobs plus my business/ministry/writing.  My doctor’s conclusion was that it was not to do with my body, but with my lifestyle. ‘You work too hard.’

He said, ‘Stop the unpaid hours in your business/ministry/writing.’ I relied, ‘I can’t. I tried that after my last attack put me in hospital. I ended up with reactive depression as I lost enjoyment in life and all hope for the future. I used all my available energy for work and did nothing that was pleasurable for me. I didn’t have the energy to be social, so I was a recluse on the couch when I wasn’t at work.’

He said, ‘Stop work then.’ I said, ‘I can’t. I need the money.’

He said, ‘Have more holidays.’ I said, ‘I can’t. I don’t have the money. I’ve just had my first holiday in 30 years thanks to a birthday present.’

Stalemate!

Woe is me

Driving home I cried for my lack of choices. I played the ‘if’ game. If I was married then maybe I wouldn’t have to work to bring in the income to support the family. If I was married then maybe I would have holidays every year, not every decade. If I was married maybe I wouldn’t have burnt myself out so much as a single parent who always did too much and then I wouldn’t be sick. So the more ‘ifs’ I thought about the more tears I cried. I felt more sorry for myself and I blamed my circumstances as a single parent for my lack of choice.

Single parenting does limit choices. The lack of income is a big reason for this. For some the choice becomes food or petrol, or whose medication to buy. I don’t have a solution for this except get budgeting help if you need (see resources below).

I’m sorry this has been a different blog, all about me really!  But writing this I realise I have choices. Yes, I have a massive number of deadlines now – some self-imposed, but many from others. I’ve also reflected that living a life of purpose is important to my health, so I need to make choices to ensure the longevity of this.

There are some voluntary roles I do that long-term I can plan to retire from. Right now, I can get help with them (that means putting pride aside and asking others to help me, and it means letting go of control). I can negotiate to delay some deadlines. There are three ‘I can’ statements in this short paragraph.

I worked out my priorities by writing the deadlines onto a calendar and used that to work backwards and see what has to be done right now, what can wait for day or two, or a week, and what can be put on hold.

I can practise boundaries. I can say no. But I need to say no to the right things. In the past I’ve said ‘no’ to good things like catching up with people, activities that bring me joy like 10 minutes sitting in the sun now we have spring in Adelaide, or cross stitching. I can say ‘yes’ to things that fill me.

I can ensure I maintain my healthy behaviours; drinking water, stretching, sleeping enough, relaxation, watching my thought life, keeping my mind and body healthy.

These may not change my workload, but it means I’m filled and giving out from a full tank rather than trying to give and do things when I’m empty and tired.

I can let others down and that is OK. My boundaries may mean I decide not to meet their deadlines. I will forgo my perfectionism and need to please others and be OK with it.

I have a lot of choices.

Putting legs on it

Is there an area of your life where you feel you have no choice?

Look at it from a different angle. Imagine you are the ‘doctor’ talking to ‘you’. What solutions can you come up with and take the time to consider which ones to action?

  • Can someone else do it – your kids? Can you ask others to help?
  • What choices do you have? They may mean having to let go of control, letting others down or not be perfect.
  • How can you change your priorities or deadlines?

Restoring Balance special offer

Although I’m not well neurologically and I recognise the hard work I’m doing is a contributing factor, I’m not stressed (except for a few things) because I’m practicing health and self-care to offset this. I’m applying what I teach in Restoring Balance: How to avoid compassion fatigue and restore balance by caring for yourself whilst caring for others.

Click here for video about Restoring Balance.

It pays to read to the end of the post. If you live in Adelaide and would like to attend the Restoring Balance Women’s Retreat but money has limited your choice to attend, I am giving 2 single parents the option to attend for $100 AUS.

Click here for video of why you need to come to the retreat.

If you would like to complete the online version of the course and money has limited your choice to sign up, I will give access to the online course to 2 single parents for $50 USD.

Click here for information about the online course.

For both these subsidised offers please contact me on this email address – first 2 people for each option – vicky@hisheartministrytraining.com.au

Resources

Money Smart: Managing in a low income

CAP: CAP money course

 

 

 

7 steps to care for the emotional wellbeing of your children

 ‘There is an invisible community that deserves our attention.  It’s a community that can’t fight for their rights; a community that suffers from the actions of others, and yet must adjust, sometimes radically, both for the good and for the bad.’1

That’s a tough statement by Mark Banschick, the founder of ‘Intelligent Divorce’, for a divorced single parent to hear.

As said in the last blog, most parents want the best for their children and are willing to invest in them. As a single parent, the investment can be harder due to the increased demands on you and the difficulties experienced by single parent homes. The blog gave 4 ways to lay a foundation in your children as a long-term investment. Step 4 was ‘Meet their emotional needs’.

