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

What to do with Mother’s Day pain

You can’t miss Mother’s Day and all of its pinkness. Social media posts celebrating wonderful mothers. Mothers posting grateful pictures of their children. Flowers on street corners. Advertisements for jewellery, chocolate, electric appliances– why an item of work? – to give Mum. Kindy children busy making macaroni photo frames. Lots of traffic as people drive to visit Mum or to take her out to lunch.

Mother’s Day. It’s a time of families meeting together, honouring Mums and full of love and warm fuzzy feelings…but not for everyone.

Mother’s Day is a lance for pain for many women. Those who:

  • long to hold a baby in their arms, and invest money riding an emotional rollercoaster trying
  • those whose babies (big and small, some who never lived outside the womb but left their presence on their Mother) are in heaven already
  • those whose mothers are in gone in death, dementia, circumstances or in rejection of the child
  • those whose dreams of a happy family are shattered in single parenting
  • those who are not with their children
  • those who never had the opportunity to partner and have children, and it’s all they wanted
  • those who through circumstances not of their choosing are raising children on their own
  • those who are adopted or the mothers who surrendered them

All this focus and media creation of an idyllic situation, heightens the sense of loss and longing for these women (and for some men).

Mother’s Day may have passed, but the emotions it brings forth, like poking the dragon, are still bubbling away. Later, I suggest how to manage these.

Honest reflections as a single parent, saying what we don’t always like to admit

I remember the early days of single parenting. Without another adult to organise the kids I took them shopping, gave them the money, pointed them in the right direction to the present I wanted and when they were really little even helped wrap the gift, then acted surprised on Mother’s Day. When they were big enough to give me breakfast in bed, I cleaned up the mess created with their offering.

Once my ex had returned to living close by, it become a day tainted by other emotions I don’t’ like to label let alone share publicly – like jealousy. When I shared my kids with him, I spent some of the day alone. Seeing my kids invest time and love in their relationship with their step mum  – which I encourage and I am grateful for her investment in their lives – but if I’m honest it still creates a pain in me, a bit of envy.

It’s a day, even now my kids are grown, I feel points to my failure  –  the loss of my marriage, my kids growing up without two parents. So, Mother’s Day still pricks a little.

What to do if this is you

  1. Admit what you feel. Label the emotions within in you – anger, betrayal, aching loss, jealousy and envy
  2. Process the emotions. Journal, speak to your safe person or to a counsellor, tap dance out your anger, be creative, walk somewhere that soothes your soul, focus on what you are grateful for
  3. Look for the reason behind the emotions and this may require some professional help like counselling or seeing a psychologist. What is it that raises your emotions – is it loss of the dream of a happy family or even family to hold your baby in your arms? is it grief from the death of your mother? is it the fractured relationship you have with your mother and again the dream of what it could have been? is it rejection and caused by an abusive parent?
  4. With your support person to help, deal with the reason.

What others can do

  • Be sensitive.
  • Check-up on those in your circle for whom Mother’s Day can heighten pain, and acknowledge their grief, ambivalence and even hostility to the day.
  • Provide support as needed.
  • Create communities where people are welcomed and celebrated for who they are, not just their roles.
  • Acknowledge others who have been a mother to you, thank them for their investment in you and the legacy they leave in you.

Putting legs on it

DO one action from the group you fall into: what you can do, or what others can do?

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

For daughters of narcissistic mothers read Psychology Today: When Mothers day hurts https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201305/when-mothers-day-hurts

Photo credit Melissa Askew www.unsplash.com

A message for ‘Stubborn Independent Control Freaks’

It was a moment of revelation. Tears pricked my eyes as I realised in trying to be independent, I was in fact selfish and had denied Rachel the chance to join in with us.  I had excluded her from a fun time with good food, friendship, laughter, and building connection with each other. She also missed the hard work.

My homegroup had ‘offered’ to help me re-arrange my house, clean, and build a dog fence as my parents are coming to live with me for a few months whilst in-between houses. Our dogs don’t get along and will need to be separated.  We moved furniture to create two rooms for them and I moved into my son’s old bedroom, packing his gear into the shed. In displacing heavy furniture, we cleaned gigantic dust bunnies and dusted unreached areas. On the plus side I found a favourite earring I lost a year ago, revisiting an unanswered question, ‘how did it get there?’

