Dr. Kevin Leman: The Six Keys to Successful Single Parenting

More than 25 percent of children in the United States are being raised in a single-parent home according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ten million of those homes are maintained by women. Though there are many ways to become a single parent (divorce, death or even through adoption), Kevin says all parenting has challenges but single parenting has additional ones. “If you want to succeed as a single parent,” says Kevin, “keep this in mind: challenges are simply challenges, not insurmountable obstacles.”

He says an important consideration is that single parents should not strive for perfection. “There can be a happy ending,” he says, “if you do things right. But you can’t make your kids happy at every turn.” After counseling thousands of single parents and their children, Kevin discovered six keys to single parenting that works.

Key 1: Create a plan. Look at the whole picture of your life, where you are and where you will be.

Key 2: Know yourself and your child. Helping your chld means starting on yourself first.

Key 3: Gather a team. Being a lone ranger can be lonely so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Key 4: Focus on the ABC’s. Acceptance, Belonging and Competence.

Key 5: Know what to say and do when kids ask. Hard questions come up. Know what to say.

Key 6: Realize it’s not about you. It’s about the kids for now.

The key to single parenting doesn’t lie with your child’s relationship with schoolteachers, youth leaders or coaches. Kevin says the key lies within the parent…in the relationship between parent and son or daughter. “It’s thorugh your eyes, your behavior, your words and your thoughts that your child learns about her self-esteem, her worth in God’s eyes and how to relate to others,” says Kevin. “Those things affect not only her present, but her future and the generations to come.”

Guilt is a feeling that many single parents experience. Kevin says neither spouse was the sole reason the relationship failed. “Guilt only serves to drag you back face-to-face with your past,” says Kevin. “Grace, on the other hand, frees you from the past and enables you to look forward in confidence and hope.”

Kevin says there are three mistakes a single parent doesn’t want to make.

#1 Avoid moving. When the family’s foundation has been severely shaken, many parents want to leave that home behind. Stay put. There are exceptions, for example, if the family you have around you is toxic, or if the town isn’t big enough for both spouses, etc.

#2 Avoid letting grandparents parent your children. With the daunting responsibility of parenting alone, who wouldn’t call Parent 911? Grandparents can serve as wonderful coaches, but they can’t take completely over.

#3 Avoid jumping into the dating game. Also, avoid getting back into a relationship with your ex. This is an extremely vulnerable season of life and plunging into another relationship during this period is simply trouble.

If possible, Kevin says don’t start dating until after the kids are 18 years old and out of the house. He says by waiting, you make things as smooth as possible for the children. Realistically, with only 24 hours in a day, dating requires a significant portion of time and energy. “If you want to raise healthy kids, waiting to date is the best thing you can do for them,” says Kevin. If you are going to date, be sure that person can emotionally adopt your kids. Never remarry until you are able to release your children to the new mate as if they were his or her own.

Kevin notes we all have 24 hours a day. Too many single parents take on the same load as everyone else rather than adjusting their lives to the time that they have. Learn to say no. Limit the number of activities your family is involved in. Allow kids one activity per term. Say yes to doing things together. Presence with your children is far more important than anything else.

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