As a parent, it is our job to do all that we can for our children. As soon as these little people enter the world, they captivate our minds and our hearts. More than anything else, parenthood becomes the moniker that defines us. We teach our children all that we can about people and the world – how to co-exist in this life. That is where relationships come into the picture.
What children know of the world first comes through their family, namely their parents. The home is the first classroom and mother and father are the first teachers. While kids may not be able to articulate all that they see (depending on their age), they are clever mimics. Many parents have been surprised more than once by kids imitating them in front of other family members or complete strangers. They are always watching even when we believe that our actions are unseen.
Relationships are a part of life. As we grow, we develop connections with parents, siblings, other family members, friends and the all-important romantic associations. No matter what the nature of the relationship, the structure of them all begins with the parent-child bond.
There are many nuances to meeting and establishing bonds with others. In this report you’ll discover some tips for teaching your kids about healthy relationships with other people. Furthermore, this report speaks, in particular, to single moms and their children. Babies don’t come with instruction booklets which makes our job challenging in the first place. Secondly, when love goes wrong for the parents, one may be left alone to carry the primary weight of caring for the children.
Single moms have a lot on their plate, not the least of which is instructing their little ones so that they may grow and develop stronger bonds than they themselves have sustained.
Advice for Moms and Their Children
Boys and girls can be as different as men and women. There are characteristics that they exhibit that make educating them about romantic relationships unique. First, however, here are a few tips for single moms to remember when dealing with their kids of either gender.
* Listen to what they have to say – We know that kids love to talk when they are young. It seems that you can never get a word in edgewise unless they are asleep. This is the perfect time to practice active listening skills. Did you know that listening is an art form? You’ll appreciate that when they become adolescents and then teens. You won’t be able to pry a syllable from their mouths. When they are ready to open up to you about something important to them, make the time to hear what is being said.
* Cultivate an atmosphere of honesty with your child – Children can see right through a ruse. When you omit facts (okay, it’s actually lying) to spare their feelings or your own, they will know it. The result may be anger or a few secrets on their part kept from you. Neither is a favorable result. Explain things using appropriate language for their age level, but keep things on the up and up with them.
* Take responsibility for your actions – As a parent, you are also a role model, whether you want to be or not. Take care that you handle relationships and situations with an eye for your kids in mind and what they will gain from it. Show them that it is okay to say that you are sorry if you are at fault, and try to make amends.
* Apologize when appropriate – Kids are people as well and want their feelings to be respected. To promote a strong sense of self, allow your kids to see you ask for forgiveness when you are wrong. An apology releases both people from the burden of carrying guilt or anger. It can quell a potentially inflammatory situation by prompting both parties to respond in a non-defensive manner.
* Accept disappointment as a part of life – Life is full of times when things just don’t go our way. Children need to know about the bad times as well as the good and how to deal with it in a positive and productive manner. The circumstance surrounding the fact that you are now a single parent could make you want to be bitter towards their father. Instead, show your kids how you can pick yourself up and keep moving forward each and every day.
* Allow your kids to make some choices of their own – At each stage of their lives, kids can benefit from increased responsibility when they are ready for it. Resist the urge to sugar-coat the outcome of their decisions. Let them deal with the consequences and learn to make even better choices in the future.
* Celebrate your children as themselves – Each child, while having the same mother, may be as different as night and day. Resist the urge to compare them to one another. Show interest in their likes and hobbies in an effort to build self-esteem and self-worth.
* Openly discuss romantic relationships – This subject is just as important as talking about drugs, alcohol and smoking. Today, teenagers are not only dealing with hormones raging but also emotions that may be brought on by unhealthy relationships at home. Physical, sexual and verbal abuse are not okay in any relationship. Talk about some of the behaviors that characterize relationships where one person is being harmed in this way.
What can you do to assist your children with growing up well-adjusted so that they form nurturing and healthy relationships with their partners? Sure, all relationships won’t be full of bliss and many will end. We are not talking about feeding them a fairy tale but providing them with realistic skills and expectations to handle interactions with the opposite sex no matter what the outcome.
When your child knows who they are as individuals and how to behave in a relationship, as far as it depends on them, their future partner will gain the benefit. That is all we can ever hope for as loving parents.
Raising a Son as a Single Mom – How to Teach Your Son about Relationships
Let’s begin at the beginning. The popular party line in society is that boys raised without a male figure in the home will be the worse for it. It is detrimental to downplay the role of a male figure in the life of male children. However, dispose of the party line as quickly as you can. It does not have to define the relationship with you and your boys. Being a single mom is not shameful (at least not in American society) and it does not hinder your male children from becoming responsible, respectful and loving young men in their relationships.
