13 tips for single parents: Alone and holding down the fort

OUT to DINNER 1995 copyright Sheila Kimball

It was the breaking of my children’s hearts that was the hardest thing about my divorce.

And realizing that the happily-ever-after I had longed to give my sons had faded like a puff of smoke in a strong wind.

Suffering the fallout of my own childhood wounding, I had unwittingly handed my sons a house divided.

And when it was just me and the boys, the Lover of my soul and the Father of the fatherless came quickly to our rescue.

CHILDREN's DAY AT SUNNYSIDE 1995 Copyright Sheila Kimball

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

SCHOOL NIGHT

GOOFING

AUSABLE CHASM 2007 Copyright Sheila Kimball

SARATOGA BATTLEFIELD 2007 copyright Sheila Kimball

And God taught me much during those days into years as He helped me repent, heal and begin to grow up.

But while my boys grew, the telltale signs of pain, fear and loss were obvious.

Every night that first summer after his dad had left, my son asked me to sleep in his bed while he slept in a sleeping bag on the floor in the room he shared with his brother. He very much wanted me to move the baby’s crib into the room so that “we can all be together.”

Another son declared one day that we “aren’t a real family anymore.”

And sometimes I saw it as they cried or argued with each other when dad didn’t show up for their weekend visitation.

So while I bravely carried on each day, wrestling with my own demons and nursing a broken heart, I kept praying God’s protection over my sons, asking Him for wisdom in how to best bring them up, teach them to understand that He loves them and would never leave, and help them to heal.

And I made a bunch of mistakes along the way!

But my sons are gracious, kind and forgiving. Thank you, boys!

And by the grace of God, I did a lot right, too!

DARLINS OF MY HEART Copyright 2013 Sheila Kimball

Here are some things that I learned along the bumpy road of recovering from divorce. I hope these tips help you single parent your little ones {or bigger ones}.

  1. Let Jesus be the head of your home and keep your relationship with Him very strong. Teach your children well that God really, truly loves them and that He will never leave them. Then make it real! From noting that Jesus occupies the empty seat at dinner to understanding that if they wake up with a scary dream they can call on the name that is above all names {enroute to jumping into mom’s bed!}
  2. Show them by your example that it is possible to forgive the parent who has left. Model to them loving kindness as you speak or deal with your ex-spouse. NEVER bad mouth the other parent or try to harden your children’s hearts against him or her. That doesn’t mean that you pretend it is okay for a man or woman to leave their marriage and family, but you remind them that we are all sinners and God wants and commands us to forgive those who have hurt us.
  3. Ask for your children’s forgiveness. First for your contribution to the divorce. I am convinced that — in the same way a good marriage takes two to succeed — both the husband and wife share the burden of divorce. {In instances of abuse and potential danger, while teaching our children to forgive, we should also teach them wisdom and respect for such instruments of help as court orders of protection and leaving the family home to seek help.} And remember, when you blow it with your kids, say your are sorry !
  4. Acknowledge their pain,tears, fears and frustrations. Listen to your little ones lament even though it will shred your mother’s heart to pieces. Seek age-appropriate counseling or support groups for your children. When my boys were in elementary school there was a program called Banana Splits.
  5. Maintain friendships with families, not just other single parents. Teach your children to choose their spouse wisely and that marriage is for life. Provide the best role models possible of strongly committed marriages.
  6. Remain or become active in a good, local church. Get tied in through regular attendance and classes, church picnics or trips. This extended family can be a lifeline for you and your kids.
  7. Provide extra-curricular activities for your young ones such as sports or gymnastics or dance, but do not over schedule them. Some adults, who fill their emptiness with too much activity to ease their pain, may unwittingly do the same with their kids. Let them be kids with ample time to grieve, cry, daydream, relax and just play. If you are creative, you may want to encourage your sons or daughters to write, paint or draw about their feelings.
  8. Maintain structure and loving discipline in your home. Adhere to bedtimes and make sure all homework is done well. Assign chores and remind everyone that “we are a family living in a home, not a hotel with maid service.”  As my boys got a little older, I would make “job tickets” for them which worked better than my verbal instructions. After I signed off on their completed tasks, they were free to go outside to play.
  9. Eat as healthy as your budget can afford. Teach your children the importance of eating well. Let your kids help you cook or prepare new recipes. We would borrow illustrated library books and cookbooks focusing on countries we wanted “to visit.” Once home we would read together, practice saying a few simple words in another language, draw the country’s flag and then create a simple meal. Some of our table side travels included Sweden, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
  10. Being outside in God’s creation is especially healing and so is exercise. Most localities have ample hiking trails which are usually free. Pack water and snacks in a back pack and off you go. I remember hiking with my three boys up over a hill that had not been mowed in probably forever. My youngest was maybe two and a half and while he wanted desperately to keep up with his older brothers he started to cry when his little legs and half his torso disappeared in the tall grass. Thank goodness for kisses that wipe away tears and strong, young mom arms!!
  11. Schedule set times for you and your friends to do something just for fun! Take your time to heal from the inside out. PLEASE do not rush into a new relationship or marriage. The results can be disastrous!
  12. Remember to laugh often and make time to give and receive LOTS of HUGS!! The only thing that passes more quickly than summer are these precious, often trying days of raising children alone. So hold on tight while you can.
  13. And this above all, pray, pray, PRAY!

Single parenting is one of the hardest things I have ever accomplished. And I never could have done it without the constant companionship and help from my Lord.

He is there for you, too!

~sheila

 

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