While divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end the co-parenting relationship that exists between mothers and fathers. Understanding that your ex-spouse will still be involved in your life when you have children together can be the hardest thing for our clients to grasp. In all other aspects, divorce is about cutting the ties to the ex-spouse. You are dividing property and debt and making one spouse responsible after the entry of the judgment. However, children are not divided by a judgment of divorce and the communication to co-parent the Divorce does not make communicating with the spouse any easier. 

In some cases, one party did not want the divorce, and may have been surprised by the filing. This party is slower to work through their feelings of the end of the relationship. Often times, the feelings bleed into the communication with the other spouse during and after the divorce proceedings. However, there are steps that you can take to keep the communication with your ex-spouse civil and open during and after the divorce proceedings. I have discussed the five most common that I see in my practice. 

First, realize that the relationship is no longer the same. Even if you still love your spouse, she no longer loves you. Keep any thoughts or feelings of love for your ex-spouse to yourself. These thoughts are not appropriate to share. However, if you think your spouse may be open to the idea of reconciliation, recognize that you had a role to play in the breakdown of the marriage. Examine what that role was and if it is possible to repair the damage done in the past to save a marriage. I have seen clients take this action and save their marriage. However, many of them required the assistance of marriage counselor to have a long-lasting impact to their relationship. 

Second, no matter what button your spouse pushes with what he says, do not react with hostility or anger. I have read many emails and text messages where it is clear that feelings of anger are still in play. One wrong word or something read out of context starts a barrage of hateful comments. Your children can read or soon will be reading. If your child found the text messages or emails, would your words demonstrate the type of person you want your children to be? If the answer is no, then sending the quick reply back is ill-advised. There is no requirement to quickly respond to every text or email from an ex-spouse. If his words set you off, have another person read the message. Do they read the same thing you have read? Listen to what they say about the message and then respond using the high road. There is no need to engage in a battle of slinging hurtful things, such as “I will take the kids from you” or “My children will never be with you again.” I have not even mentioned the use of profanity, but just do not use it.  

Third, if you cannot exchange the children without a verbal fight occurring, then agree to exchange the children at a public place halfway between homes. If your children are old enough to walk to the other parent’s home or car, allow them to walk without leaving your car. If you have to get out of the car to help get belongings together for the children, speak only to your children and say how much you love them. Remember to be polite in front of the children. If you cannot speak, just smile. 

Fourth, if your relationship and communication is almost impossible to keep civil, consider using a communication tool. There are many out there from Our Family Wizard to TwoHouses to AppClose. Some of the tools for parents to use charge an annual fee. Others, like AppClose, are free. Several will allow the addition of stepparents, attorneys, or court personnel. Most of the communication tools have additional features such a calendar for sharing schedules and appointments, expense reporting for medical reimbursements or messaging. The use of the communication tool may require a court order that both parties communicate using a particular program as the tools will only work if both parties are using the same one. 

Fifth, give the other parent time to respond. I have seen pages of texts or emails where one party inundates the other’s inbox with messages sent seconds if not minutes apart. This quick fury of messages often indicate that one party cannot wait for the other party to respond. As I read the barrage of messages that had been sent, I see the assumptions and accusations that have been made. As a third party reading the conversation outside of the heat of the moment, I can clearly see which part took the wrong action in the conversation and where it broke down. If I can see it, so will the judge or referee who has been assigned to the case. Text messages and emails sent between two parents can be used in court to prove how one parent is not following the court order. There is no way to prevent them from not being introduced and the words said in the heat of the moment can make a loving parent look controlling or selfish. If what you read makes your blood boil, B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Slow down the conversation and take five deep long breaths. Control your emotions and responses.  

Remember while a divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end a family. Divorce has changed the way your family lives and interacts. As a parent, it is your job to do what is best for your children. This may include shielding your children from the acrimony that parents have for one another.  If your ex-spouse continues to feed the hostility, contact our office for help. 