As a mom, baby boys can be scary anyway. We were little girls growing up, not little boys. We thought they were icky. How will we raise them properly? The pressure is off a bit when there is a male parent in the house. As a single mom, this is not how it’s going to be. If the father wants to assume an integral part in their lives, it’s all good. If they do not, your child can still become a strong, confident young man.
How Can I Raise a Confident Son?
The first thing that you need is confidence in yourself. It’s never easy to raise a child by yourself, but you can handle the challenge. Use some of the following suggestions to formulate a plan to give him the best example for life and relationships that you can.
* Stop believing the hype – As long as your young man grows up in an atmosphere of respect, self-assurance and love, he can learn the most positive way to treat others. Not having a man around won’t make him soft or a pushover with women in relationships.
* Learn the “daddy stuff” – In relationships some things are often labeled “mommy stuff” and some are labeled “daddy stuff.” But, just because you are a woman doesn’t mean that you can’t teach your son some of the predominantly male activities: changing the oil, fixing things around the house, learning about football, mowing the lawn, defending themselves, fishing and the like. As a mom, you might enjoy learning these skills to help you now that you are the sole provider for your kids.
* Resist talking bad or down about men in your life – This includes their father first and foremost. It’s easy to badmouth him if the relationship went south because of something he did or if you are bitter about him leaving you. A male child may pick up on this in a negative way. Without hearing their father’s side, their view of you or other women may dim as they get older and understand more about the opposite sex. Find a support group if you need one to get your feelings out constructively, and not in front of the kids.
* Find a male role model – This person may be another male relative who lives close by, a Big Brother, a Boy Scout leader or a sports coach. A male that you and your son trust can teach them certain tasks as only a man can. The company of another male might make it easier for your son to discuss concerns about adolescence and puberty as well as confusing feelings about what has happened between their parents.
* Seek activities where there are male instructors – This might be a sporting activity, church group or other program where you might find a male person in charge. Just observing them in this type of leadership role can do wonders for your child’s confidence in who they are.
* Don’t be afraid to give them a “women’s perspective” on life – What better way for your young son to learn how to treat a girl than from a girl herself? As their mom (and a woman) you can teach them about politeness towards girls: opening a door for them, how to ask them on a date, paying for the meal or a movie and asking their opinion. Through your insight they can learn about female body language and how girls act at different ages.
* Open communication – Most men are not big talkers like women. Maybe it’s in their DNA. As a single parent, your time may be limited by the need to provide for your family outside the home. As your son grows, learning subtle body language can assist you with knowing when they really need to talk but don’t want to say anything. Make it a bit easier by broaching the subject of a talk yourself and then listen to what they have to say.
* Avoid common pitfalls of raising boys as a single mom – One of the major mistakes that some single moms make is turning to their son or sons as the new “man of the house.” The truth of the matter is that even though your partner no longer lives with you, the burden of provision is on you, not your child. A son is not your husband or confidante. They depend on you and should not be burdened with adult issues such as divorce or dating.
* Spend time with them – Divorce or separation is as rough on your child as it is on you. To avoid issues with anger, depression and disappointment that can go along with what a child perceives as abandonment, make them feel special. Even if it is only pizza and a movie one night a week, carve out a little time to spend with them where they are the center of attention. It may strengthen the mother-son bond and foster greater communication.
Children often believe that a parent leaving is their fault. Show them through actions like this that this is not the case. Show love as often as possible to counteract these possible feelings.
* Demand respect from the men in your life – It is not unrealistic that single moms will decide to try and find love again in their lives. Instead of hiding your love life from your child, let them know that you may date again. When you do, conduct yourself accordingly, so that your son can witness first-hand how a male-female relationship is conducted. The way that you want him to treat a prospective mate is the way that you would like the men that you date to also act towards you.
* Deal with disrespect right away – As a parent, you are always considering your child and that includes when you begin dating. Don’t let anyone you date speak down to you, yell at you, hit you (even if they say it is a slip), blow the horn for you to come outside or any action that would be demeaning to a woman. If you allow this to happen to you, your son may view it as acceptable for him to do as well.
* Take care of yourself – As a woman and a single mother, staying healthy and strong means that you will be there for your children. It also means that you care enough about yourself to care for your body and your mental well-being. Show your son that it is okay to take time to love yourself.
* Observe his relationships – This means all relationships. Allow him to have sleepovers or a night in with his friends. Give them a modicum of freedom (depending on their age) but listen for any signs of trouble. You get to know his friends and he gets to feel comfortable at home and know you trust him. With girls and dating, don’t be afraid to do a little role playing to help him practice up on his gentlemanly skills.
