Single Parenting: Knowing Your Options and Understanding Your Child

Linda Lowrey

May 5, 2002


 

motherIntroduction

Some parents just seem to have a natural relationship with their children, and some do not.  Sometimes we think that communication is the same thing as telling someone something, but communication is much more than the latter.  Communication is any sharing of meaning between two (or more) people.  We very often communicate without words, such as when I look threateningly at a child who is about to take a cookie.  I may say “no” words, but the child get the message.  One of the challenges of communication is that we may not have the same meanings as the others.  If one does not understand himself/herself, then it would be very difficult to truly communicate in an effective manner.  Thus, this may prevent the parent from building a strong bridge between the parent and child.

Single parents may find it even more difficult to effectively communicate with the child, for various reasons.  Rather than discuss the reasons or parenting style, additional support to the single parent is being offered.   We will explore how to strengthen the child by identifying ways to develop the child into either a caring or strong child.  Additionally, resources are shared to support in the struggle of single parenting, as well as time management tips, and financial stability tips.

Understanding How to Strengthen the Child

Developing the Caring Child

Every child needs to be reminded often that people love and value him/her.  Often we get busy and forget to send messages of love to our children, or we send messages poorly, or we send only angry messages.  Sometimes we send a message of love, but the child does not get it.  It is as though we are talking different languages.  There are at least three “languages” of love: showing, telling and touching.  You can learn to send the right messages of love to your children.  Examples of ways to send messages of love include:

·       Say, “I love you.”

·       Take a bike ride together.

·       Hug the child.

·       Say, “I sure enjoy being with you.”

·       Make a trip to the library together.

·       Say, “I am glad that you are my child.”

·       Work on a hobby together (Goddard, pg 2).

This all may seem easy, but sometimes the message of love does not get through.  Conveying this message becomes complex when expressing the love in the way that the child will understand.  Thus, how can you effectively send a message of love to a child?  One way is to notice what your child asks for—time, attention, a listening ear, materials for a hobby, outings, etc.  Another way is to notice how the child sends messages of love to you and others—tell you, hug you, write you notes, clean up the house, etc (Goddard, pg 5).

Children often enjoy even jobs that seem like work if they provide a special time to be with the parent.  Some parents schedule dates or special times with their children.  The important part is to send clear messages often, learn their language, schedule special times with them, and avoid anger blocking your message.  H. Wallace Goddard, states that this will, in essence, assist in the development of a caring child (Goddard, pg 3).

Developing the Strong Child

Developing a strong child has been termed as the antithesis of spoiling a child.  What does it mean to be spoiled?  Most people agree that a spoiled child is self-centered and demanding, inconsiderate of others and unpleasant to be around.  Thus, research tells us that parental warmth and affection is very important to how children develop physically, mentally, and socially (Abbell, pg 1).  Sometimes adults think children who do unpleasant or annoying things are spoiled.  Bad behavior may simply be normal behavior for a child at that particular age and developmental stage.  While it is true that very young children may behave poorly, some things parents do may also contribute to poor behavior.  For instance, children who do not get enough positive attention may try to get in ways that irritate the parents—tantrums, whining, and clinging.  However, children sometimes act spoiled when parents do too much.  Abbell states that we should not continue to do things for your children that they can physically do for themselves (Abbell, pg 2).  Some parents may be very good at allowing their children to become independent, but may not be good at setting clear and firm limits for behavior.  Children easily discover rules that can be broken if their protest is long and loud enough.  Parents who set rules and then do not enforce them very often have children who think that rules do not apply to them.  Thus, raising children who are self-reliant, cooperative, and considerate rather than spoiled is a challenging but rewarding process.  Parents who succeed know how children grow and what to expect of their children at different ages.  They are able to respond to their children’s genuine needs for care and comfort.  They recognize when the limits they set need to change. Good parents know how powerful their positive attention, affection, and support is to their children’s willingness to be cooperative.  Knowing all these things is important.  Thus, parenting is a balancing act that asks you to decide many things at once.  In time, your steady guidance will help your child grow into a responsible and considerate person—making him/her a strong child Abbell, pgs 2-6).