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Aretha Franklin sang these words in her 1967 song, “Respect.” In a custody case, respect is defined by the judge or the Friend of the Court Referee. But even they have been given guidance in how to define the words. The legislature wrote down twelve factors for determining what is in the best interests of children when a court considers custody or parenting time. One of those factors, MCL 722.23j, addresses the “willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.” 

In a nutshell, this factor evaluates how much each parent shows respect to the other parent. When the court evaluates a parent’s willingness to promote a close bond with the other parent, the court is looking at how each parent acts towards the other parent or what that parent is saying in front of the children. The court looks to prior case law where other parents behaved badly toward one another for guidance. Here are three behaviors that demonstrate to the court that a parent lacks respect for the other parent. 

The first behavior is vindictiveness. When a parent is being vindictive, it is apparent that the parent has or is showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge. This can be outright attempting to destroy the bond between the other parent and child. Some behaviors that might demonstrate to the court that this is occurring are scheduling activities or allowing the child to schedule activities during the other parent’s parenting time or berating the other parent in front of the child.  

The second behavior is informing the child about court proceedings. Often, when one parent is sharing details of ongoing court proceedings, it is done with the intent to place the other parent in a bad light with the child. I have heard of parents communicating to their children, “Well, Daddy is trying to take you away from me” or “Mommy does not want us to have any fun.” No matter who is sharing, it is emotionally harmful for the child to be dragged into adult proceedings.  

A third behavior is showing an uncooperative attitude toward parenting time. It can be the little things done consistently over time that demonstrates this is occurring. A parent can be late in returning the children or having them ready for parenting time. A parent can unilaterally decide that parenting time should be canceled because of weather, the child’s activities, or illness. This parent will often talk using “I know” or “my child.”  

If you are experiencing any of these types of behaviors from the other parent, the solution is not to retaliate. Instead, team up with the attorneys at Melissa Pearce & Associates to find a respectful way to address the problems. Call us today to schedule your pre-engagement meeting. 

When I was growing, we did not hear about things that are common today. Some of what was not common for me as a child are peanut allergies, gluten-free diets or celiac disease, or anxiety in children. I am not sure what changed. It could be an increased awareness, genetically modified plants, or several other reasons. But as parents, we can help to reduce the anxiety our children feel and raise our children to be mentally strong individuals. I have found the following seven tips to be helpful in raising children to cope with twists and turns of life.

First, teach your children to handle change and in positive ways. Change is a part of life. Nothing stays static even things that appear to be static. In science, we learn that even the tall tree in our backyard is changing, even if we cannot see the change. The change is often measured when the tree is cut down and its rings of growth are measured. When scientists measure the difference in the rings of growth, they can tell if the tree endured hardships, droughts, fires or had a year of plenty of rain to promote growth. Unlike trees, there is not a clear way to measure how the changes in the world affect our children’s mental health. From a young age, we should be teaching our children how to positively handle the change in their lives.

One way to help children positively deal with change is to teach our children to journal and write down how things are affecting them. Teaching your children to keep a gratitude journal or general journal is another way to prepare them to handle life in positive and healthy ways. By encouraging a gratitude journal, you will teach your child to overcome self-pity and other bad habits and destructive self-talk. It will teach your child to focus on the positives in life rather than dwelling on what is going wrong. Over time, your child will boost their self-confidence and learn pro-active problem-solving.

A third thing to do with your children to promote a strong mental health is to allow the child to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Teach your child that failure is an option. When I was younger, no one stopped us from building bike ramps or swinging in the tops of neighborhood trees. However, when an injury occurred, we were taught about the consequences of our choices. Discussions focused on what decisions we made and what we should have done different, i.e. don’t swing from the tops of trees like Tarzan. Learning from our mistakes included errors in homework, chores, and play. I remember my brothers fixing the holes that they put in the walls from their roughhousing or fights.

Along with teaching children that it is alright to make a mistake if they learn from it comes teaching your child to take responsibility. Without being able to take responsibility for actions, a child cannot fully learn from their mistakes. Allow your child to explain what they did and thought process, but do not allow excuses for their actions or blaming another for the decision the child made. This was often taught to me by my parents saying, “If Johnny was jumping off the bridge, would you follow him.” While it seems outlandish even today, their point was received. I had to be responsible for my own actions and decisions and not follow my peers.

