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15 Things Only Single Parents Understand So Well

15 Things Only Single Parents Understand So Well

You might not believe it, but the number of households run by single moms in the US now make up 25% of the total. Single dads come in at 6%. Add the two together and that accounts for about a third of all American households. This may ease the pain and the challenges of being a single parent a little bit. There is also the consolation that March 21st has now been designated as National Single Parent’s Day which recognizes the heroic contributions made by single parents to society.

We cannot forget that the difficulties single parents face to-day are compounded by certain misconceptions and prejudices going the rounds. But there are also happy memories and tender moments you will never forget. Here are 15 things that only a single parent can fully understand.

1. You may not be financially well off

It may just be a statistic and there is, of course, an explanation for it. The fact is that according to Pew research, married moms are earning four times as much as single moms. Sociologists explain this by saying that many single mothers come from ethnic minorities and have fewer qualifications. In addition, according to CNN, raising a kid can cost in the region of $245,000 and your child support may not cover all that. You are only too keenly aware that a single income is going to be stretched to its limit.

2. You do not have the luxury of co-parenting

As a single parent, you can only understand too well what it is like to do everything solo. That will range from running the house, picking kids up, dealing with minor crises and the list goes on and on. You will never have the luxury of co-parenting so it is almost always exhausting. Watch the inspiring video here of how a single Dad in Russia brings up his two boys. You will also see how single dads have got together to lend each other support and fight for more rights for single parents.

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3. You make a superhuman effort to look your best

You have to find time to look after yourself, even though that is an almost impossible task. But look at the benefits. If you are a single dad, your kids will not feel ashamed when you pick them up at school because you do not look like an unshaven tramp. Looking your best and feeling great will rub off on your kids too. It will be a great help to them in facing life with confidence and good humor.

4. You have to put up with the stigma of being a single parent

Society still finds it difficult to fully accept single parents and you always wonder why. The novelist, J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, was poverty stricken as a single mother. But the worst thing for her was the stigma and the patronising attitude of people around her. She recalls working in a church where a woman openly referred to her as ‘The Unmarried Mother’.

5. You now have freedom to do what you want

It is not all hard work and drudgery being a single parent. Do you remember when you had to tiptoe around the house trying to keep to all those compromises? Maybe you never had the luxury of a stable partnership even at the beginning. But now you have the freedom to have your pet cat in bed, go to bed when you want and enjoy a long lie-in (kids permitting!).

6. You involve your kids in decision making.

One great thing about single parenting is that the kids are often much more capable in the house and can do the chores with very little fuss. You have involved them a lot more because you just simply cannot cope on your own. The great thing is that they become much more autonomous and they are also keener to help you make decisions on what to eat, where to go on holidays and other things which directly concern them.

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7. You need adult companionship

While you love your kids to death, there are times when you just want to have adult company. If you are a single mum, you have more opportunities to organize get-togethers and share some of the parenting tasks such as collecting children and taking turns with sports practice. But many single dads find that they are often excluded or that they do not cultivate the same networks that mothers do. If you are a single dad, you often feel you cannot get emotional under pressure as you have to conform to the male stereotype. You are also very reluctant to talk to your male friends about these matters, especially when you are in financial trouble. It can be terrible lonely.

8. You have set rigid rules about criticizing the absent parent

Children have to get used to the constant switching from one home or parent to another when there is a divorce or separation involved. It is less complicated for children of single parents who never knew or can remember the absent parent. One thing you insist on is that you never criticize the other parent in front of your kids. You just hope and pray that the other parent is also following this rule. You know how important it is for the child to be able to love both parents without all the drama. This is why you are really pleased when the kids get excited about their day or weekend with the other parent.

9. You no longer have to negotiate

Do you remember all the negotiations you had to go through when you had to decide with your partner about which school was right for your kid, what the boundaries should be for the kids’ behavior and even what time kids must go to bed? Now you are the one who makes all the decisions and even though some of them may be wrong, you will never have to justify, explain or defend your decisions. What bliss!

10. You are a super role model

The fact that you are now an independent and well adjusted adult is a wonderful role model for your children. You are the one who walks the talk about learning how to get things done. Although you find it frustrating and lonely at times, you are quite proud of the fact that you have built your own support system, complete with emergency procedures for coping when things get desperate. You know that your kids may not be famous but they recognize your efforts for them and that is all you need.

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“I grew up without a father in my life. I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it is because of them that I am able to stand here today.”- President Barack Obama .

11. Your bed is all yours

Ever wondered about all the sleep you lost when you both had to make adjustments in sleeping next to each other? According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleeping together may be great for cuddling up but not when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. They estimate that the double bed arrangement may result in a loss of 50 minutes sleep a night. Now the bed is all yours and you sleep more soundly.

12. You sometimes feel it is all too much

Having a job and then going home to an even more demanding job is putting you at risk of suffering from depression, chronic fatigue or some other illness. You feel that you cannot meet all your child’s demands on top of running the home. You admit that there have been times when you resorted to physical punishment when you were pushed over the edge. You know though, that the best way is to get support from other single parents’ groups or get help from friends and family.

13. You keep the lines of communication open

There are sometimes problems with boys who become very aggressive when the father moves out. You know that you have to tell the father about this misbehavior and ask for his support in helping you maintain your authority. It is even more important to establish common boundaries for behavior so that when kids are with one parent, there is no good cop, bad cop parenting. The best way to ensure this happens is to always keep the lines of communication open.

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14. You know how to work smarter

One of the great challenges is making the best use of your time. I bet that many single parents could run courses on time management because I have seen many of them run incredibly successful homes. They should be a role model for business leaders and many other parents. You know how to plan ahead and organize and you also know how and when to get extra support when you really need it. Above all, you are not afraid to ask!

15. You always manage to see the positives

You know only too well that your love for your kids is just as good, if not better, than those who have a two-parent home. Above all, the absence of a parent does not hinder your child from becoming a well-adjusted, balanced and happy kid. You also know that your children are much less likely to have problems with grades at school or behavior because the main causes there are family conflicts and arguments among spouses. Well, that will certainly not happen in your household!

Featured photo credit: A kid’s Sunday morning at the Beach!!/ Sudanshu Goyal via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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