Here’s our to do list:

As previously mentioned in where are you on the control freak scale‘, this was a difficult thing for me, having others help me. I am paddling my own canoe, pushing others away, as I don’t want to appear needy or unable to look after myself. Last time they offered to help with the garden when the weeds were taller than the windows (see How to help single parents move on the ‘control scale’ and accept help) I cheated by paying the lawn mowing man to whipper snip the weeds as well. Short term solution but it gave an impression of not requiring their help. But this job was beyond me. I knew I needed help. The group organised to come, and I was meant to ring Rachel and invite her.

When I saw her at church after the working bee, the realisation stabbed me. By not inviting her it saved my pride but it was a disservice to her. The group had bonded in the hard work. We had a shared the experience of red back spiders, dust and cake. We had laughed and gotten to know each better as we chatted through the tasks. Despite giving up time on a Saturday, we enjoyed ourselves and did a great job. But Rachel had missed out.

By keeping the spotlight on, my own humiliation in asking for help, I had denied Rachel the chance to be a part of a group community building experience.

So, no five steps in how to do something today. Just a story with a moral to show you, who are stubborn independent control freaks, that in reaching out and allowing others to help you, you are benefitting them as well.

Michelle L Sullivan in a 10-minute TED talk, ‘Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness,’ says ‘We have a role to play in other people’s successes. In helping others, we share an experience together and we both grow and benefit, even with strangers.’ She talks about ‘compassion, courage, understanding’ as we walk side by side. We all need others – sometime the need is obvious, sometimes it must be revealed.

Reversing that, other people are a part of my success and I can give them that opportunity by revealing my need and asking for help.  They will grow and benefit from helping. We are better together.

My learning in summary. It is selfish of me not to ask for help. I am denying others an opportunity that will benefit them.

I apologised to Rachel and it turns out she couldn’t have come. But that is not the point. I excluded her based on my embarrassment and my efforts to be independent and in control.

Putting legs on it.

What area are your struggling with?

What help do you need?

Who can you ask?

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

Pay it forward

Reachout.com: Pay it forward

Pay it forward day

Random acts of kindness

Two steps to live a whole life

When I was at church once without the children, the worship leader asked me after the service who I was. She said that although I looked familiar she didn’t recognise me without my two children. How often do I not recognise me without my children? Take away the label of mother – and taxi, cook, cleaner, homework assistant, behavioural therapist, referee and what is left?  I define myself by the roles I fulfil, not by who I really am.

My blog ‘8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one’ asked the question, ‘As a single parent do you see yourself as incomplete?’ The photo comes from a collection called ‘wholeness’

Here’s two steps to live a whole life as a single parent (also applies to all parents).

  1. Find and live who you are created to be
  2. Believe you are whole person

Who are you without your kids?

As a parent your role will always be that of parent. Your children will always be a priority in your life … but you are whole without them. You need to live your purpose as a role model encouraging them to do the same, and not be co-dependent, pulling your love and life purpose from them.

It has taken me a long time to fully find myself beyond being a single parent.

Step 1: Find and live who you are created to be

It’s not an either/or choice between parenting and purpose. It’s a yes to purpose but with the support of others to take some of the load, releasing you to live your purpose. This is why you need community; community who sees your strengths, will support your weakness, and help you live your purpose. Don’t follow my example and do both leading to burn out. Live as the person you were created to be including being a single parent. Parenting- investing in your children – is part of your purpose.

Need some help finding your purpose?  click here

Do you need someone to complete you?

Overheard conversation: What attracted you to your new boyfriend; ‘His house’.

Many single parents can be consciously and unconsciously driven to find a partner to meet their financial and security needs – to help provide for the family, to share the load of parenting and discipline. Someone to look after the kids that doesn’t have to be paid.  Someone to cover the pain of loss and loneliness. In their brokenness and need they maybe choosing an unhealthy relationship just to have one.

Over 90% of single parents were part of a couple so probably didn’t plan on parenting on their own.1  As a single parent family you are complete and as a single parent you are complete, although today’s language can make you feel like you are incomplete. When people refer to their partner as ‘my better half’ or ‘my other half,’ this implies single people are incomplete – a half person waiting for their other half to be complete, to become one, to be whole.

You don’t need anyone else to complete you. One is a whole number (ask any mathematician).

My experience of wholeness

This section contains Christian content! I’m reading a book at the moment by Ann Voskamp called, The Broken Way. I always knew saying ‘yes’ to Jesus was more than a ticket to heaven. It was the forgiveness of my sins by His dying on the Cross. I am learning it includes entering into a union with Him, like in a marriage where everything is held in common. All the good things of Christ’s are mine, and He takes all of me – my bad and broken included.