A fifth tactic is allowing your children to face their fears with minimal interference from you as a parent.  Encourage your child to take small steps in overcoming their fears. Cheer them on when they accomplish a small step toward overcoming the fear. Celebrate their newfound bravery. Recognize the growth in their self-confidence while monitoring for foolish behavior. We often do this when we teach our children to swim. We allow them to float while holding onto their sides and then slowly remove our hands away slight to show the child that they are doing it all on their own. Apply this same technique with any fear your child has whether it is sleeping in the dark, talking to new people, playing outside, or trying a new sport or activity.

A sixth technique is teaching your child to handle loss or losing in sports. When I was a child, every game included a score, a winner and a loser. Now, as I watch my grandchildren play, there is not a scoreboard. Parents are asking if they know the score. Everyone wins and receives a participation trophy. We are forgetting about teaching our children how to lose as a good sport. How to control our emotions when things do not go as we planned. Polarity, or opposites, are healthy. How can your child know happiness if they have never felt sadness? How can your child know the thrill of victory, if they never felt the sting of defeat? How can your child understand how it feels to be first, if they were never last? Teach your child losing a game is not the end of the world or reflection on their abilities. There will always be someone who can do something better, but that does not diminish their value.

A seventh tip is to allow your child to be a child for as long as possible. Often, I hear about children being dragged into adult problems, such as divorce, and asked to weigh in. Your child is only a child once and the wonder of the world as they experience it is so easily tainted by our life experiences. Allow your child to wonder where rainbows end and what is at the end. Allow them to ponder why the stars do not fall from the sky. Refrain from asking which parent they want to live with more or which parent they love best.

If you need further help in finding ways to raise your children to be mentally strong, call our office for links to other blogs or a referral to parenting coach.

This past Sunday was the Mother’s Day. I recall how hard Mother’s Day was when I was divorced, especially when my children were little. They did not have the resources available or the ability at times to do anything special for me for Mother’s Day. After the children started school, Mother’s Day was about the special art projects they made for me in school and to this day, I treasure each one of them. I recently had a conversation with a recently divorced mother of children under the age of four. The day was equally as hard for her and she was fighting back feeling angry at her ex-husband.

This mother was already planning to help her children do something special for their father on Father’s Day. Her frustration arose out of the fact that he did not do anything to help their children do anything special for her for Mother’s Day. What she was feeling is not unusual for many of our clients with young children. The other spouse does not consider what can be done to help the children show their gratitude to a parent. I have heard some individuals justify their actions by saying that the former spouse is no longer their spouse, so why should they do anything.

Celebrating Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is not about the spouse or former spouse and the relationship that they have with. It is about honoring our parents for their sacrifices and the hours that they devote to their children. Just because you are no longer married does not diminish the role the ex-spouse plays in your children’s lives. Ben Affleck took the time to honor Jennifer Garner on Instagram this Mother’ Day by posting “Happy Mother’s Day to the two incredible mothers who have shown me the meaning of love.”  I am not saying that you should show up at your ex-spouse’s house and make breakfast in bed or post on social media a tribute. However, take some time to see how you can support your children in how the children want to honor their parent.

The actions you take can be as simple as helping the children make a card for the other parent, coloring a flower pot and planting a simple flower for mom, purchasing something for dad that supports his favorite hobby, or buying a gift card to a restaurant so the children can take their parent out to eat. The actions should be suitable to the children’s ages and own desires. For your younger children, under the age of 5, you may have to make some suggestions on what the child can do.

When you take the time to help your children honor their other parent, you teach them how to respect other people even if they are not liked. Your children will pick up on how well their parents get along after a divorce. The time and effort you spend helping your child honor their other parent is a life lesson that only actions can teach. Your actions will speak louder than the words you say to your children. Ben Stich, a mediator and licensed social worker, says you can minimize the negative effects of divorce by going “out of the way to make sure their child honors the other parent’s birthday and Mother’s and Father’s Day.”

