You are the only parent of your children. You wake them up, feed them and take them to school. You take care of the house, or maybe you go to work. When you return home, you are still the only adult present. There’s no one to help you process your day. There is no one to share your laughter or pray with. Instead, you keep working. You clean up your house once more. You prepare lunches for tomorrow. You eventually fall asleep, knowing you will do the same thing tomorrow.
This is not a scenario many people can imagine. It can be overwhelming to try to accept the new reality of parenthood, whether due to divorce, loss of a spouse, or if you have a spouse who is away for extended periods.
Mary, a single mother for nearly 20 years, found these strategies to help her family not only survive but thrive. Continue reading for four ways to improve the relationships between your children, God and God, and you and God.
1. Take care of you
Remember when the flight attendant taught you safety tips about how to put on your mask first and then that of your child? Gary Brown, a marriage and family therapist, often asks single parents. There’s a reason. You may not be able to care for your child if you don’t care.
Mary learned this lesson when she became a single mother. This meant that she had to take the time to grieve the loss of her husband, find ways to recharge through walking or gardening and give herself a time out when she felt overwhelmed.
2. Allow yourself to grieve, and encourage your children to do the same
Mary understood that she had to allow herself to grieve. She would push herself too hard, do too many things and eventually become useless to her children.
She advises that you take time to grieve, regardless of whether you are grieving the loss in a marriage, the loss of a spouse, or the loss of your husband or wife as they travel out of town. Do it after the children go to bed, and don’t forget to cry. If you don’t, you’ll be tempted to get lost in other things.
Mary would keep her genuine grief to herself after her kids went to bed. However, she was determined to model healthy grief for her kids, encouraging them to grieve in their ways. She explains that she encouraged her children to express their emotions through writing when they were old enough. Moving forward with a healthy family starts with finding ways to express your grief. This may mean seeking counseling for yourself or your children.
3. Counseling is available for both you and your children
Mary wanted her children to receive counseling after her divorce so that they could process all the emotions.
Brown suggests that licensed counselors with specific training, education, and experience working alongside parents can be instrumental. As a single parent, you will probably discover many new and exciting aspects about yourself that will enhance the quality of your life and that of your child.
4. Model forgiveness and teach
Mary writes that she encouraged her children to forgive their father and me and to see God as the perfect parent. I reminded them that forgiveness is not something that happens once and for all. It’s not that they were wrong; it’s about releasing the person to God and being free of bitterness.
It is essential to model forgiveness and honor the other parent. Your children will see you holding grudges against your other parent and expressing disapproval of them, which can lead to bitterness.
Make sure you create opportunities for your children to forgive their parents and encourage them in these relationships. This will help you model forgiveness for your children by being open about the fact that forgiveness comes first from God.