As a parent, you don’t deliberately set out to hurt your children. But unfortunately there are times when life will confront you and your children with difficulties. Your children may experience many of the same emotions you are feeling yourself, including grief, anger, anxiety, fear, rejection and even depression.

It can be hard as a parent, to care for the emotional health of your children when you too are caught in your emotions and dealing with life as best you can. For single parents this can be even more difficult, as you have less support for yourself and you may be the only one supporting your children.

Sometimes the formation of a single parent family is the cause for grief and emotional turmoil in your children.  At the end of my marriage, my son used to appear beside my bed in the middle of the night, poking me and asking, ‘Are you still there, Mummy?’ It can tear you up inside knowing you are the cause of your child’s pain, which can make you feel more guilt and pain. In your hurt you can’t help your children, creating a vicious cycle.

Dr Hart, a child psychologist, in his book, ‘Helping children survive divorce’, counsels that parents need to face their children’s pain to help them find healing. He challenges that it’s not about your comfort level2. That stings!

So, what to do? Here’s 7 steps to care for the emotional wellbeing of your children. Note: you can’t do everything on the list. You need the support of others and you need to facilitate others to support your children. See increasing your support and love tanks for more information on this.

Children’s emotional needs

To help children deal with their emotions, they need us to:

  1. Spend time with them to find out what concerns them

As a time poor single parent this can be difficult, buts it’s necessary to create an opportunity for your children to share with you. Often children open up when you are alongside them rather than  having a face to face conversation. This could be playing or even doing chores together. We used to have our deep and meaningful conversations in the car – sometimes I kept driving to keep the conversation going!

  1. Reassure them of your unconditional love

Your kids need to know you love them with love that is not based on their behaviour. Sometimes they might not be receiving your love because of differences in your love languages. You can learn to speak their love language. Click here for blog on love langauges

  1. Provide as stable an environment as possible

Work with the other parent for the children’s best interest. Don’t use them as pawns. Develop routines and ways to make changing houses as easy as possible for them.  Work on having positive communication with your ex – see the one step in dealing with the other parent

  1. Avoid communicating your own fears to the children

Especially with money worries or noises in the night, be brave. Find an adult to discuss your fears with and have the conversation away from your children. My daughter had overheard my repeated wailing to a friend about my money woes, and refused to tell me when she needed a new jacket in winter as she had taken on the worry about money.

  1. Boost their self-esteem and resilience

Click here for a great guide on how to do this

  1. Consider professional counselling

As said before when you’re in the middle of your emotional turmoil it can be hard to help your children through theirs. So, find someone who can help your child. The Children’s mental health resource below shows where to get help in South Australia.

  1. Look after yourself

You can’t care for your kids emotionally if you are burdened and overwhelmed yourself. Establish your own support network which may include professional help. Ensure that you balance caring for others with caring for yourself  – see blog 10 strategies to practice balance.

Resources

Parenting easy guides:

Sign up to the newsletter at ”The Intelligent Divorce’  and you will receive a mini book called the ‘Intelligent Divorce’ which covers: ‘How To Tell Your Kids About Divorce’, ‘A Child’s Bill Of Rights’ and ‘Creating A Healthy Family Going Forward’

Psychology today: ‘The children of divorce’

 

References

  1. M Banschick, ‘The children of divorce’, Psychology today, 8 July 2017, viewed 8 August 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201707/the-children-divorce
  2. Hart, A.D. (1996) Helping children survive divorce. Word Publishing, U.S.A, p65

What I learned from saving the whales – 4 ways to invest in your children’s lives

In the early 70’s I had a teacher who was passionately political and passed that onto her class. During the ‘Save the whale’ campaign  to stop commercial whaling in Australia, we raised money as a class. I passionately gave my pocket money and earnings from selling our chook eggs to neighbours and my side business of propagating African violets. The thermometer measuring our contribution grew. We played our part in ending whaling (albeit very small). The last commercial whaling station in Albany, Western Australia closed in 1978 (current day picture below).

Why am I telling you this? This week, just shy of four decades later, I reaped the benefit of my investment. My mum and step-dad have moved to a coastal town where you can watch whales on their migration route as well as the females who come into sheltered bays to calve. The increasing whale numbers are a tourist attraction. I have watched in awe these large, magnificent sea creatures frolic, body roll, tail slap, head lift and loaf. The cliff top crowd gasping with the wet blow noise (at least you can see the clifftop people in the photos below watching the whales).

I might not have learned much spelling that year at school, but I learnt about the environment and how we can make a difference. My investment as a child has paid off.

Raising kids is a bit like this – a long term investment that you don’t see and experience the benefit of for many years, even decades as you lay a foundation in your children’s lives.