If your family has blended with another family after divorce, respecting the new stepparent will create the same lesson on how to treat others. It may be difficult to watch your child shop for a “new mom” or a “new dad” but showing your child how to love more than one person is invaluable. In addition, you are demonstrating to your child that changes in life do happen, and the new spouse deserves respect just as much as you do. Write a new rule for honoring your ex-spouse as you help your child show love and gratitude to the other parent on special holidays. It can change how your children view marriage and divorce as they grow into adults.

There are dangers now in allowing our children to play outside unattended. Neighbors may call the police because your school-aged children are walking alone to the park or the local bakery. It started in Maryland in April 2015. A couple decided to allow their children, ages 10 and 6, to play at the local park unsupervised. The police responded to the call and the parents began a fight with Child Protective Services (“CPS”). The news media dubbed them “free-range” parents. Maryland law at the time prohibited children younger than eight years old from being left unattended in a dwelling or car but did not reference young children playing outdoors. The parents appealed the findings of unsubstantiated neglect by CPS. In June of 2015, CPS cleared the parents and closed the case. In an email responding to requests for comments, DHR spokeswoman Paula Tolson said, “A child playing outside or walking unsupervised does not meet the criteria for a CPS response absent specific information supporting the conclusion that the child has been harmed or is at substantial risk of harm if they continue to be unsupervised.”

The search for parents arrested for allowing their children to play outside unattended, walk the family dog alone, or walk to the neighbor grocery store resulted in more than ten pages of results across the nation. With this trend to accuse parents of neglect for allowing their children to play outside unattended, we are quickly becoming a nation where are children are not free to play as children and grow from their mistakes. But what can you do as parent, who wants their child to be able to play outside without constant supervision?

First, know the laws of your state. In Michigan, child neglect is defined under MCL 722.622(k) as “harm or threatened harm to a child’s health or welfare by a parent, legal guardian, or any other person responsible for the child’s health or welfare.” The law further clarifies that this can occur by either failing though financially able to do so or failing to seek financial or other reasonable means, to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care. The also says that neglect can occur if the child is placed in an unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare when the responsible person failed to intervene to eliminate the risk or has or should have knowledge of the risk. While Michigan does not say that children playing outside unsupervised places them at an unreasonable risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare, a parent must assess the known or reasonable scenarios that can arise from allowing your child to play outside unsupervised. Some obvious risks of harm include crossing streets, darting onto a busy street to chase a ball or other object, known criminal activity in the area, or traffic flow through residential neighborhoods.

Second, determine what is safe for your child to be able to play outside and teach your child from a young age what to do. While it is not advisable to allow a toddler to play outside unattended, consider allowing the child to play in their own yard with brief moments of running into the house while keeping an eye on the child to retrieve a glass of water or a toy. Stress the importance of not darting into streets or blindly walking across the street. Teach your child to never leave with a stranger even if they were told that you sent them. This should include anyone in uniform. Provide your child with a means to communicate easily with you, such as a cell phone. Consider sending an older child with your child to watch them. However, what is a suitable age to supervise another child, babysit should be followed. In Michigan, CPS recommends that a child as young as ten years old can be left home alone and there is no law saying how young a babysitter must be. It is decision that each parent needs to make. Jeanne Hannah, an family law attorney in Traverse City has written, “The State of Michigan Child Protection Handbook discusses ‘Improper Supervision’ and states: ‘According to the Child Protection Law, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. It is determined on a case by case basis but as a rule of thumb, a child 10 years old and younger is not responsible enough to be left home alone. A child over the age of 10 and under the age of 12 will be evaluated but the case may not always be assigned for a CPS investigation.’”

