‘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:
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!
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
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
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.
Boost their self-esteem and resilience
Click here for a great guide on how to do this
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.
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.
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’
- 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
- Hart, A.D. (1996) Helping children survive divorce. Word Publishing, U.S.A, p65