Effective Parenting Tips for a Single Mum
Like sailing a boat, the voyage can be turbulent and at times it can get raging stormy. Yet at times there is sunny tranquillity. Whether you are a single sailor or you have a partner doesn’t change the condition of the sea. The winds, waves and turbulences are still the same. No doubt a helping hand in the person of a responsible partner can be encouraging, comforting and heartening.
What we must never forget is the turbulence of the times we are living in is a constant for all parents, single or multiple. Just because you’re steering a one-person kayak rather than a two-person canoe doesn’t mean you can’t cleverly navigate the tumultuous waters of parenthood.
That notwithstanding, having a dependable partner to sail through the sea of life can come in handy. Watching other kids with their dad and mum in a playground every Sunday afternoon at times can be disturbing to a single parent. Walking with someone else often eases emotional burden. This need not be an opposite sex. This can be another single mum or a couple whose kids connect with your kids during your family day out.
I’ll never weary saying that connections give life meaning. They give us a sense of belongingness. What a single parent ought to be cautious about is to avoid teaming up with a bitter person. Misery loves company. Avoid a pity party networking forum like plague. Don’t demonise men in totality. In so doing, you transfer negative energy to your health, career and children.
While the circumstances leading to solo parenting may vary significantly from being divorced, widowed or just being a single parent by choice, we must always analyze what we have in our hands and not what we do not have. Many influential leaders across the nations were raised by single parents. That’s why there is never an excuse for whining. We must always be solution conscious and not problem conscious. Whining doesn’t change the ground realities.
As a single parent, you’ll need to enhance your earning power. The economic burden in our days can be burdensome for a single individual. It’s challenging enough for two. Be candid money matters and critically analyze and implement a long term plan that will see your children through college education.
As you do that, be wary not to leave the kids alone. You’ve heard me say time and again that the growth of children is irreversible. While this is not the ideal situation and I trust that I won’t be misquoted, at times you may require a mature person like your sister to fill in your ‘absence’ gap if your current job requires you to work till late as you trust God for a more flexible job or as you transit to your own business.
Of importance in such scenarios is to be predictable by your children. Develop a predictable daily routine such that they know when to expect mum. Don’t catch up with impromptu dates aimlessly. There is no reason under the sun for you to compromise on timeless values. Remain a good role model to your kids. Childhood memories hardly fade away. They have lasting impact. Maintain discipline at all costs lest you lose your child blaming it on her absent father.
Be candid with the difficult life questions that h/she may ask. As honestly as practically possible and at the child’ level of understanding, respond to any query they may ask about their father. There’s nothing to be shameful about. You can’t change the past and you are not alone in this walk. Things happen. Focus on your destiny, not history. What you need to assure your child is that everything is okey with mum around.
Be careful not to make your children your equals to the extent you rely on them for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. Children neither have the emotional capacity nor the life experience to act as substitute adult partners. If you find yourself depending on your kids for emotional support or expressing your frustrations to them too often, you need help. Seek out for a counsellor. This includes sharing your relational issues about a male friend you are dating with them. It’s taking the game too far and denying children the opportunity to grow at their own pace.
If you are a single parent out of separation, be cautious not to speak against their father at whatever cost. You cannot undo the fact that he is their father. Separate issues from the person of the father. The issues were between the two of you. The kids were not and should not be part of it. Should you however, want to marry, prepare them psychologically. It’s not right to pronounce a strange man out of the blues during dinner, “Hey guys, from today henceforth, this is your father. Okey!”
Admittedly, a father figure plays a crucial role in the life of children. The International Dictionary of Psychology defines “father figure” as “A man to whom a person looks up and whom he treats like a father.” The APA Concise Dictionary of Psychology offers a more extensive definition: “A substitute for a person’s biological father, who performs typical paternal functions and serves as an object of identification and attachment.
Father figures may include such individuals as adoptive fathers, stepfathers, older brothers, teachers and others. At times the term “father surrogate” is used interchangeably with “father figure.”
Why father figures? Studies by Parke and Clark-Stewart (2011) and Lamb (2010) have shown that fathers are more likely than mothers to engage in rough-and-tumble play with children. Why is this important? Because life is tough and challenging. Often than not, mothers are symbols of love and tenderness while fathers are symbols of strength and authority.
In addition, a father figure can help establish personal boundaries between mother and child; promote self-discipline, demonstrate teamwork and a sense of gender identity; offer a window into the wider world; and provide opportunities for both idealisation and its realistic working-through.
Nonetheless, don’t run heaven and earth hunting for a father figure. Be the pillar of strength and identity in your home. Affirm your children daily. Be yourself. While the world is similar in many ways, every family is unique in its own right.
While there are times your confidence will sink to new lows, never betray your self-doubt before your kids. This can destroy their self-confidence to irreparable levels. You must never lose your sense of self. Work with what is available within your means. This could be your child’s school teacher or that guy who plays football in the evening with kids in your neighbourhood.
I’ll share much more this coming Friday the 5th August from 6pm to 8pm at KICC – Amphitheatre during our Annual Anniversary conference christened, “Where Are Our Fathers?” I encourage you to tag along someone else. Who knows whether your selfless act of inviting a friend/colleague/neighbour/relative may save a family?
Did today’s Daily Challenge help anyone? Let me know your thoughts…
Dr. Kinyanjui Nganga
Chief Mentor – Sense 101 Life Club.