* Point out positive male role models and their qualities – It may be an athlete or even a teacher at school. What is important is to make a verbal note of something positive they’ve done so your son can see the good side of other men. This includes their father as well. Your relationship with him may be over but theirs is not and still needs to be kept as positive as possible.
What are some of the characteristics of a strong man? Here are a few to teach your son:
– Respects others’ opinions
– Works together with their partner to solve problems and make decisions
– Knows that violence in a relationship is not acceptable on any level
– Accepts his share of responsibility in a relationship
– Understands that “no” means “no”
– Has enough respect for himself not to participate in any activity he doesn’t feel comfortable with
Raising a Daughter as a Single Mom
This is a big challenge. We were once girls and oh my! If they act like we did, everyone’s in trouble. For you, it might seem like a case of looking at a miniature version of you, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your daughter is an individual with her own dreams and way of thinking. To reach her and teach her, this truth you must remember. Show her the path to true love and acceptance of herself as a way to find healthy relationships.
How Can I Raise a Confident Daughter?
Daughters are an entirely different animal than sons. Whereas sons usually don’t like to talk or express opinions openly, daughters are often ready to talk non-stop all the time. And, they are never at a loss for speaking their mind – on any subject. You have your work cut out for you from the start.
Another thing to know about daughters – most are “daddy’s little girl.” Losing their father makes them feel like they have lost a part of themselves. They may even blame you for his leaving, seeing your arguments and/or fights as the reason for the break-up. Before you lash out with words that can be as hurtful as hers, understand that she is hurting too and most likely doesn’t understand everything behind your relationship woes.
For all of their talk, daughters are fragile in many ways. Losing daddy may feel like their fault; if only they had acted better or said the right things, he might not have left. No matter what has been said, this is not true.
Here are some tips to help you raise a daughter who is confident in herself, well-adjusted to society and a formidable partner in any relationship she may have in the future.
* Don’t rise to the occasion – It seems to be easier for mothers and daughters to fight than mothers and sons. Maybe it’s the extra X chromosome; who knows. What is true is that if your daughter raises her voice, it is up to you as a mother to make the choice to stand down. Walk away until you and she can discuss the topic with cooler heads. What she says might hurt you, but realize that she is a child. Become the bigger woman and put aside your feelings to get at the heart of the conflict.
* Love her through it all – Lashing out can be a result of a divorce on a child. Grades may slip, friends may change, and attitudes may get worse. It will be a tough time for both of you. Resolve to love her no matter what she does and to continually try to be there when she needs you.
* Don’t become her best friend – This is the worst move any parent can make but especially a single parent. There needs to be a line drawn between parent and child that remains unbroken, at least until you are both adults. A child may have many friends but only you as her mother. At first it may be fun but things can quickly go awry. She may believe that she can live without rules because both of you are on the same level. That includes weighing in on your dating behavior as well.
* Choose another confidant – With only you and your daughter in the house, talking to her about your problems may seem natural, but do your best to avoid it. She is not your friend or confidant. Discussing marital matters with your child saddles them with information they don’t need to know. It encourages her to take sides in the issues between you and the father.
Children in single parent homes often grow up faster than others anyway because of added responsibility. Placing your burdens on top of that can almost be too much to bear. Besides, it also colors their view of men and romantic relationships.
* Avoid male bashing – Kids hear everything. If you are in the same house as them, be careful about what you say to friends, on the telephone and even to their father where they could be within earshot. At best they might think you are a bitter woman who can’t hold on to her man. At worst, she may believe that all men are not to be trusted (yes this is worse). Find a better outlet for your hurt feelings towards your former partner.
* Date with discretion – It is not fair for men to be able to date without backlash while women are scrutinized. If you are a single mother, it seems that you should always be home living like a nun and raising your kids. Divorce or a break-up is unfortunate but it doesn’t require that you do penance for the rest of our life. Discuss the fact that you want to date again with your child. Get their opinions but let them know that you have the final say. It is important that you introduce your children to a date so that he knows you have kids but also so they can see the type of man you are choosing.
* Date only those who are worthy of you – This is what you would tell your daughter. Should it not be true for you? Before you date again, it may be helpful to decide what qualities you desire or don’t want to see in a man. These qualities are the same that you will be teaching your daughter to value. Ask that your male friend treats you with respect and values your feelings. Show her how a lady should be treated by a man who says he likes or loves her.
* Cultivate the mother-daughter bond – Moms and daughters are often too much alike to see eye to eye on things. Take the time to celebrate her and her accomplishments. Whenever possible, share in her interests. Spend time together doing something that she enjoys. Encourage her not to give up when she experiences a setback, and point out the benefits of perseverance.
