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Flying Solo: Six Ways To Soar As A Single Parent
Jill is a single mom of a nine-year-old daughter, whom she's been raising by herself since Haley was an infant. "The hardest part about being a single parent is having no one else there when Haley acts up. It's all me. She doesn't listen to me, and then I just don't know what to do. I'm really getting anxious about her teenage years. I'm not sure if I can keep her on track by myself, she's so willful."
Jill is far from being alone. Single parenting is one of the toughest jobs on the planet, yet more than 50 percent of households in America are headed by just one mother or father. Much of the time that parent is working full-time and trying to maintain the home, in addition to everything that comes with parenting a child. To make matters worse, often single moms and dads, like Jill, report feeling as if their children aren’t listening to them or following family rules. Coupled with the guilt that many single parents feel, this can be a one-two punch to the faith you have in the job you’re doing as you raise your kids on your own. So what can you do to maintain confidence in yourself and peace in your home?
Dr. Jane Nelsen, Ed. D., the author and co-author
of 17 acclaimed books on parenting, including
Positive Discipline for Single Parents, offers this advice to those who are
What happens at the ex’s house stays at the ex’s house. When another parent or an ex-spouse is involved, things can get complicated, especially if the rules of the other household your child spends time in are different. Often children will try to negotiate with you based on what goes on at your ex’s place. When your kids don’t want to follow your family’s rules, say, “This is how we do things in our home.” Don’t let yourself be blackmailed or controlled by the ex and the rules (or lack thereof) in the ex’s home.
Have regular family meetings with kids. This is important for all families, but is particularly helpful for single parents as it serves to provide structure. Sit down once a week and focus on what’s happening in the family. I advise parents to start the meeting with compliments, verbalize those, and then focus on solutions to problems that are cropping up together. You might say, “Jack, I really appreciate the way you’ve been keeping your room clean lately. Nice job.” Go around the table and have everyone say something good about each person present. Then work together as a family to set new rules. For example, maybe there’s been a lot of name-calling in the house. Your rule that week could be, “I want to stop the name-calling. It’s hurtful and I want it to stop.” Then, if it happens again later on that week, you can say, “Name calling is really a problem for me. I think it is hurtful and disrespectful. I would really like your help. What ideas do you have to solve the problem? Let’s brainstorm and see how many ideas we can come up with and then we’ll choose one that works for everyone.”
With family meetings, kids feel needed, empowered, and motivated to meet their responsibilities. They feel listened to, valued, taken seriously. Kids rebel if they perceive that we keep trying to take their power away. We need to start training young children to use the power they do have by coming up with a solution that’s respectful of everyone. That’s why I love family meetings. It teaches them to contribute and use their power in useful ways. Do it once a week without fail, make it the most important date on your calendar so kids will know it, too.
You can also use your family meetings to come up with ideas for activities you’d like to do with your children — everyone can give a suggestion. Even though time is at a premium for single parents, be sure to remember to plan time for fun. It doesn’t have to cost money or even take that long to do. Play Frisbee in the park, play a game, but try to schedule regular, fun activities with your kids. This will help you strengthen your family, and puts you on the road to single parenting success.
Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of a six-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood, and The Japan Times.
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by Gary Chapman
by Mary Pipher
Families today are experiencing a new set of realities. Working parents are harried, tired, and overextended. They are unable to protect their children from the enemy within, the inappropriate television they watch for hours, the computer games that keep them from playing outside, the virtual reality they tune in to when they should be learning about the real world. And so, Pipher says, we have houses without walls. Compounding this is the fact that our psychological theories don't work anymore, because they were developed decades ago, when families were tightly knit, relatively monolithic institutions. Pipher offers ideas for simple actions we can all take to help rebuild our families and strengthen our communities.
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