The Challenge to Heathy Single Parenting

by Rod Smith

Sabotaged? Expect it...

Sabotaged? Expect it...

Healthy single parents get over the guilt often associated with the solo rearing of children as efficiently as possible. They don’t wallow in what might have been, of who let whom down, or in feelings of rejection or abandonment. They know that their own healthy emotional condition is their own responsibility and that “victim-thinking” serves no helpful end and is toxic for both parents and children.

While their lives are heavily invested in their children, single parents also have entire facets of their lives that are separate from their children. They have adult friends, hobbies, interests and activities that are not focused on, or that even necessarily involve their children. They know that developing a life outside of their children is a very good thing for everybody!

Healthy single parents seek neither empathy nor sympathy. They know they are equipped for parenting and embrace it with courage, determination, and good humor. While they want to be understood, heard and accepted, they want it to no greater degree than do any other adults. They do not view the solo rearing of children as a sacrifice but as both a challenge and a joy.

Healthy single parents determine to be an integral part of their extended biological families and an integral part of several other communities or “families of choice.” Then, within these communities, they enter reciprocal relationships, both receiving help and the support they need to rear their children, and offering their talents and support to others in their particular area of need. While healthy single parents never relinquish the responsibilities of rearing their children, they willingly share the joy with selected people in their various communities.

Healthy single parents do not become advocates for, or against, the other biological parent of their children. Promoting or idealizing a so-called “dead-beat” parent in the eyes of the child is misleading for the child (who will find out the truth when the time comes). Demonizing the other parent is as misleading. The healthy single parent gives the child appropriate room and opportunity to do his or her own assessing of the “other” parent.

Healthy single parents resist the temptation to play tug-of-war with others who love the child or children. They know former spouses and former in-laws are invested in the child and therefore they willingly negotiate appropriate space and appropriate opportunity for the on-going development of these vital relationships.

While the single parent, like all parents, must cultivate and develop the necessary strength and endurance to do the wonderful task child-rearing, with all the many stages and phases of growth toward adulthood, they must, like all parents, be honest about their needs, wants, failures, loneliness, desires and aspirations. Ideally, married parents have the luxury of partner to share their inner world. In single-parent families, it is often the child who is in closest proximity to the adult and therefore a “sitting duck” to fulfill the role as confidant to the parent. It is imperative that adults confide in other healthy adults and not in their children. No matter how “adult” the child might appear to be, it is a subtle form of abuse to visit the weight of adult needs and concerns on a child. This is potentially some form of emotional incest and the ramifications for the growing child can be treacherous. A child needs adult care – and it’s not the other way around. It is damaging for a boy to be “mommy’s little man” or “best friend” to a lonely mother. Likewise, it is an emotionally distorting to expect a young girl to be her father’s “special lady” in the absence of a mother. Visiting a young child with the weight of adult needs is, to say the least, unfair, and single parents must find other healthy adults to be their emotional support in times of inevitable weakness.

When a parent wants to make amends, or improve matters, with his or her children, here are some places to start:

1. Don’t accept random blame. You might have done a lot wrong, but it is likely you also did much right. Be no ones whipping boy or doormat!

2. Define yourself very clearly no matter how unclear you might have been in the past. People respect clarity even if it clarity brings results the children might not want.

3. Interpret situations according to “how I see it” rather than how you want your children to see it.

4. Turn off the supply of money to your adult children. It is seldom a good idea for adults to have their lives financed, even partially, by their parents. Bailing adult sons and daughters out of trouble is seldom a cure.

5. Don’t give teenagers anything they do not earn.

6. Give younger children divided attention. In other words, pursue interests that do not involve the children. Offer them focused attention when you do by not allowing anything to get in the way. These periods will almost always be brief since healthy children will have interests that don’t involve parents.

7. Concentrate on your own fulfillment, maturity, talents and usefulness so your children will have an example to follow.

One Comment to “The Challenge to Heathy Single Parenting”

  1. I was reading this — it is very good

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