“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
I read this and I can relate. No, I am not saying I suddenly became wise overnight, but I am saying I started thinking more wisely. The change to solo parenting is certainly an ever-evolving journey to looking more intricately inside oneself… even though life is more full on, a solo parent actually has more mental/emotional space as they are less one adult to be concerned about, for starters. Here are some musings on the changes I have encountered in becoming a solo parent, and how I have helped my daughter to adapt to change.
Instead of competing and comparing with others in the rest of society, I have been comparing my feelings in a situation with how I have reacted to them – along with how I process information, what realisations come from this and how I grow.
As a solo parent, my concerns have become more inward:
- about personal growth that helps me to be a better me and in turn a better parent
- how to parent my child
- how to manage finances to meet her basic needs and provide a safe warm environment for her to live in
- what our future holds and how I can give us the best chance possible
- how my decisions and actions effect and mould/shape the personality and ideas that will form the person my daughter will become.
But let’s be real too: half the time as a solo parent is spent just getting through each day – getting to the end of the day, the kids are “finally” in bed, we finish the dishes, fold the washing, get things ready for the next day, THEN along comes 9 o’clock at night and we finally slump in a chair (maybe with a glass of wine) and breathe a big sigh relief that we made it through another one as we file through emails and Facebook!
Life no longer holds the simplicity it once did when there were no cell phones or computers; mums stayed at home with their kids. We would run outside in the fields and went on secret spy missions in our imaginations, instead of killing baddies in cyberspace. Change was always there too, but probably the rate and extent of the change now is faster, bigger, louder, and dearer. What hasn’t changed, is that change is inevitable. As a friend said, “change is the only thing that is constant in my life”. The exciting and inspiring run off from that, is we are always learning and growing.
I was told regularly through my daughter’s earlier years, that stability and routine were two of the most important things for her. I can understand this, from the viewpoint that having those constants helps her to feel secure, create trust in her world and give her strong foundations to stem from. Managing this was a constant stress for me – I kept thinking that I could make a decision that could potentially really stuff up her whole security, and trust in her world. I openly admit that I can be pretty clueless on parenting at times and often hear myself asking “where’s the manual, c’mon I need it now!” Just as adults are all different though, so are kids, and they all react to change differently. I don’t believe there is one straight recipe for dealing with change. Any parents I have spoken to that have years on me have always said that kids adapt.
Often in a solo parent family, particularly with just one child I think, the bonds between main caregiver and child are very strong – in our instance, we are a two girl team and teams only work if we both work together. With this in mind, I have always talked with her about big changes that will affect her and whenever possible I prepare her for them. I also listen to what she has to say about it and work it out with her to see if there is something we can do to make the change easier. I talk about positive approaches in lots of situations that she is privy to, and regularly use these as examples to give her extra meaning and understanding about life. Our house has artwork with positive quotes on the walls as little reminders, and I keep a couple of books out on the coffee table with positive ways to look at everyday life situations. She is old enough to read these now, and I often catch her reading them and having a giggle.
I have been through a lot of changes in life, travelled on my own several times and lived overseas in different countries, worked in hundreds of different companies, moved house more than 20 times, gone through a life threatening accident and learnt to walk again. I have gone through divorce and became a solo parent. I am thankful that I have been able to deal with everything that came my way, not always without help, but most of the time I have embraced new situations, and have adapted and learnt from them in positive ways. The abilities to adapt and cope with change, are qualities that I have grown to admire in myself and definitely believe these are valuable characteristics for my daughter to develop.
Something that helps me in times of change, is not asking why this is happening to me, but remembering to ask myself: “what am I meant to learn here?” I believe there is a lesson in everything, even if the reason isn’t there yet.
I found a few articles on helping your child to cope with change, and picked out a few pointers that I particularly related to below.
Here are some ways you can help your child prepare for and handle change (Ref: http://www.orecity.k12.or.us/files/KidsAndChange.pdf)
- Do what you can to be available during times of transition and change
- Do what you can to simplify your family life so that you can focus on your child’s needs
- Talk about the change. Talk about what will happen and what the change will mean for all of you
- Acknowledge your child’s worries and fears. Allow your child to feel angry, sad, and confused during times of change. These feelings are normal and your child needs to be allowed to express them
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings and respond sympathetically. You might say, “Yes, saying goodbye to a friend is really hard. That makes me feel sad, too.” Be sure to let your child know that you take his concerns seriously
- Help your child prepare for the move to a new school or town. If your child is going to a new school, visit the school before the first day of class, get a copy of the school newspaper, or go online and look at the school’s Web site together with your child. Try to help your child meet new teachers and staff before the start of school
- Involve your child in decisions about the change. For example, if the change involves a move, let your child choose colours for his new bedroom and arrange his things when you move in. Children typically have no control over the major changes in their lives. By involving and including your child in such decisions, you help him feel more in control of the changes in his life
- Help your child mark the change. If your child’s best friend is moving away, help your child mark the occasion with a card, a gift, or a special event. Keep farewells and goodbyes simple and low key
- Maintain family routines. Knowing what to expect helps your child feel grounded and secure, especially during times of transition. Maintain family routines around bedtime, TV, and family meals as much as possible
- Try to keep other changes in your child’s life to a minimum during times of transition
- Expect that a child who had difficulty in the past with transitions may need extra support during times of change
- Talk with your child’s teacher or child care provider about changes going on in your family life
- Make sure your child eats well, gets plenty of exercise, and gets enough sleep. The healthier and better rested a child feels, the easier it is to withstand everyday stress and to handle change
- Encourage your child to write about worries in a journal
- Show your child the positive ways that you handle change. Talk about how you feel during times of change and about what you do to cope. For example, let your child see the lists you make to help you stay organized and focused
- Have a positive attitude. If you are confident about an upcoming change, your child will be positive, too.