Most parents want the best for their children and are willing to invest in them. As a single parent, the investment can be harder due to the increased demands on you and the difficulties experienced by single parent homes. Here’s my 4 ways to lay a foundation in your children. You may not see the result straight away – it’s a long-term investment.

  1. Build the foundation of family.

You are a family. See yourselves as one. Do things as a family and ignore any value judgments from others. See blog 8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one

  1. Love your kids.

Understand the impact of single parenting on filling your children’s love tanks. Develop strategies to ensure their tanks are filled and learn about love languages. Practise this knowledge to ensure your kids are feeling your love. See blog and video: The dos and donts of love tank filling as a single parent  and How to use the 5 love languages to better fill your child’s love tank

  1. Identify and build their strengths.

Identify their strengths. What are they good at? What are their passions? What creates positive emotions and behaviour, rather than stressing them out? Click here to read about how strengths have 3 elements – performance, energy and use.

Once you know these, how can you help to develop and encourage your child to grow in them? My son struggled at school due to dyslexia but came alive when he was performing. So, we offset the negativity that classroom learning created with opportunities to learn acting, dance and singing. He is now pursuing these as a career. See resources below.

  1. Meet their emotional needs.

Your children have emotional needs. If they went through the end of the relationship, like you, they will grieve and experience confusing emotions. It’s hard when you are gripped in your own emotional turmoil to see this and manage it. Recognise how your children express their emotions.  My daughter expressed her thoughts and emotions fluently and often, with words. My son didn’t say much, but his behaviour was a barometer for his emotions. You may need to find expert help for your children. The next post on August 24th will explore this further. Help your children recover and grow through this experience.

In the day to day slog of parenting, it’s easy to only focus on the battles and making it to the end of each day with everyone intact! But with hindsight I can say that you are actually laying a foundation moment by moment that you and your children will reap the benefits from in later life. I have two amazing young adult children, pursuing their purpose in radically different areas. It has been so worth investing in them.

Putting legs on it

Use the table below to help you discover the areas you are doing well and where you can improve

Desperate Needs attention OK

 

Great 100%
Build the foundation of family
Love your kids
Identify and build strengths
Meet emotional needs

 

Identify one area to learn more about and action change.
Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter
Resources

The value of strength-based parenting

Child Magazine: 5 steps to strength based parenting

References

L Waters, ‘The value of strength-based parenting’, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 2016, viewed 24 July 2017 https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/the-value-of-strength-based-parenting

N Richie, ‘5 steps to strength based parenting’, Child, 2016, viewed 24 July 2017, http://www.childmags.com.au/family/parenting/8899-parenting-strong

 

Do these 4 things when you don’t have your kids

The house is quiet as the kids are not home, but I’m feeling sick. In the early days of my single parenting my ex lived overseas and as my family lived interstate I cared for my kids full time. This was my first weekend without them. I had longed for it, planned for it, and now here I was, Sunday afternoon, ill.  The cause of being sick – over indulgence. I had tried to pack every desire into the weekend. I had eaten my favourite takeaway meal as I only had me to buy for. I had watched back to back romantic comedy movies, but I think it was the packet of chocolate biscuits, at least one block of chocolate and a packet of red frogs that upset my stomach. As my body ailed, so did my mind and I wallowed in self-pity, focusing on my circumstances and my loneliness

So, I went to sit by my fish pond (not the one above!), one of my favourite places to relax, journal, and for me to hear from God. This is the life lesson that came to me:

  • don’t cram every pleasure into time without my kids
  • take a balanced approached and ensure I self-care
  • re-create by doing something I love
  • connect with others to lessen the loneliness and invest a little in me and my future

You may have other things to add to your list or not relate to some of mine, but these have helped me enjoy, be re-invigorated and grow through the time I don’t have my kids. Once my ex moved back to Australia, we began turnabout weekends and this time alone become a source of strength to me and lost its ‘woe is me, I hate my life’ focus.

4 things to do when you don’t have your kids as a single parent

  1. Self-care
  2. Re-create
  3. Connect
  4. Invest

 Self-care

Self-care is not selfish. Self-care allows you to continue in the role as a single parent for the long term. It improves the flow of love and quality of your parenting as you are refreshed and giving of yourself from a full tank. Self-care includes resting, de-stressing, looking after your health (so a few treats, not the whole block of chocolate and packet of lollies in one sitting) and having some re-creation.

Re-create

Re-creation is another way of looking at recreation. You might think of recreation as something you do for enjoyment when you are not working. Re-creation goes further in doing something that builds you up and fuels you to continue life.

You can re-create by doing a physical activity that also adds to your physical and mental health. If it’s a team sport it may improve your relational health too.

Many re-creation activities like craft work, journaling, doing the crossword or a jigsaw puzzle and playing a musical instrument produce a mental state called ‘flow’. Flow is when you lose track of time and thoughts are focused on what has your attention – so your mind is not wandering or focused on you. Being in a state of ‘flow’ turns down your bodies stress reaction.

