A Dose of Savvy…
I feel like the Fall friendzy is just around the corner! I just finished going through the calendar from now through the end of 2010 with my former husband, filling in the weekend and holiday and school schedules. Even though two will be away at college, they are still on the schedule… getting to school, Parents’ Weekends, getting to and from school for holidays. And then there are Back-to-School nights, sports schedules, SATs and college visits for my two high-schoolers.
I hear from single moms all the time about the frustrations and stresses of co-parenting. Many times the challenge isn’t just in making the schedules; it’s in sticking to the schedule, as well as the poor communication between the parents that makes things complicated.
Between custody, school, activity, and vacation schedules and day-to-day life, it can get tough to keep track of it all while trying to work and run a household. Things may be missed or even forgotten, schedules may be switched at the last minute, and in some cases one parent has been known to keep information from the other parent. Unfortunately, this only hurts the children!
If you need help with communicating information and family schedules, or even expenses, I recently came across a resource that can literally change your life! Our Family Wizard is an online information manager that allows you to easily schedule and track parenting schedules, share important family information and expenses, as well as create clear communication. Both parents, as well as the children, can have access to the system which includes the family calendar, message boards, private and shared journals, expense logs, and a family information bank (for vital information such as school information, emergency contacts, health care providers and health information). Money can also be transferred for expenses and is logged for future reference.
If you’re not divorced yet, you can even use the system as you create your family plan. Our Family Wizard has common plans already in place that you can choose. Courts in over 35 states have ordered that the parties use this system in contested cases.
Life as a single parent is not always easy so take advantage of any resources that can simplify things. The Our Family Wizard system protects kids by keeping them out of the middle and reduces divorce conflict between you and the other parent by eliminating miscommunication, reducing stress, and avoiding arguments. Ultimately, though, it allows you to focus on and improve your parenting!
There is no doubt that single parenting is a challenge in our life after divorce, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. I admit that when my marriage was coming to an end, I was petrified at the thought of raising four kids (three who are boys) on my own. I had grown up the oldest of four girls so I was pretty confident about raising my daughter, but raising boys was truly going to be a challenge!
Eight years later, I am proud to say that I think I have done a pretty good job with all four of my kids. I actually receive regular phone calls and text messages from my college-aged sons and I recently received a complimentary note (along with pictures from my second son’s high school graduation) from my former father-in-law! This is not to say I have not had to deal with any challenges or that I have not made mistakes along the way (because I definitely have!!), but my kids have thrived academically, emotionally and socially despite the challenges of a single parent home.
Here are my tips for having an awesome relationship with your kids…
Care For Yourself
When you are exhausted and overwhelmed physically and emotionally you are no good to anyone, especially your children. It is crucial that you maintain healthy habits by getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising, and also give yourself some “mom time” without your kids. It is also crucial that you forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up for your failed relationship. Look instead at the gifts and lessons you can take from it. Part of caring for yourself is also asking for help when you need it. When you care for yourself, your children can see and feel the difference in your household.
Always Make Your Kids The Priority
Children in single parent homes may subconsciously feel abandoned, rejected, or incompetent. However, no one matters to your child more than you! Know your priorities and show your kids you believe in them and their abilities. Give them the power to believe in themselves. Help them to understand what a crucial part they play in the family by giving them responsibilities. Take an interest in their interests and be there to support them. You may walk out of the elementary school concert with a headache, but you wouldn’t want to miss that ear-to-ear smile when they walk off the stage the first time!
Expose Your Kids to Some Form of Faith
Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is important for kids to have some form of faith in their lives. They need to know that they are not their own highest being. They may choose to have different beliefs as adults, but they will never know unless they have some exposure earlier in life. Faith and spirituality also teach kids to be caring, compassionate, and contributing members of their community.
Set Clear Boundaries & Consequences
Though it may be tempting at times to be their friend rather than their parent, kids need discipline and limits. This not only helps them to keep out of trouble, but also leads to a feeling of self-control and ultimately higher self-esteem and a positive outlook.
When our kids understand how to make lemonade out of lemons they are more equipped to handle the bumps in life which they will inevitably face.
Keep Communication Open
Children learn early on if you are an approachable and emotionally safe parent. Live true to your values and be a good role model. Know your kids’ friends and their families. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your kids about the issues that concern you. Acknowledge their accomplishments and great choices, yet support them with teachable moments when they make mistakes as they test the limits (because they will!). It is also extremely important to acknowledge any negative emotions and affirm how well they are handling them. Open communication with your kids will only improve your relationship.
Make Memories That Will Last
My grandparents were married 57 years and I learned from them the importance of family memories and relationships. Every Sunday after church all 20 grandchildren and our parents would go to my grandparents for “sticky buns and orange juice.” The boys (and occasionally some of the girls) would all play football on their lawn. We can spend all the money in the world on our kids, but if they don’t have strong family relationships they will never truly know how to relate with others. I know my kids will always remember fondue and board games on New Year’s Day, holidays & summer vacations with extended family, and the 2700 mile RV trip I took them on!
Give Lots of Hugs and I Love You’s
What you give, you get back! Don’t be afraid to show your kids, even your teenagers, affection. Though it may be challenging with the media and the values that are portrayed to our kids as important , teach your children about love and respect for others. They will learn to value not only themselves, but also life and will truly enjoy it. Be sure to show them that happiness comes from within and not from anyone or anything else. In the end, happiness is a choice!
Take the High Road With Your Former Spouse
This is probably one of the most challenging parts of being a single parent…the fact that you parent in your home and your former spouse parents in theirs and that there are probably negative emotions that will always linger on some level. If you can at all be on the same page with expectations, privileges and consequences, it will only benefit your children. Kids in single-parent households need permission to talk about the other parent. Be honest and age-appropriate in your discussions, though also use discretion… some things should be left between adults. As difficult as it may be, it is best that your children not hear you disparage the other parent. This only hurts their self-esteem.
Single parenting can be a lonely and exhausting job, but if approached with a positive and open mindset we can empower our kids to develop into happy and competent young adults. When we look back years from now, hopefully we see that the time, love, happiness, and tears were worth it and we can be proud of the impact our kids have had on the world with their unique gifts.