Three quotes from her book:

 When we’re rejected and abandoned and feel beyond wanting, Jesus cups our face: “Come close, my Beloved.” When we’re dirty and tear-stained and despairing, Jesus Christ is attracted to us and proposes undying love: “All that you’re carrying I take…and all that I am is yours?” 2

The pieces of me, the shards I didn’t know how to gather together, the ache that kept me up at night, that I didn’t even have words for – none of the pieces of me would find peace – until I could see and feel and experientially enter into the reality of my union with Christ. Peace isn’t a place – it’s a Person.3 (My emphasis in bold.)

…his miraculous embrace that can end our abandonment, our aloneness. It’s this enveloping relationship of the outstretched cross, sharing in the oneness of the very life of Christ.4

Step 2: Believe you are a whole person

Hollywood tells us we need another person to complete us, our soul mate. This is not true.

You are whole. You do not need another person to complete you.

Putting legs on it

What is your purpose?

What support do you need to live it? Who can support you?

Where do you find your worth and wholeness? How can you change your mental image of yourself to reflect that you are whole?

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
References

  1. HILDA Melbourne University (2016) The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 14 p19 https://www.melbourneinstitute.com/downloads/hilda/Stat_Report/statreport_2016.pdf
  2. Voskamp, A (2016) The Broken Way, Zondervan, U.S.A, p46
  3. Voskamp, A (2016) The Broken Way, Zondervan, U.S.A, p47
  4. Voskamp, A (2016) The Broken Way, Zondervan, U.S.A, p48

Photocredit: Tim Stief unsplash.com (from a collection called Wholeness)

Where are you on the control freak scale?

I have a theory – and it is just a Vicky Legge theory about a control freak scale!  At one end is the illusion you have no control and the other – the independent, stubborn control freak.

The control freak scale scale

My theory says many single parents sit at the independent stubborn control freak end of the scale. The very act of single parenting creates this in you. Nothing in the house happens without you. You must think through and enact everything. You control everything. Even if the kids do chores, you have set up the schedule, you do the reminding and monitor if they have been done. You answer every question fired at you and help with homework! You are the maid, entertainment coordinator, gardener, taxi driver, budgeter, cook, and the endless list of providing what your family needs. I blame the nature of single parenting for pushing you to the extreme end of the scale.

At the other end of the scale is believing you have no control, not taking any responsibility for your life, expecting everyone else to solve your problems and meet your needs. Again, some single parents are pushed to this end of the scale by their circumstances. Poverty (and many single parents live below the poverty line) can create a cycle of welfare and powerlessness. Combine this with the overwhelming load of coping on your own especially if you are isolated, can make you dependent on others and handouts just to get by. This can be humiliating and devaluing, creating a mindset that you have no control, you are helpless and need others to supply all you need.

Neither of these is healthy.

I sit at the independent control freak end as do many of the single parents I have ministered with. In reflection, I can also see the influence of my family and my childhood contributing to this. I was raised in a family that said, ‘love many, trust a few and always paddle you own canoe,’ and the circumstances of being raised in a single parent home meant I took this on board to a deep level of never receiving help, let alone asking for it.

So now I am in a battle of wills between people trying to help me and me refusing, and I am learning the value of moving to the middle of the control freak scale and how to get there.  It comes from relationship.

holding hands brooke-cagle-unsplash

Pay it back, pay it forward, care for yourself, live your purpose

I refused help because I thought I had to reciprocate. I believed that if someone cooked a meal for us then I had to do the same for them. Three problems with this: a) I can’t cook very well b) I hate cooking and c) I don’t have time to cook for myself let alone the time or money to do it some for someone else.

I have learnt you don’t give the same gift in return. I do have a friend who cooks meals for us regularly, more often when she knows I have deadlines or I am unwell. She says I pay her back by spending time with her as a sounding board.

You can pay it forward where, if you receive a kindness, you do one for someone else.  Read about the benefits to you and the community if you do this click here 

The help can be a gift to release you to care for yourself or live your purpose both of which helps you, role models to your kids and potentially impacts others. You have value and are worth investing in.

Moving to the middle on the scale

So, the solution is to accept help that is offered from relationship, from people who wish to invest in you, but not as welfare or a project.  When friends offer to cook tea one night, look after your kids or weed your garden (are you listening to yourself Vicky!) you can use that time and energy to pursue your purpose or care for yourself.

