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

 

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

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

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

Parents are human. We are not perfect and sometimes we get it wrong. The added stressors of single parenting will increase the chance of getting it wrong. But all is not lost! There are 3 steps we can take to limit the fallout and be better role models to our kids.

dunklings

As parents we will inevitably get it wrong occasionally. We speak hurtfully to our kids both accidentally and purposefully. We act the opposite of what we teach, we lack patience, we don’t listen, we make decisions to suit our own interests and not for the benefit of our kids. We fail! If I was to list every time I have got it wrong as a parent you’d be reading an encyclopedia not a blog. For me, being a single parent increased the potential to get it wrong because tiredness, lack of support and overload infringed my abilities. That’s why as single parents we need to find a balance between caring for others and caring for ourselves.

Prevention strategies

We need to practice self-care so we don’t overload and burn out. I found when I was tired the smallest annoyance would create an explosion of anger. Fatigue generated an over-reaction and my kids bore the brunt of it.

It’s important that we have the support of others who we can bounce parenting strategies off. They may not live in the house but they can be our coach on the side-lines giving valuable input and a listening ear. We simply cannot parent alone.

However, even with the best prevention methods there are times when you will just not parent well. What do you do when you get it wrong?

3 steps to take when you get wrong as parent

  1. Apologise
  2. Repair any damage or limit the fallout
  3. Forgive ourselves

Step 1 Apologise

Making an apology is a humbling experience. When you apologise you acknowledge that your actions or words have hurt the other person. You confess that what you did or what you said was wrong. For some of us who try to be perfect (me!) this is a confronting experience. To admit to another person that I am not perfect challenges my self-worth.

Saying the word ‘sorry’ can be very difficult. You might need to write your apology out first, choosing what you will say and even rehearsing it. I often had to practice my apology so I didn’t revert back to blaming the other person mid speech. E.g. I might start with ‘I am sorry I went ballistic about the toys being left on the floor,’ and end up with, ‘but how many times have I asked you not to leave them there, and now I’ve stepped on one and broken it. That’s going to cost so much money that we don’t have and it’s all your fault…blah blah blah.’ A clue you have switched from apology to blaming is when you use the word ‘you’.

Apologising when you get it wrong shows your kids how to be humble.  They will learn the need for apologising when they hurt or offend someone. You are being a good role model.

Step 2 Repair damage or limit the fallout

To understand what you will need to do to repair the damage or limit the fallout you will need to listen – really listen to how your kids describe their hurt. This requires focused attention, not thinking about your ‘to do’ list or what to cook for tea. It will be uncomfortable as you are aware that you are the cause of their pain.  Listening helps you to find ways to help them with their hurt. This takes time and energy.

I snapped hope destroying words at my kids many years ago and even now we still talk about this hurt and how to remedy it. As the kids have grown we have explored the impact of the words as their understanding of life developed. It’s a long term reminder of a time I got it really wrong. Hence the need to forgive yourself.

Step 3 Forgive ourselves

Forgiving yourself frees you from the constant regurgitation of getting it wrong. It allows you to leave the past behind and let go of the guilt and shame of what you did.

To forgive yourself simply say, ‘I forgive myself for….’. By the way, it’s normal for your feelings not to match your declaration, so ignore them.

Putting legs on it

Is there something you need to apologise for?

Do you need to listen to how you have hurt your kids and find a remedy for it?

Do you need to forgive yourself for not being the perfect parent?

Resources

Psychology today: When parents say ‘I’m sorry’, they are saying so much more

Positive Parenting Solutions: 7 steps for apologizing to your child

Parenting: 5 reasons why you should apologize to your kids

References

Photo credit: Roksolana Zasiadko www.stocksnap.io