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What Parents Can Do To Make Their Kids Less Self-Absorbed

What Parents Can Do To Make Their Kids Less Self-Absorbed

Sadly, a 2008 study showed that narcissism is on the rise in college students. Narcissism, according to Merriam-Webster, is caring too much about yourself and not about other people. In today’s self-absorbed world, how can we raise kids who strive to make a difference? How can we teach them to care about others, and instill in them a yearning to improve the world?

Here are some strategies to help your kids be less self-absorbed and enable them to see the world as being bigger than themselves.

Take them traveling.

Spend time together, far away from home. Get out of the daily grind and away from life as you know it. This will enable your kids to realize they’re one tiny part of this giant planet. Exposing them to people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds will expand their world.

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If you don’t have the freedom in your schedule or finances to travel, you can still teach your kids about this huge world. Cook dinners together with foods from other countries, and learn about the people from that region of the world by reading books and looking at pictures together. Teach them that your culture is not better or more important than other cultures.

Still unsure whether or not traveling with your kids is a good idea? Check out this article about the benefits of traveling with your kids.

Fill them with awe.

Paul Piff, an assistant professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, did an amazing study on awe. He has discovered that feeling awe increases altruism. His research has found that even very brief experiences of awe, such as standing near tall beautiful trees, help people feel less entitled and narcissistic. Feeling awe, he describes, helps people feel more connected to humanity.

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Piff describes how society today is awe-deprived, as adults spend more time in the office and commuting and less time truly connecting with others and in the great outdoors. He discusses how the attendance at arts events has dropped and family outings such as camping trips are often neglected. He feels that the awe deprivation is part of the societal shift towards people being more self-focused and less connected to others. To combat this, Piff suggests making a point to experience awe frequently, even in little fleeting moments, such as looking at the night sky.

Give your kids frequent opportunities to feel awe. Take them out in nature. Expose them to the arts. Learn what amazes them and give them opportunities to see it.

Serve the less fortunate.

Practice having giving hearts together, either by volunteering your time or donating to a favorite charity or a family in need. There are unlimited opportunities in the world to serve others. Most likely there are plenty of volunteer opportunities within your own community. Serving others will open your kids’ eyes to the extensive disparities faced by certain groups of people, and will help them learn about the needs within their own community.

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Do random acts of kindness.

Random acts of kindness are an awesome way to serve others. By doing random acts of kindness together, your kids will learn how to make people’s day. Your kids will learn about the act of helping others without doing it for praise or recognition.

Ask them how they think others feel.

Point out to them that their behavior affects others. This will help them learn to look beyond themselves and think of others too. Even simple questions such as “How do you think your brother feels when you take his toys?” can help kids learn to place value on other people’s feelings.

Model good listening skills.

Practice being active, engaged listeners in family life. It starts with you modeling excellent listening skills to your partner and kids. Put away your electronic devices and listen closely to your loved ones. Teach your kids that being a good listener helps others feel valued.

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Teach them the art of conversation.

Show your kids how to converse with others. Teach them the ability to not respond to others with simply “yes” or “no” answers but to ask questions of others and reciprocate in conversations. Teach them to focus on learning about others, asking people how their day was, and the importance of beong curious about people and the world.

Help them find positive role models.

There are young people who are incredibly inspiring, like Ryan Hreljac, who raises money to build wells. His efforts have enabled over 1 million people in developing countries to have access to clean water. Teach your kids that they can make a big difference in the world. Introduce them to positive, service-driven role models.

Do you have other suggestions of how to raise kids who care about others? I’d love to hear them.

Featured photo credit: Hike!/Travis Swan via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Published on September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

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