6 Tips for Single Parents to Raise Confident Kids
By Elle C. Mayberry
Despite all the scary statistics about children of divorced parents, psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington estimates 75 percent of them “do well after living through divorce.” That’s an inspiring statistic. And though it’s not meant to undermine the distressing process divorce has on children, in her studies, Hetherington found children “are able to cope with their new situations . . . [they] are resilient.”
However, children do not go through something as traumatizing as the restructuring of their world and come out the other side confident and well-adjusted without at least one loving parent guiding them through the process every step of the way. And there’s no way around it, only through it together as a family, no matter what shape the family takes. Here are six tips for single parents to raise confident kids.
1. Live in gratitude, not guilt.
Guilt is a major stressor for single parents. But did you know that guilt is an illusion, a construct of our own self-destructive thinking?
Your stress transfers onto your child. Therefore, instead of giving in to the illusion of guilt, focus on what you’re grateful for. No matter how difficult things get perhaps especially then list things for which you’re grateful. It puts things into perspective and is a soothing reminder that you still have plenty of things for which to be happy.
Reject single-parent guilt and renew your gratitude. It’s a powerful way for you to build emotional intelligence while setting a stellar example for your child:
When life doesn’t go as planned, and everything is turned upside down, remember to be grateful for what you have and that you can find strength and victory in this process.
2. Focus on positive parenting.
Ignore single-parent doomsday sayers. And, like negative people on the Internet, there are a lot of them out there. Nevertheless, as Katie Roiphe reported in Slate, “[two-parent families] do not have a monopoly on joy or healthy environments or thriving children.”
It’s true. Though being a single parent comes with its own set of challenges, if a single-parent household is a healthier environment for your child, then that’s the first thing on your list of positive parenting points to focus on. And an important one, at that!
3. The way you care for yourself will influence the way you care for your kids.
Children first is noble, but not at the expense of self-care. It’s instinctual to care for your children first and to think of yourself second, but it isn’t practical or sustainable. For example, in the emergency airplane cabin pressure scenario, you have to first place the oxygen mask on yourself first in order to assist your child. Should you do it the other way around, you put both of your safety at risk.
The quality of your parenting increases in proportion to the quality of your physical and mental health. Regular sleep, healthy social interaction, exercise, and nutrition, etc. are essential to self-care. Whatever example you set, your children will follow.
It’s no secret children crave stability and security. Maintaining your own health, can bolster their sense of security and confidence and combat any underlying anxiety for all of you.
4. Utilize your support system.
Humans are naturally social beings. And when are put in prolonged, stressful circumstances, healthy social support alleviates the stress and increases our perseverance and positive outlook. Thus, the support system for the single-parent family unit and its individual members is vital.
If you’ve moved or for whatever reason don’t have a readily available support system, find or create one. Your support system can take the form of friends, extended family, helpful neighbors, community support (church, parenting group, etc.), and so on.
Even if it’s just getting involved in your community via social and extracurricular groups, you and your child can benefit from the relationships that naturally form and the healthy outlet such activity provides.
5. Have mindful communication with your child.
Emotions . . . there’s no shame in admitting sometimes they get the best of us. When talking to children about separation and divorce, it’s important to do so when calm and to speak openly and honestly in age-appropriate terms.
It’s essential also to respect boundaries during these talks. Careful not to use negative language in reference to the other parent around your child or engage in any manipulation. Doing so may cause trauma, confusion, and resentment in your child. Your child’s self-esteem relies on his or her ability to trust you. Mindful communication will help you build that trust.
A good marriage and family therapist can provide guidance for healthy, clear communication between family members. You may find family counseling beneficial during times when emotions are running high.
6. Respect the power of routine . . .
. . . but stay flexible! Routine is just one of those things that provide kids with a fast sense of security and familiarity. They can rely on it because they know what to expect from it. And in a time of upheaval, routine can work like a security blanket. Naturally, pulling it out from under your child during a time of need is not recommended. In fact, sticking as close to your child’s usual routine as possible is best.
In the event your family is in the middle of a major move or so much change that a new routine is necessary, you’ll want a routine that . . .
- is realistic not one that will crumble under the weight of your new situation;
- works for your family, not against doesn’t create new problems;
- has a sustainable schedule;
- is affordable;
- is enjoyable work some fun in there;
- allows free time for you;
- allows time free time for the kids free play is just as important as extracurricular activities;
- allows time for you to spend with the kids;
- has wiggle room we all know kids come with endless surprises!
Time with the kids: It’s about QUALITY, not quantity.
According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family the quantity of time a parent spends with a child when he or she is young does not determine the outcome of his or her future success so much as the quality of time spent.
This is a relief for single parents, working parents, and especially single working parents! Knowing it’s not the accumulation of minutes, but rather the memories you make with your child that matter most, bring us back to the beginning: getting rid of that parenting guilt.
And all the tips in between, from focusing on positive parenting to mindful communication with your child, serve as a guide for you on your journey to raising a healthy, confident, successful child.
Though there are good days and no-good-terrible-horrible-please-make-it-stop days and even some best-day-ever days, “The best is yet to come.”
For more tips on raising a happy, confident child, you may also like Teaching Kids Positive Self Talk and 5 Ways to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence.
For more information on this and many other subjects to help you raise a strong child, check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child.
Elle C. Mayberry is a single mother with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and the founder of Tuned In Parents (TiP). She created TiP to connect a global parenting community via sharing knowledge, stories, humor, and tips, and to provide quality content and information for parents interested in child development, health and wellness, education, parenting news and trends. Access and share parenting tips at TunedInParents.com!