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10 Things a Single Mom Needs to Say to Her Kids

10 Things a Single Mom Needs to Say to Her Kids

There’s no way to beat around the bush. When my beautiful children were the ages of three and five, their father left us. I found myself facing all the responsibility, all the frustration and terror, and all the pain and sleeplessness of raising two amazing little beings on my own. On good days, I surprised myself with the confidence that I could do whatever it took to make it through the challenges. As the kids and I moved through the years together, I often wondered how they were perceiving the conflict and challenges of our lives.Their understanding of events and circumstances changed during their growing-up stages. I tried to respond to their questions in age-appropriate ways with just enough information to satisfy them at that stage of their lives. It was like feeding them the story little bits at a time, in the hope that it would someday all come together for them.

Now that they are grown up, I want to formally bring all those pieces together. I want my kids to know (with clear adult minds) what it was like for me to be a single mom and how special it was to me, in spite of all the challenges. One more time, in a comprehensive all-ages way, I want to shed light on these things so we can blast away any cobwebs left. I want them to be able to settle into themselves and march forward with peace into their lives.

I hope these 10 things I have said to my kids will help other single moms talk with their kids about this, too.

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To all my raised-by-a-single-mom kids out there…

1. You need to know: Being a single mom was about you, not me.

I admit, sometimes it felt like this single-mom-thing was happening to me. I felt sorry for myself and wondered if I could do it. I sometimes shrunk from the heaviness of my responsibility. However, in the end, my focus always came back to you and what I needed to do for you — and that was my saving grace. Once I got over my pity party and moved past my sorrow and questioning, I found strength in my role as the mom who would help you find your own strength. Yes, I took time to care for myself. I learned to take time away to be with friends and pursue my passions, but at the center of my life was you, and I liked it that way.

2. You need to know: It was hard to be a single mom, but not too hard.

As an adult, you might be tempted to feel sorry for me when you realize how difficult it was for me to be a single mom. It’s important for you to know that I always bounced back from difficulties. I found my dance and came up with ways to deal with seemingly impossible things. It turns out raising you alone wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, I ended up feeling proud of what we accomplished together. We were also very lucky to have the love and support of family members and friends. In a way, your father’s absence was made up by the presence of many others in our lives. You need to know this today, so you can have confidence that you were raised the right way. Knowing that will make you strong. You will face hard things in your life. However, they won’t be too hard. You will have the power to overcome, just as I did.

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3. You need to know: You made me laugh and brought me joy.

The seriousness of some of the situations we were in might weigh on you as you continue to grow and change. Don’t let it! The bad stuff is not at the heart of what we were as a family back then. The great power behind us was (and has always been) love and fun, and laughter and joy. We knew how to do silly dances in the living room when we couldn’t sleep. We knew how to ignore housework and let loose with the bubble guns. We knew how to fun-erize anything that was slightly annoying or boring. We could also quietly analyze life’s problems together and come up with brilliant solutions. We also made jokes or made music to take away the stress. Take no ownership of the heaviness, which I know children of divorce sometimes are wont to do. Without you, my life would have been much less bright. Take those jester’s skills into your future.

4. You need to remember: “Take the good and leave the bad.”

You know this saying well. We used it all the time. Whether it was you-know-who being a little crazy-headed, your friends when they were overbearing, teachers when they just didn’t get it, or anyone or anything else in life, this motto carried us through. It carried us through with each other sometimes, too (wink). It can still carry you through anything life throws your way. Don’t dwell on the bad. Doing that gives energy to the wrong thing, and the bad usually doesn’t truly belong to you. You have a birthright to take the good to heart, embrace it, and make it grow. If you learned anything from this journey at all, I hope it’s that you have a choice in the way every moment of every day of the rest of your life will go. You can make it go well, simply by choosing the good and letting the bad lie.

5. You need to know: Single moms don’t know anything.

Some people would like you to believe I didn’t know how to take care of you the way you needed to be taken care of. On the surface, maybe you realize now this is not true. However, you will be tempted throughout your life to question it, because it’s a channel cut when you were young. Remember that now you know I am an intelligent and capable person and parent. Even if I didn’t know what I was doing sometimes, I figured it out, just as if I had still been with your dad. I don’t urge you to do this for my sake, but for your own. You need to feel the confidence of having been raised by a parent who WAS capable of taking care of you, come hell or high water. You need to know that you don’t know anything either. When you admit this, you will be able to figure things out and take care of yourself.

