Meeting the Challenge of Being a Single Mom
1. Grieve in order to heal.
Every Friday before dinner, newly-single mother Rebekah instituted a “crying time”. Rebekah and her children vented frustrations and even cried on occasion. Then, they dried their eyes, hugged one another and went in to dinner. This short time of weekly assessment gave them an emotional release valve to anticipate whenever they faced difficulties during the week.
The process of grieving is no less vital to your children’s emotional healing than to yours. Help your children identify their feelings as normal and be ready to share your heart with them. Let them know they are “okay” even though their emotions may be volatile at times. Above all, give your children time to grieve the loss they feel so keenly. Grieving is not wasted time; it’s growing time. Reminder: the grieving process is characterized by denial, anger, bargaining (what ifs), sadness and depression, resolution, and then forgiveness.
2. Develop new traditions as a family.
Crissy always wanted to try roller-blading. After her divorce, the kids no longer had anyone to roller-blade with through the neighborhood. Crissy went to a used sporting goods store and bought skates, knee, elbow and wrist pads. Within a week, she found she was able to keep up with her 10 and 11- year old daughters.
Discuss new creative activities you and your children would like to incorporate during upcoming celebrations such as birthdays, holidays and vacations. Think of some things you “always wanted to try” but haven’t gotten around to doing. Don’t wait for a special event to try something different.
3. Make use of available resources.
Newly divorced mom Tracy passed the word around for any single parenting books. Another single mom heard of Tracy’s need and gathered the most helpful books, videos, and tapes she had used several years earlier. Before long, Tracy’s confidence as a single mom blossomed as she learned to address issues of concern to her children with knowledge and understanding.
Look for resource materials to share with your children. Determine to approach each situation through the positive viewpoint found in God’s Word. Topics may include; loneliness, hopelessness, anger, grief, sexuality, finances and goal-setting.
4. Use the written word to work through feelings.
Lonnie bribed her two sons into journaling on a weekly basis. She offered them dinner at a fast food restaurant for every thirty minutes they spent writing in their journals. Lonnie’s sons have filled three journals in two years and the cashier at the local hamburger restaurant has gotten to know Lonnie’s family by name.
Purchase diaries for each family member. Take a minimum of one half hour to journal and mentally review the week’s events. Communicate to your children that journaling is a way of getting out thoughts and feelings they might not have taken time to really think through before.
5. Use your memory to build a hopeful future.
Sally and her children selected a life verse from the Bible and decorated a scrapbook with photos of each of them participating in their favorite activities. Each time one of them reaches a new goal, wins an award, or enjoy a family fun event, they make note of the date and the event, then add it to their memory book.
Buy a scrapbook, get out the Bible, and select a “life verse” for your family that will fortify you during troubled times and bring joy during blessed events. Then gather photos, ticket stubs, awards, newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia. Include funny sayings or make mention of God’s provision under each item. The scrapbook gives children a “visible” foundation on which to build a happier future.
6. Reach out to others in need.
On their way to church, Margaret would sometimes see the same elderly man slowly walking the one-half mile from his bus stop to their church building. One Sunday, she stopped to offer him a ride to the church. Over time, Margaret’s kids found they had a new “adopted” grandfather to fuss over and love.
In your family’s pain, extend yourself to others who are hurting or needy. Look around your neighborhood, your extended family and your church. Befriend the lonely and set an example of giving for your children to pattern themselves after.
7. Use hands-on activities to encourage inner healing.
Teri’s idea of a pet wasn’t a four foot long iguana. But her son Todd had done his research as she requested. So, Teri’s home is now composed of herself, Todd, and their four-feet long iguana, Menace.
Time spent in loving an animal or in developing a personal skill takes energy and concentration. Your children need to focus on areas outside of the family and the current transitional pain it brings. Give your children the help they need to experience satisfaction in a job well done.
8. Be open to the helpful input of others.
The closest family Laurie had lived one thousand miles away. At the suggestion of her Sunday school teacher, Laurie made an appointment with one of the pastors of her local church fellowship for help in handling a problem with her seventeen-year-old daughter Kelly. During those weekly counseling sessions, Laurie and Kelly learned to respect their differences without allowing them to deteriorate into fighting matches.
Recognize the occasional necessity of bringing in others to help you and your family cope with the losses you’ve experienced. Turn to trusted pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders or professional Christian counselors. Admitting your children have needs you cannot meet does not signal defeat or weakness. Rather, seeking support from those who hold a significant place in your children’s lives reveals the humility and godly perseverance so necessary in developing a mature family life.
Revised from the book, Going It Alone: Meeting the Challenges of Being a Single Mom (Hendrickson Publishing, 1999) by Michele Howe.