See the help as an act of kindness that you can payback but it doesn’t have to be in the same way, pay it forward or accept as gift because you are valued and loved.

We are better together.

Putting legs on it

Where do you sit on the control freak scale?

No control___________________________________________________________Control freak

Are you declining help that is given in a loving respectful way? How can you change your attitude to this?

Are you demanding and expecting help without paying it forward? What random act of kindness can you do for someone else?

Are you valued and loved by others? If not, find a community who you can build friendships with. See blogs Increasing your support, How to build a friendship network, YouTube video on Using the circles of support

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

Pay it forward

Reachout.com: Pay it forward 

Pay it forward day

Random acts of kindness

Photo credit: Holding hands Brook Cagle and Lone kayak Filip Mroz www.unsplash.com

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

There’s someone in my family who loves me dearly. They show it to me with little surprise presents like a treat from the shop or doing things for me. I know they love me but I don’t feel it. I tell my kids all the time I love them, I build them up with words to inspire them. One of my kids often remarks, ‘You never spend time with me.’ They know I love them but they don’t feel it. Knowing and feeling love can be different things.

In the blog and video on filling your child’s love tank I mention that while you may think you are giving love, your child may not be receiving it. To fill their love tanks with unconditional love, you need to do your homework to find out how best to reach them. This means detecting how you can best convey your love and how they best receive it.

london-scout-unsplash ballet dress

The five love languages

Dr Ross Campbell (an Associate Professor of Paediatrics and Psychiatry)  and Gary Chapman (a Relationship Counsellor), in The Five Love Languages of Children1 discuss how few children feel unconditionally loved by their parents even though the parents may say ‘I love you’ and genuinely mean it. They say to fill children’s love tanks you can express love in five different languages:

  • physical touch
  • quality time
  • gifts
  • acts of service – actions speak louder than words
  • words of affirmation – using words to affirm a person

The authors comment that although we need and use all five languages of love, we have a primary language that we use.

As a parent you may speak one love language but your child may hear best in a different love language. Learning to speak the child’s primary language increases the chance of the child knowing they are unconditionally loved.

Using love languages in practice

In my example at the beginning can you identify my primary love language? My child’s language? The person who loves me? Did you say – words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service?

Once I understood the concept and worked out who ‘spoke ‘ which language I realised why I struggled to feel  loved and why no matter how many times I told my child how much I loved them, they complained I didn’t because I didn’t spend time with them. It eased my frustration and helped me to consciously speak other love languages back to the person who loves me even though it feels weird, and to speak love to my child with less words and more time.

Where can you learn yours and your child’s love languages?

You can observe your actions and your children. What do they ask of you: a back rub, to sit and play with them, to listen to them, for a present, or do they try to make your breakfast?

How about you? Do you use words or  buy little treats for them, or prefer a snuggle?

You can use the quizzes as I did the old fashioned way – before the days of the internet – using tests in The love language books or check out the website:   Five languages of love. Take the quizzes today and discover your love language and your child’s love language.

Read more on love languages and learn how to speak the languages that are not natural to you by looking at the resources below and clicking here

Once you know the languages and how to speak them then you have to work out ways to bridge the gaps between you.  It’s helpful to recognise when others are speaking love to you in a language you don’t readily use, to affirm that you are loved. It may feel awkward at first but I found it has improved my relationships with both my kids and others.

Putting legs on it

Do some research and detective work. How do you show love? How does your child receive it? What strategies can you use to bridge any gaps between you?

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

Gary Chapman: Keeping the love tank full

Gary Chapman: The 5 love languages profile for children

busykidshappymom: Five languages of love – love tank

motherhow.com: How to love your child? Inspired by Ross Campbell

 References

  1. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The Five Love Languages of Children S.A: Northfield Publishing, 1997.

Photo credit London Scout unsplash,com

8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one

It was an often repeated event.  It could be a ‘meet the teacher’ event for school parents, watching a concert or the basketball final. I was there to support my kids and sitting alone. Through rose coloured glasses I saw everyone else sitting grouped in families – two parents chatting, grandparents and the odd aunt or uncle in the cheer squad and I sat by myself in a cloud of dark thoughts and self-pity. I felt that others were looking at me, mocking me for being by myself.  To overcome this I reminded myself that we are a family, we are not a broken family, we might be a small family unit but we are a family nonetheless. It stopped me feeding the paranoid, self-absorbed thoughts.