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6. You need to know: Single moms sometimes make mistakes.

So… having urged you to remember how capable I was, I need to now urge you to remember that I was (and still am) only human, and so are you. Mistakes are in our DNA. If you can forgive me for the mistakes I made as a single mom, you will be able to forgive yourself for the mistakes you will most certainly make throughout your life. We are so much more than the circumstances that surround us. We can claw our way up any hill we fall down. We can figure out how to not fall down again, because we don’t like it at the bottom. Take pleasure in the FACT that you, as a human, with the muscle behind you of things greater than yourselves, have the ability to overcome anything.

7. You need to remember: Mama-Bear power is real.

If you remember, when something threatened you, or when I thought it was threatening you, my single-mom Mama-Bear persona took over, like The Hulk takes over the professor. Sometimes it was the threat of you not doing your homework and ending up living on the streets. Sometimes it was the threat of someone older taking advantage of you, or a friend leading you to trouble. The mama bear in me rose up because my life experiences gave me the ability to see the potential consequences of those situations. First, I want you to understand this because I hope you will love me for it instead of resenting it. Second, I want you to know you have that kind of power in you too. Decide what you care about, then allow your own bear-sized power to rise up and protect it.

8. You need to know: I don’t think your dad is the devil.

Okay, I admit sometimes I used to think he was. He did, after all, leave me to deal with my own little hell of a financial ruin, broken love, logistic catastrophes, social desolation, and a blitzed future. You should probably hear this as adults, so you know it was real. It’s natural that people feel these things, under the circumstances. You’re old enough now to know that I was devastated. And, yes, I blamed him. But you also know I got past it. You also know, without a doubt. that you were not a part of that little hell, in the least. In fact, right smack in the middle of hell, I found heaven: You — and your cute faces, bad puns, and tender little hugs. I figured out how to earn a living, navigate the challenges, find new loves, and create my own bright future. I don’t know your dad well after all these years, but I am absolutely convinced that he loves you and has always loved you, just for you, in the way he knows best. You need to know, I think it’s okay for you to like him, to love him, and to be loved by him. It’s even okay to tell me what you love about him. I know now that he is not the devil.

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9. You need to know: It’s okay to love and get married.

You’ll hear me say, I probably won’t ever fall in love or get married again. But that’s just me. And that’s just now. I’m smart enough to know some relationships work out well, and that’s what I want you to remember. It’s okay to fall in love and get married. It’s one of the great and glorious adventures of life. Just because love brings challenges, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grab it and live it with gusto. Go all the way! Just remember to consider your choices carefully. Listen — truly listen — to your heart before you leap. Give your head enough time to weigh the pros and cons honestly. Then, if it makes sense, jump. Make sure you are treated as well as the other person in the relationship. And be sure you both have the right weapons to fight the battle. Then fight like mad to keep it. If it really is not going to work out, you will recover, as I did. When love appears in your lives, go for it with your whole heart and be happy.

10. You need to remember: I am still here. Being a single mom to you didn’t wear me out.

It’s natural to believe single moms sing the halleluiah chorus when the kids leave home, because they are worn out from years of solo parenting. I admit, I like having my own space now after living toe-to-toe and feeling the weight of responsibility for so many years. But I think you feel the same way, right? You were ready to be on your own when you left home. And so was I. On the other hand, do not ever think I became so worn out being a single mom that I don’t want to be your mom anymore. In fact, being your mom is what I’m most proud of. Being your mom gives me the most energy and joy in my life — still, to this very day. This is a cliché for a reason. Moms feel this way, for truth. So, I’m counting on you to call me when you need a ride to the all-night pharmacy or when you don’t quite have enough money to fix your bike. Text me when you need to brag about your latest creative genius or you just remembered a funny grandpa-joke we used to tell at the dinner table. I’m still here to share life with you through happiness, sadness, frustration, and any kind of hell.

Featured photo credit: Girl Looking at the Sun at Sunrise/Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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