Resources for Single Parents

Partners Without Parents

The problems are many in bringing up children alone, contending with the emotional conflicts of divorce, never-married, separation or widowhood.  Parents Without Partners Inc. is the only international organization that provides help in the way of discussions, professional speakers, study groups, publications and social activities for families and adults. Through the exchange of ideas and companionship, Parents Without Partners hope to further the common welfare and the well-being of our children. Parents Without Partners provides single parents and their children with an opportunity for enhancing personal growth, self-confidence and sensitivity towards others by offering an environment for support, friendship and the exchange of parenting techniques. Currently, there are 50, 000+ members in the United States and Canada.  Additionally, single parents may join or set-up a chapter of Parents Without Partners in the city in which they live.  Currently, chapters range in size from 25 to 1,500 members, and are run entirely by volunteer members who assume a variety of leadership roles.  All chapters, to comply with their Parent Without Partners charters, run programs balanced among three areas: educational activities, family activities and adult social/recreational activities.

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Educational Activities

may be group discussions, lectures by psychologists, lawyers and other professionals, study groups, training seminars, leadership and personal growth opportunities.

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Family Activities

may include holiday activities, potluck suppers, fun and educational outings, picnics, hikes, camping, bowling, etc. for children and their parents. These activities may be unique in that they are the one place where children can be alone with other single parent children.

·

Adult Social/Recreational Activities

help single parents learn to relate again with other adults as single persons.

Chapters may also conduct community service programs. These include community outreach (speakers for seminars and workshops in the community), fund raising for national or local charities, or cooperative exchanges (such as baby-sitting, clothing, or toy exchanges).  Chapters are organized under regional councils, which coordinate programs and sponsor conferences.  Thus, chapters and regional councils are organized into zones, which elect directors and hold conferences (Parents Without Partners, internet website).

Making Lemonade Biz Network

Making Lemonade Biz Network is an internet web site that assist single parents in all aspects of parenting. The internet web site was created by Jody Seidler.  She is a single mother with a sense of humor and a sense of purpose.  It has become the leading one-stop place since 1997.  The web site hopes to give parents a strong sense of community and make their lives easier as single parents.  Each month feature links to other valuable single parenting resources are offered, such as poetry, stories, email chat groups, bulletin boards, and a semi-monthly newsletter.  The purpose is for the single parent to “Remember, you’re not alone” (Making Lemonade, internet website).

Time Management Tips

Time management seems to be the most important element in a single parent household (or any household for that matter).  It would appear that there is never enough time in the day to do all that is needed to do for themselves and the family.  Time is a commodity, and it has to be used wisely.  The good news is once can learn to budget time just as we do our finances.  Therefore, it is time to get organized!  Here are some tips to help manage a busy single parent world, and create a sense of organization.  Witness how life evolves as structure increase to the days.  It will create some time just for the single parent.  The time management tips as outlined by The Single Parent Network are as follow:

·       Make lists, do not rely on your mind (or what is left of it) to remember what things need to be done and when.  Whatever you have not gotten accomplished today, move it over to tomorrow’s list.  There is always tomorrow, but place the urgent and the most challenging to do’s on the top of tomorrow’s list.

·       Pay bills all at one time and put a little yellow sticky memo on the piles that need to be mailed mid month or at the end of the month.  This way you only have to get stressed out one day a month and your bills get mailed out on time.

·       Get an engagement calendar for play dates or custody arrangements, due dates for homework, meetings, bills, personal and school events.  Take the pressure off your memory skills and keep track of events and appointments on paper.  This way you can keep your mind freed up from the strain of having to remember everything.

·       Keep a notepad by your phone or bed to jot down things as they come to mind.  This is a great tool so that you do not forget those fleeting thoughts or morning reminders upon awakening.  You can also keep a small tape recorder in the car, so that you do not miss a thought or reminder driving.  Just drive carefully and watch out for those drivers on cellular phones.

·       Choose a day or night you will do your grocery shopping and errand running each week.  Choose a consistent day to clean your home.  Stick to your schedule and forget about these responsibilities the rest of the week.

·       Buy things in bulk (save time and money) and if bulk buys bring too much food into your pantry-split these purchases with another single parent or neighbor.  Now that we have places like Smart and Final and Costco, it makes it easier to buy in bulk, save money and always have what we need on hand.

·       Teach your child how to make his or her breakfast, help with dishes and laundry (make a game of it), empty the dishwasher and clean his/her room.  Make a chore chart and place a star on the chart for these accomplishments.

·       Maximize your trips.  Create a flow chart in your head of where you have to drive, and target those chores by their location.  Do not run around all over town to get errands done, do them by area and by priority.  You can also use the phone to call a store to see if they have an item in stock to save yourself a trip and some time.  If you have a friend going to a grocery store have them pick up a few items for you.

·       Think smart, save time.  Review your priorities and change those things that are not working.  Get up earlier or go to bed later to get things done that can not be done during the day, or designate a weekend while your child(ren) is/are with the other parent or has a play date, in order to accomplish what is needed.

