Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale shares some steps towards successful single parenting.
Parenting under traditional settings is hard enough as it is, but to be on your own is incredibly difficult, especially when the reality of what is, is not what you had imagined it to be when you started out with the dream of having a family of your own. Even though not all of us either choose or have the opportunity to marry and have a family, it is innately a large part of who we are, and disappointments around these crucial life passages can be devastating.:
I have the privilege of knowing several single mothers who have an amazing life outlook. They focus on what they do have versus what they do not. Life is not easy – everyone has their struggles….even if it seems like someone has smooth sailing; trust me…you just don’t know the details. While we cannot stop the waves in a turbulent sea, we can learn to surf and love what is versus begrudge what isn’t!
Support can make all the difference in the world.
Establish Personal Support & Connections
While it’s tempting to do everything on your own, I believe in this life we are here to help each other so ask family members or friends to assist. Join a single-parent support group if time allows; Parents Without Partners is one of many good options. Consider joining or starting your own baby sitting co-op with other single moms for those times when you need to run errands or when you just need someone to talk to when you feel overwhelmed; you offer support to them in return. Dial the community resource line 211 where they can give you resources from childcare to support groups.
Moms are not the only ones who need additional support.
Provide Children with Loving Support System
The best thing single mothers can do to help their young children, especially their sons, is to not necessarily get them to talk more but to make sure they are attached to other loving primary and secondary caregivers so that the child learns to develop their own personal system for handling emotion through their connections with a variety of loving adults. We worry so much when the males in our life don’t talk – and we try to make them respond more like we do; but it doesn’t work – not in marriage and not in parenting! Boys process their emotions differently; some of this is because boys are taught to hide pain more than girls, but a lot of it is natural to a male brain.
Male brains are wired differently than female brains. Coupled with different hormone levels and social expectations, boys can in some ways be more challenging to reach and teach. They are naturally more impulsive, for example, because their pre-frontal cortex is less active than girls and develops at a later age, and because they have less serotonin. Girls use more parts of their brains for verbal and emotional functioning, and boys use more areas for spatial and mechanical functioning.
Because of these innate differences in the brain, I encourage single moms to:
Learn New Strategies of Conversation
One way that single mothers raising sons are at a disadvantage is that they have different styles of communication. Girls have a much greater need to connect and attach than boys do. Females bond by chatting before playing together, whereas males bond simply via the process of playing together.
When a father is involved in her son’s life, a mother typically does not have to do too much to extend out beyond who she already is. If she is alone is raising her son, she needs to embrace her identity as a woman while extending herself toward the masculine. She needs to find other ways of processing emotion other than feeling-talk or eye-to-eye conversation. Boys do much better bonding while doing than sitting and talking.
We call this “action talk.” Start conversations with your son after engaging him in physical play, like basketball or baseball, or while driving in the car or biking together.
Increase Training and Financial Stability
Studies show that emotional and financial support is what single mothers lack most. In a divorce, women usually suffer the greater financial blow. In Utah, there are over 18,000 single-mother households living in poverty. Don’t wait and see what happens in life….instead, make the right things happen! Those living in chronic poverty simply lack the skills to obtain and maintain stable employment that pays a living wage. Those skills can be learned through community programs that are usually free-of-charge. You have to be willing to look for them and the take advantage of them when you find them.
The list is endless and many of these resources and even school grants are not used to capacity. People Helping People is one of my favorites and I had the great pleasure of being a mentor for a single mom who went through this program and is now gainfully employed and fully supporting her family. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to see someone else blossom and flourish.
Call 211 for an endless list of abundant resources from childcare to skills training.
People Helping People
Single Mom Foundation
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular contributor to Studio 5. You may contact Dr. Liz about her weekly segments or other questions you may have for her regarding her private practice at firstname.lastname@example.org.