Why every single parent shouldn’t parent alone
Single parents cannot parent alone. Yes, we try to be the best we can be because we are role models for our children. They learn by observing how we do life. But we need others to help us. We need to parent together with others to grow our best family.
The need for community
Children need the input of family, friends, mentors and the other parent if they are still around, to be the examples that we can’t be on our own. This is especially true if you are the single parent of a child of the opposite sex. As I am female, I have no idea how to be a man or to raise a male child to be one. My son needs men to show him how to be a man, teach the shaving thing and mould him especially in the hormone driven teenage years. Likewise a teenage girl can be a puzzle to a single dad.
Sometimes it takes deliberate choices by the custodial parent to position the child to having other role models. It may mean working with the other parent for the benefit of the children. Or it could mean involving the child in an activity where appropriately background checked coaches, instructors or teachers can be role models. It may also mean asking someone to be a mentor or enrolling kids in a mentoring program. The web has information on what mentoring is and the types of programs available. Always, always, always be safety conscious, aware of predators and who is having an influence on your children.
Mentors etc can also teach what we are weak at. A simple way of involving others is asking someone you trust to teach your kids a specific skill that you struggle with. For example, an uncle to kick a football, grandma to bake a cake (embarrassingly that was me), a neighbour to fix a bike, a friend to do your daughters hair for the dance concert (me again!)
As a single parent we cannot do it all – though some of us try!!! – Since we can’t do it alone, others will need to be role models for our children and teach them. Choose wisely who those role models will be.
You know those times as a parent when you hit the wall. You’ve been travelling well as a family and feeling like you know what you’re doing as a parent, then crash. You come to a screaming halt and in the wreck of your family you have no idea how to parent.
The wall may be an age transition like taming the ‘toddler’ to ‘how do I cope with a pre-schooler?’ It could be a new life stage like the change from primary to high school, or following a disruptive event such as parent’s splitting up. Sometimes it is related to one child and their personality or issues.
Whatever the cause of your wall, the effect is the same. As a parent you have no confidence and no clue what to do next. This is when you need support.
Support can be the listening ear of a friend and/or family member who allows you to download the stress and bounce ideas around. It could be a school teacher or counsellor who can offer advice from their experience of working with children. Sometimes it might need professional intervention like a GP or psychologist. Every parent needs support.
For single parents the need is intensified because there is no other parent sharing the child rearing journey with you. When you reach the end of your tether, you cannot tag team and send the other parent into the fight while you gather your self-control. I found great benefit from having a readily available friend or neighbour who would come over promptly if I called when I was losing it with the kids. They were happy to stay with them while I withdrew to collect myself. It‘s worthwhile to pre-plan a withdrawal strategy for times of acute stress.
To last the distance of parenting as a single parent, you need to actively seek support.
PS – It doesn’t last forever. Sometimes it just feels like it! Kids grow up really quickly.
Putting legs on it
Map who is in your support circle and identify where you may need to grow your network or develop more supportive relationships. ‘My support circle’ from ‘My Life! Healthy Living Journal’1 is a tool to help you identify where you have connections and where you may be lacking. You can download it from Baptist Care SA website.
Watch the video and complete the exercise on the One Together website, looking at your relationships and whether they are supportive or not.
What is one step you can take to increase your community connection or supportive relationships?
- Legge, V, Oerman, B and van Loon A. (2015) My Life! Healthy Living Journal, Baptist Care (SA) Inc Australia p27
Photo credit: Evan Kirkby www.stocksnap.io