My family

What about you? As a single parent do you see yourself as incomplete? Do you use the label ‘broken family’? My family lived interstate which may have exacerbated my feelings of feeling alone, but in speaking with other single parents, it’s a common experience feeling isolated at events where you perceive every other family has two parents and is perfect. It’s not true but feelings misread the context. It can bring up feelings of failure and shame. How do you overcome this?

You are a complete family

See yourself as a family. Remind yourself you are a complete family, just as you are. This can take some persistent changing of your thoughts to engage with this mental picture. Encourage your children to embrace it also. It is important to see yourself like that and not be paranoid about what others think of you. You might be thinking it’s easy to say ‘just change your mindset’, but it’s hard to do. Here’s 8 ways to help the process.

8 steps to help you see yourself as a family

  1. Don’t describe yourself as a broken family. You are whole and complete.
  2. Develop family time with specific activities that everyone enjoys and can participate in.1
  3. Support each other, going to concerts and sporting matches. Be each other’s cheer squad.1
  4. Keep family traditions and start new ones. 1
  5. Have fun. Create enjoyable snippets of time that will be the children’s memories of their childhood.
  6. Do things as a family (leaving the paranoia of judgment at home).
  7. Encourage contact with extended family to help create a sense of larger family. 1
  8. Find a surrogate family for your children if you don’t have family close by or willing to be involved. Remember be safe!

What can this look like?

After attending a concert (of which there were many – dance, drama and music) we would stop and get a special ice-cream on the way home, combining steps 2, 3, & 4. I went to the concert feeling proud of my kids, and to combat the aloneness I would start a conversation with the person next to me usually asking who they were there to see (step 6). We also had our pyjama day tradition where no-one had to do anything – we relaxed at home in our PJ’s watching videos, playing games, reading and ate whatever we could find (steps 2, 4, 5)

Encourage contact with extended family to help create a sense of larger family

Children need to have a sense of belonging and knowing where they fit in their wider family, including your parenting partner’s family. Encourage contact with extended family to help create a sense of larger family.

I hadn’t appreciated this until my children were having some professional counselling and the counsellor mentioned the children ranked wanting to know certain people in both their father’s family and mine as a top-three priority. If they placed such importance on it, how could I ignore it? As my ex lived overseas it was up to me to ensure that the children met and had special time with his family, even though it wasn’t comfortable for me initially.  I invited his family to the children’s birthdays and concerts and we celebrated together.  Later, I took them to his family funerals which didn’t feel strange, though others outside thought it was. This reinforced to me the importance of not buying into the thoughts and judgements of others, but to define and celebrate our family as we saw it.

Some parenting partners are able to amicably attend their children’s special events together giving their children a bigger cheer squad.

Draw your family

To know how your kids see your family ask them to draw it.

I have precious pictures from my children at different times showing our family. One I proudly brought from an art show fundraiser at school in which my child had drawn the three of us and called the picture ‘my family’ (picture in this post). Later for a German project, learning to use German words for family, my daughter drew herself and her brother in the middle with her dad, his wife and step brother on one side, and me and the dog on the other. It took a while for the German teacher to find the words for step-brother.

To help explain the concept of step and half siblings to children see ‘My Family Bush’ in the resources below (contains Christian content).

Putting legs on it

Ask your children to draw their family. Use this as a discussion starter.

What steps can you incorporate into your life?

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

Blended Not Shaken Ministries offers children’s resources and workshops to Christian schools, churches, counsellors and chaplains. Karina Hudson desires to minster to step families and single parents by providing support, encouragement and discipleship. She runs monthly single step mum support groups in 5 locations around Adelaide. In her books she, her husband and children openly share their experiences.  Her books are available through her Facebook page and she has a website coming soon

  • My Family Bush – helps bring meaning to the concepts of ‘step’, ‘half’ and ‘full’ as they apply in blended families. My young adult daughter loved the statement that step-parents ‘step-in’. I like the bit where she points out that Jesus experienced a blended family. He had a step-dad in Joseph and had half brothers and sisters.
  • My Two Houses – tells the story of a child from a blended family and how he is helped by prayer, scripture and the knowledge that God is near and can be your friend.
  • Caught in the Middle – is the story of a child whose relationship with God through the Bible and prayer, helps with the difficulties faced and feelings experienced as a result of having divorced parents

 

References

  1. Hart, A. (1996) Helping your children survive divorce, Word Publishing, USAp181-182