Food for Thought: Single Parent Survival Skills
Becoming divorced or widowed and then facing years of single parenting is a shock to anyone who experiences it.
In addition to recovering to the lost of a partner, you will need to take action to survive and thrive in the coming years. The following strategies provide a starting place:
- Watch out for too many changes in your life as you recover from the loss of your spouse and the resulting changes in your life circumstances. Change causes stress, and you have enough right now.
- Manage your own emotions so you will be able to help your child manage his or her struggles. Learn as much as you can about how children respond to divorce, the death of a parent, or life in a single parent home.
Do not expect your child to respond the same way you do. Take your child’s developmental stage into consideration when responding to his or her behavior.
- Give your child permission to talk about their feelings.
- Keep appropriate boundaries. Don’t give into the temptation to let your child take care of you. Avoid burdening them with your feelings or facts or the divorce or death of your spouse. Find another adult to be your sounding board.
- Even though you are not able to be in the present as much as in the past, your children still need adult supervision. Look for ways for other adults to look in on your kids when they are home alone, even if they are teenagers.
- Just because your child appears to be handling his or her emotions well, don’t assume the child is okay. Some children respond to parental loss, by becoming overly responsible or by closing down their emotions.
They may need to hear, “Tell me how you are feeling”.
- While it is important to listen and accept your child’s feelings, it is equally important to set limits on behavior.
- Learn to set priorities. Do the most important things first.
- Find library books for kids about divorce and single parent families, and read them together. Take time to discuss how they relate to your situation and encourage your children to talk about their feelings.
- When you are ready, investigate groups like Parents Without Partners for single adults. You need to be with other adults who have similar interests. Learn to help your children talk about what is happening.
- Simplify as many things as possible in your life. You can not afford to keep it complicated.
- Find an outlet for your anger. If a friend is not available, look for a minister, or professional counselor.
- Focus on issues you have control over. If something is beyond your control, don’t waste your emotions on it.
- Keep a private journal in which you express your feelings. Be sure to keep it in a private place where your children won’t find it. A journal provides a place in which to express your anger, sadness, loneliness, and fear - all of those feelings you feel every day as a single parent.
- Remind yourself that recovering from a divorce or the death of a spouse will take time. Your recovery will happen on its own schedule, and IT will happen. You will get through this intact. Remember one day at a time.
Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.