* Keep the lines of communication open – The trick with girls is actively listening. They like to talk, which can make us lazy when it comes to paying attention. Take her issues seriously and encourage her to find solutions in an effort to cultivate problem-solving skills. As she gets older, allow her to take more of a leading role in making decisions and accepting the consequences.
* Don’t tell too much – This is along the same lines of the taboo of making your child your confidant. In an effort to teach her about relationships, using examples from your own life is alright. Leave out a lot of the more colorful events. It might send the opposite message to her. She will then believe that she can mess up quite a lot and still turn out alright. That is not how life works and it may not work that way for her either.
* Avoid sugar-coating relationships for your daughter – Women are traditionally more romantic than men. They are likely to believe the “happily ever after” can be theirs in every relationship. Not to burst their bubble, but discuss what real relationships are like. Boys her age are awkward and nervous and not likely to sweep them off their feet. Hormones are shooting all over the place and both parties are often uncomfortable with their feelings. Prepare them for the fact that life doesn’t always imitate art. Prince Charming might have pimples but he can still be a nice guy if he respects her mind and her opinions.
* Talk to your child about sex – It is everywhere these days. The last thing you want is for her to be desensitized to it and feel like it is just “something that kids do.” Giving herself to another is meant to be special and mutual, not forced or simply something to pass the time. It has value when she places value upon it.
* Set dating rules – This is to protect her and set boundaries. Let her know that you want to meet the young man just like you would invite your date in to see your kids. It is an act of respect, not spying or distrust. If she doesn’t already have a cell phone, allow her one so you can stay in contact should she need you. Also, set rules for guests when you are not at home.
What are the characteristics of a strong woman? Some women who are assertive and know their own mind are labeled as “bossy” or “pushy” or the “B” word. Show your daughter that no matter what anyone else says, being strong is a positive trait and she shouldn’t be afraid to be herself. A strong woman:
– Speaks her mind with respect to her partner
– Can make decisions for herself
– Refuses to do anything that makes her feel uncomfortable
– Expects equal rights in a relationship
– Is confident in herself
– Doesn’t have to accept violence in a relationship for any reason
– Knows that sexual relations between two people should be consensual and never forced
Unhealthy Relationships – Discuss the Signs with Your Child
Whether male or female, enduring violence in a relationship is never okay. While boys and men are usually the perpetrators of violence, it is not unheard of for women to be the catalyst for destructive relationships. They utilize different tactics (subversion, manipulation, emotional blackmail), but the results are still the same – an unequal relationship where one partner is under the control of another.
The cause of unhealthy relationships can begin in the home. Children imitate what they see. That makes it even more crucial for single moms to maintain communication with their children and also foster self-confidence. Unresolved feelings as a result of a divorce or separation can turn into unhealthy relationships with the opposite sex.
Here are some signs that your son or daughter may be involved in an unhealthy relationship:
* Makes excuses for their partner’s behavior
* No longer spends time with family and friends
* Low grades (this one may also be a result of the divorce)
* Unexpected injuries
* Withdrawal from hobbies, interests or normal activities
Your child might also be the aggressor in an unhealthy relationship. Signs include:
* Possessiveness towards their partner
* Belittling their partner
* Constantly trying to take control of the situation
* Constantly keeping tabs on their partner
Some teens, especially those who have experienced something traumatic at home, are at risk for getting involved in an unhealthy relationship. In the midst of the busyness and craziness that accompanies single motherhood, pay attention to any changes in your child. They might include:
* Anger issues
* Drug or alcohol use
* Experiencing violence in the home
* New friends who are prone to violence or violent lifestyles
* Low self-esteem
As a single parent, you want the best for your children. It can be hard to see the bright side of every situation all the time. You have bad days yourself. It’s okay. In order to give your child the best image of healthy relationships, they need to see all aspects of it. Show them your struggle and also how you deal with it. Let them see your strength despite the circumstances. Take time to care for yourself because you are valuable and deserve to live a good life even after divorce or separation.
The discussion about relationships can never start too early. Kids are most impressionable in their early years of life. Give them the tools to treat others well, make their own decisions and also problem solve situations in their lives. Questions should always be age-appropriate but they can be posed something like this:
* How do you want others to treat you?
* How do you feel that you ought to treat people?
* How does the person you like make you feel about yourself? Do they make you feel good or terrible?
* What are the traits you value in a mate? What is a deal breaker for you?
* How might you deal with disappointment or a break-up?
Will your son or daughter become a good partner for their future mate? Hopefully they will. Single moms often worry about such things a lot. When you strive every day to live the life you want for your kids, they see and know. The best thing you can do is foster honesty, love and self-respect.