Do you feel stressed parenting as a single mom? Do you feel like your going insane and are unsure on how to continue taking care of the children on your own? If you answered, “yes” you’re not alone. There are many single moms who are struggling to find a way to cope with the daily challenges of parenting. To help understand common parenting challenges that single moms face and how to cope with parenting as a single mom, I have interviewed Parent Coach, Leslie Mayer.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a certified parent coach, through the Parent Coaching Institute, as well as a certified Waldorf teacher. I currently fuse these two perspectives in my work within the public Waldorf school movement by helping support parents as they strive to provide a healthy and respectful environment for their children amidst the chaos of our times.”
“In both of these settings, as parent coach and as Waldorf teacher, I work from the theory of Appreciative Inquiry. I help others hold tight the image of what they want, almost as if it were already a reality, while simultaneously working to remove the obstacles that are in the way of the vision’s manifesting in the family’s life. By carefully placing attention on the aspects of life that we want, those aspects automatically grow into positive forces that turn again and support all other areas of life. When we place all of our concentration on a problem, then the problem is what will grow and our outcomes will be limited by the definition of the problem. In coaching and in teaching, I am always helping parents or children see the larger picture of what can be, freeing movement in that direction.”
What are some parenting challenges a mom faces once they are divorced?
“The over all challenge of single parenting is increased stress. Although the specifics depend on any given situation, there is the same amount of housework, child rearing, and breadwinning to be done by one person instead of two. Divorce can end a life stage that needs ending, but it still leaves the future open and ambiguous. Facing the unknown and the lack of security that goes with it can create fear and anxiety, adding to the stress. If there remains unresolved conflict between the parents, this can add even more stress. Larger families, elder care needs, financial crisis, or the demands of a spirited/special needs child can exasperate the stress even more.”
“On the level of daily life, organization and efficiency are challenges that can make or break any given day. Being focused and attentive to your child in the evening, when everyone is tired, is almost impossible when you do not know what you are preparing for dinner, no one can find the progress report that is due at school the next day, signed by a parent, and the internal guilt for having sent your child to school in dirty clothes is hovering over you. Getting out the door in the morning on time and with everyone ready for the day can be equally challenging.”
What type of impact can those challenges have on the parent child relationship?
“There is positive stress, the kind that motivates us to do better, but the stress we are talking about here is of a different sort. It is the kind that penetrates and seeps into every interaction, every attempt to connect, and deteriorates all patience. A parent who is stressed is at risk for reactive and volatile responses to typical child behaviors, while a parent who is simply exhausted is more likely to neglect some basic emotional needs of their children.”
“A positive parent/child relationship is based on a parent’s attunement with their child’s individual personality and basic child development needs. In order for a parent to be attuned, she must be able to attend with interest and caring to her child’s world. This takes time and focus, which are two things that can be a challenge for a single mother.”
What are some tips you can give to single moms who want to be successful in parenting?
“Focus on rhythm. Rhythm in your daily routine, communication patterns with your children, and self-care. Just as your lungs breath in an automatic life sustaining rhythm and your heart pumps blood without intentional thought or energy, a daily lifestyle based on rhythm has the momentum to carry you forward regardless of immediate strife. When you have the consistent pattern with dinner at 6:30, bath at 8:00, in bed at 8:30, and lights out at 9:00 and me time at the end of the day, the household will soon begin to run on its own instead of depending on the surmountable will of a mother to make it happen each night. We are all creatures of habit.”
“Keep an image of your child at his/her best near your heart at all times. Even the most difficult children have moments of peace and offer glimmers of all that they could become. Sometime you may need to go back far, all the way to the birth, in order to find this image. I hold the memory of a photo where my child is sweetly cradling a stuffed elephant all swaddled in his blanket. He is staring compassionately into the animal’s eyes. Calling up this image when the hormones of puberty take over his body and caring and kindness seem far from his capacity helps me gain perspective and find the empathy to support him instead of just being angry with him.”
“Limit screen time. It seems like a helpful tool to let your child watch a video or play a computer game; he is busy, you get a break, and it is what society as a whole is doing. Really think about it for a minute. If your child is sitting still for two hours before bedtime watching a show, is his body going to be ready to go to sleep? Or is your child going to say, “Wow, I am rested and now I need to move”. This lack of movement is also deceptive. Even though the physical body is still, the brain is highly active in an automatic response mode while looking at a screen. So not only is the body ready to move, the brain is wide-awake and on alert status. This pendulum of energy levels can create distress and non-adaptive behavior in children. By limiting the screen time, you are allowing your child to modulate his own activity level to a more balanced and even level.”
“Take care of yourself. Ask yourself, “What activities relax me? What activities energize me?” Figure out how to incorporate these into your weekly routine. It may be a longer-term vision that needs some temporary installments to get going. Just remember that a few moments for your own can pay back in hours of more manageable family time due to decreased stress. As quick fixes, look into childcare swaps and places that offer onsite child care, such as some grocery stores, health clubs, or churches. Sometimes the opportunity to shop alone can be that break you need.”
What type of professional help is available for single mom’s who want to be successful in parenting?
“There is a new field developing called parent coaching. A coach is not a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor because they are not “treating” a disorder. They are instead a professional support person who can walk along side a parent offering insight and information that specifically addresses the situation and the personalities involved. Anyone one can attend a generic parenting class, but then you leave with generic information and are left on your own to work it out. Anyone can also go to the bookstore and see the large selection on parenting, but it takes time and expertise to weed through all that is available and find the one that is right for any given need. Because the coach is working out of a relationship with the individual parent, the coach is able to make suggestions based on the individual circumstances and is able to meet with the parent over time, helping her make adjustments and fine tune the strategies given. The goal is always to help the parent have confidence and skills in her own parenting, thus weaning away from the coaches support.”
“Many coaches offer services over the telephone instead of in a clinical office. This allows for flexibility in timing and the opportunity to work with coaches from all over the world. As any new field, parent coaching is not yet a licensed or certificated profession, thus the consumer must be careful in selecting who to work with. There maybe many programs for training currently, but I know that one of the original programs that has continued as a rigorous graduate level training is the Parent Coaching Institute. It’s website offers direct links to its graduates’ services.”
Thank you Leslie for doing the interview on tips for parenting as a single mom. For more information on parent coaching, you can check out the website at www.parentcoachinginstitute.com/.
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