Everybody has something to say about how you raise your children.
People who have never experienced being a single parent—or a single parent with their partner in prison–are the worst at offering unsolicited advice. They have no idea what it is like living on a single income (without child support), balancing work and kids’ schedules, and trying to get it all done every day on the limited energy of one person. Single parents of children who have a parent in prison are……ROCK STARS.
You are making it through the toughest season of your life, one moment at a time. Raising children as a single parent takes an extraordinary amount of focus, dedication, energy, and commitment. It is a huge responsibility and a ton of hard work. But, the benefits are unbelievable! Parenting is both the best and worst job in the world, but it is also the most rewarding career you will ever have—if you invest in making it successful.
You are capable of being a great parent
I know it is hard to keep up with everything that truly must be done. I know the feelings triggered by the sense of inadequacy. After all, you are capable of being a great parent. Your children are counting on you to pave the way for them, provide clear boundaries, and teach them about this world. Even if you feel like you are the most unqualified person in the world to be raising children, you can be a great parent for your children.
I have coached many single moms over the years.
The first fear they all had to overcome was the fear of “ruining their children’s lives.” There were many reasons these moms were intimidated by the role of parent, and fearful that they would make mistakes beyond repair. The most common reason they lacked confidence in their own ability was that they had never experienced a healthy relationship with their own parents. They did not have someone who modeled effective parenting skills in their lives; often they felt “in way over their heads” and didn’t trust their own instincts.
Here is my best advice to every mom I have had the privilege of working with:
If you are worried about messing up your kids, you are on the right path to becoming a great mom! Bad moms do not care about their children. They do not even think about the impact of their actions on their kids—they live selfishly, emotionally distant, and detached from their children. You are not a bad mom. You just need skills, encouragement, and inspiration—you have the motivation!
When our children are born, we have total control over every part of their lives. We choose their clothes, their hairstyle, their food, even their friends. But as they get older, their personalities start to come out. They like things we don’t like, and don’t like things we like. They look like us, but they have their own personalities, beliefs, and opinions.
Here are my top 5 parenting advice tips for single parenting:
- Know when to stop for the day. This is the biggest deterrent to making the biggest mistakes. You only have so much energy and patience each day. When you overstretch either of those, your stress level increases and your ability to self-regulate decreases. You put yourself in danger of doing or saying something you will regret if you don’t stop before you run out. If you know your energy starts to take a dive at 10:00, do not even try to resolve any issues after 9:30. Wait for the next day to deal with anything else that comes up. Tuck your precious angels into bed before you emotionally, mentally, and physically crash. Good news—your energy and patience levels reset every day, so you WILL be able to navigate the issue in the morning. Better news–you are teaching your children that everybody has limits and must recognize their limits and manage their lives in a healthy manner. Great job, mom!
- Don’t fill the void with things. This is so important because as a single parent, you will be tempted to spend money on your children to compensate for the loss of their parent in their lives. Do not do it! Build your budget and stick to it. Not only will you manage stress in your life by living within your financial means, but you will also be teaching your children financial discipline. This lesson will equip your children to grow up to become financially responsible adults. Another great job, mom!
- Keep your rules. When you set a boundary for your children, keep it. Do not let them talk you out of a rule, or a consequence. Your children will feel safe, protected, and loved when calmly you stand your ground on your rules. It is important to note that your rules should be developed ahead of time, and never in the heat of a disagreement. When the rules have been carefully decided and made clear, everyone benefits from the peace that will fill your home. There are so many great resources available to help you create rules for your home and family. You can find them on the internet, at the bookstore, or connect with a life coach. These help you determine the best rules and consequences for your family. You are on a roll—great job, mom!
- Increase responsibility with time. Your children need to grow up. It is important that they begin to experience more responsibility as they get older. As toddlers, they can help pick up their own toys and put them away. As they grow, they can help with other chores like dusting, sweeping and folding clothes. The older they get, the more responsibility they need to take on. Children feel more accepted and a part of something bigger than themselves when they help with the family chores. Remember that you are preparing them to successfully live on their own as adults! Learning the importance of responsibility prepares your children to live up to their potential—great job, mom!
- Let your children laugh and play. Play can be spontaneous, planned or a little of both. Allow them to have time to run, yell, and jump. Provide opportunities for them to think, be creative, and interact with others. Most importantly, ensure your children have time to play with you. You must plan activities for just you and your children, for all of your family when you visit in the prison, and with other children and families. This variety of play allows your children to process their emotions, de-stress, and re-calibrate in order to face the next obstacle in their life. In addition to these amazing benefits, playing together builds strong family bonds and increases mental, physical, and emotional health. Who knew fun was so important? You did—great job, mom!
Practice these five pieces of advice and watch your confidence increase, your home become more peaceful, and your children become more resilient. Your job is difficult, but you are up for the challenge. Never be afraid to ask for help in becoming better.
I am rooting for you!