Connect

You are not designed to do life alone. Loneliness is bad for your health. You need people to support you as part of caring for yourself.

Loneliness has a mixture of social and emotional aspects.  The social aspect of loneliness comes due to a disruption in social networks. Emotional loneliness is due to lack and/or loss of intimate relationships. It’s common as a single parent to experience both of these – you may have lost your partner, you may have moved neighbourhoods, a low income can reduce chances to participate in group activities like sport and going out with friends.

There are ways to overcome this without spending money. Can you volunteer somewhere, join a book club through the local library, ring or skype a friend you don’t live near, meet up with friends for morning tea rather than lunch which would be more expensive?

Invest

Use your alone time to invest in yourself and your future, to create a vision that doesn’t completely depend on your role as a parent. Find and fill your passion and purpose beyond being a parent to help with this. Mine was writing.  This grew from a flow activity of journaling to writing books and courses that became my business His Heart Ministry Training. I joined writing groups, did some courses and invested my time without my children in living my purpose and building my future. Living your purpose is the goal of health.

If you are spiritual, use the alone time for contemplation, meditation or prayer.

So, instead of feeling sorry for yourself and trying to indulge every desire, as I did, use your time without your kids to your advantage. Doing something you enjoy, builds you up and refreshes you. You can learn to reframe it from a painful situation to something you may look forward to.

Putting legs on it

List one thing you can do under each heading and think about if you can combine them. Eg. Journaling for me was self-care, a flow activity and became an investment in myself and my future. I even connected with others through writing groups.

  1. Self-care
  2. Re- create
  3. Connect
  4. Invest

Now schedule it on your calendar.

Resources

How to have some R and R – rest and restoration

Self-care

5 steps to change loneliness from a burden to a bonus

5 reasons to pursue your passion and purpose beyond parenting

Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it – life changes!

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of my first blog on this current website.

It’s great to look back and see what has been achieved in that time. There are some regrets and frustrations where it hasn’t always gone like I planned – which is like parenting.

As a parent, you don’t always get it right! Sometimes that is only what we focus on – the regrets, the frustrations, the things we know we didn’t do well, the things we said that we’d like to take back, the times we wish we’d paid more attention and not been so preoccupied by our own thoughts or struggles, or just paying the bills. You may have a tendency to see your faults and failings, and forget to celebrate your successes. Give yourself a pat on the back for being there for your kids, for growing as a parent, for loving your kids unconditionally. You are doing great! Focus on that.

The year in review

So, this blog is my chance to focus on what has been covered in the past year and celebrate that. I also discovered a way to categorise blogs (just like parenting there is always something else to learn!) so while I am writing this, I am categorising the blogs on the website by topics

Role Modelling

Your children are watching you. What are they seeing? 6 questions to assess your role modeling

Health and self-care

7 ways to improve your health as single parent

10 strategies to practice balance as a single parent

4 strategies to ease the household load as a single parent

How to reduce stress as a single parent (to fit with your limited time, babysitting and financial resources)

How to prioritise and schedule

Community

Why every single parent shouldn’t parent alone

Increasing your support

How to build a friendship network

Flourishing as a single parent

My 7 keys to flourish as a single parent

8 steps to see yourself as a family

Two steps to live a whole life

Parenting

3 steps to take when you get it wrong as a parent

How to use the 5 love languages to better fill your children’s love tank

What to do with Mother’s Day pain

Single parent specifics

The one step in relating with the other parent

How to reframe the problems of Christmas into an opportunity

3 cheers for you

3 steps to organise your new year as a single parent family

The do’s and don’ts of love tank filling as a single parent

Where are you on the control freak scale?

A message for ‘stubborn independent control freaks’

Purpose

5 reasons to pursue your passion and purpose beyond parenting

3 ways to help you find your purpose

Where to from here?

As a parent, you’ve had times where you feel you are doing well. For example, you have a handle on parenting a two-year-old with the tantrums and then your child turns three, and it’s back to learning how to parent again.

I have been comfortable and found a rhythm with blogging on One Together, New Life in the Mourning and His Heart Ministry Training, but things are changing. I am entering the next season of my life with the launch of my Vicky Legge website, so the rhythm will need to change.

From now on I will blog on One Together on the fourth Thursday of the month and release a blog on New Life in the Mourning on the second Thursday of the month.  To make it easier for you, if you are signed up to the mailing list I will deliver the blog and other bonuses straight to your email in box. Sign up by clicking here. If you have any feedback on the past year, comments on the blog frequency, topics to consider, then please let me know by leaving a comment here, on the Facebook page or via contact

Thank you for journeying with me this far, and I look forward to where we go next.

Photo credit: Annie Spratt unsplash.com