·       Read at least 10 minutes a night to unwind.  If your child(ren) is/are old enough, you can designate a 10 to 15 minute reading time where you both read your separate books together.

·       Remember not to cling to worn out ways of scheduling your time if they no longer work.  As you evolve and change, you may have to modify the way time is spent doing errands, housework, bill paying, scheduling appointments, and making the most of every hour in the day.  Why not speak to other single parents, or people you admire, to find out what has worked for them.

·       Most importantly, do not forget to take time out for yourself.  As much as our children are our gifts, we are theirs as well.  Prioritize, replenish yourself, and think smart, it all begins with you (Seidler, pgs 1-7)!

Financial Stability

Your money belongs to you, to spend or keep.  Earning money is only half the battle.  It is equally as important to learn to spend it wisely, and to save wisely as well.  Begin now to tell your dollars where to go instead of asking where they went.  Ginita Wall encourages the following list of super saving strategies that will promote healthy saving habits.  They are as follow:

·       Tithe to yourself.  Each time you get paid and bonus, tax refunds, auto allowances, etc., take 10% and place into your savings account.

·       Stash money in your retirement plan.  Put money into your 401(k) plan, TSA plan or tax-deductible IRA.  The money it earns will not be taxable until it is withdrawn.

·       Save through payroll deductions.  Payroll deductions that go directly into your savings account or bonds are an excellent way of saving, because it is money you do not see.

·       Make extra principal payments.  This will increase the portion of your regular mortgage payment that goes toward principal.

·       Save your bonus.

·       Bank your raises.

·       Continue making auto payments.  When your automobile is paid for, continue to make payments into your savings accounts rather than to the finance company.

·       Save with coupons.

·       Save with mutual funds.

·       Increase your income.  Work overtime, a second job, etc. and deposit the entire pay into your savings account and watch it grow.

·       Save extra paychecks.  If you get paid an extra paycheck in a month, deposit into your savings account for you will be saving 10% of your annual income.

·       Reinvest interest and dividends.  If you own certificates or deposit, let the interest accumulate rather than having it paid to you monthly (Wall,  pgs 1-4).

Money is powerful.  We can realize our full potential with it, acquire the tools we need to become more productive, and be free from anxiety about our future needs.  Money can also destroy.  We desire and fear the power of money, and most of us have problems harnessing the positive power of money through regular saving and investing.  Some people are financially careless, while others develop profound spending disorders.  Most of us have a few deep-rooted psychological barriers that interfere with wise money management.  The barriers have been outlined as: (1) The fantasy of financial rescue and (2) Fear of the Future.  How can one overcome if a barrier exists.  Ginita Wall suggests that we take serious steps toward providing for our own financial future, and create goals based on the current income and financial situation.  Also, she offers that we approach the future on step at a time.  One must establish short-term goals and start a savings plan towards completion of the short-term goals and financial security (Wall, pg 1).

Conclusion

Of course, there is no perfect way to parenting.  Each child comes with his/her own personality.  Thus, single parents (all parents as well) can learn how to best parent their children accordingly.  In my opinion, parenting is not a manuscript job that comes with instructions.  There is no right or wrong way to parenting, as long as the basic needs are being met.  Single parents have difficulty in this area, in part, mainly because of the lack of additional support from the other parent in the home.  Hopefully, single parents will begin to partner up and assist with the rearing of our children.  In any event, we must reflect that when strengthening the child—send messages of love clearly, communicate effectively, try not to spoil the child, and enforce your rules.  If you ever need advice or assistance, “Remember that you are not alone,” and by “Making Lemonade” for your children you will find help with time management, financial stability, and all your parenting needs.

References

Abell, Ellen. (2002).  Am I Spoiling My Child?  New York: Avon

Faber, Adel, and Mazlish, Elaine (1980).  How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  New York: Avon.

Ginott, Haim (1956).  Between Parent and Child.  New York: Avon.

Goddard, H. Wallace.  (2002).  Sending Messages of Love.  New York: Avon.

Http://www.MAKINGLEMONDADE.com

Http://www.makinglemondae.com/timemanage.html

Http://www.ParentsWithoutPartners.com

Seidler, Jody.  (2002).  The Single Parent Network: Time Management.  New York: Avon.

Wall, Ginita. (2002).  Overcoming The Psychological Barriers To Saving.  New York: Avon.

White, James D. (1976).  Talking With A Child.  New York: MacMillan.