Finally, do not allow your children the age of ten to play outside without some type of supervision. For your children over age of 10 and under the age of 12, be cautious about what they can do outside without supervision. For children over the age of 12, encourage them to put down the remote controller to their favorite video game and go outside and play. If your child loves video games, consider starting a neighborhood live action role play group. This allows the children to dress up as their favorite video game character and play the game with other children. Of course, restrict the live action role play to non-violent video games. Start a neighbor football game, basketball, or baseball game. If your child loves to skateboard or do tricks on a bike, consider building an area that allows them to practice.

If you have encouraged your child to go outside and play, then find CPS knocking at your door. First, you do not need to let them in your house without a warrant. Often, they will be accompanied by a police officer, but they either need a warrant or your consent to enter your home. Second, be polite and respectful. Third, inform the worker that you would be happy to schedule an appointment to speak with them with your attorney present. Then immediately call an attorney knowledgeable in the child protective laws to be your voice. If you need an attorney, we can help you find one.

When it comes to getting a divorce, there is difficulty in keeping the matter between the husband, the wife, their respective attorneys and the court. A divorce is a matter of public record. In addition, extended family and friends will soon realize what is happening, especially after one spouse leaves the marital home. However, there is one group of people that need to be shielded from the as much of the divorce process as possible. That group is the children of the divorcing couple, regardless of their age.

Children have no place being in the middle of their parents’ divorce. However, children are often dragged into the divorce by parents or extended family. While a parent cannot control what other people do, there are things a parent can do to avoid dragging the children into the middle of the divorce. The first thing to do is agree to have a “child-centered divorce.” This means that the children are intentionally shielded from the emotions and drama that arise during the divorce process. This involves hiring attorneys whose practices support child-centered divorces and creating a plan together as parents that prioritizes the needs of the children over the parents.

The second step to take is minimize all conversations and arguments that children can potentially overhear. This includes telephone conversations where the children are nearby and not in the same room. As parents, we are not always aware of what children can hear when we are not actively paying attention to them. In fact, children can be quite sneaky in walking into a room their parent is in. I know that my children and grandchildren have surprised me many times by being right there when I thought they were somewhere else. What a child could overhear can have long-lasting effects. I still recall the arguments my parents had when I was a young child and the pain is just as real today as it was when I overheard my mother threaten my father to withhold his parenting time. Although she had sent us to our rooms, she forgot how the sound traveled through the walls. The therapists have said that the conflict children overhear during divorce proceedings can have long-lasting mental health ramifications.

Another important step that parents take is to minimize the negative impact to children is to avoid speaking badly of the other parent or allowing others to verbally bash the other parent. Children identify with both parents and can internalize these comments.  Other steps include to avoid asking the children to take sides, sending paperwork or messages back and forth with the children, asking the children to keep secrets or lie to the other parent, asking the children about what happened at the other parent’s house, or threatening to withhold parenting time because of an argument or non-payment of child support.

When parents take these steps to have a child-centered divorce, they are teaching their child how to resolve conflicts without drama or emotions. This is not to say that there is not emotions or drama, but the individual arises above the emotions and dramas and is able to make hard decisions that benefit and prioritizes the needs of another person. If you are looking for a child-centered divorce attorney, then look no further. It is my mission to change the way parents approach the divorce process in Michigan that creates a positive and loving environment that children can thrive and openly love both parents. Contact us to your first meeting with the team today.

Asking for help as a single parent can be difficult, but it is a sign of inner strength. Only you will know when you need help, what kind of help is needed, and who is the best person to provide that help to you. It is the asking that is hard. This is because of a mindset that we have developed about asking for help or fear of the need for help being relayed back to the other parent, especially when there was a custody battle in the divorce. But there are some places you can try first.

One place to turn for help is friends before family. Often asking friends for help is less complicated and emotional than asking family members. If dad or mom is not exercising their parenting time, ask a close friend to step up and attend events in lieu of the other parent. It will help your children feel connected to their classmates and not worry about not being able to attend special events, such as Daddy-Daughter or Mother-Son dances. I know how important this was to my oldest daughter as a young child when a couple I was friends with took her out to buy the special outfit and shoes, did her hair, the photos and the husband escort her to the Daddy-Daughter dance with a corsage. It made her feel special, and she was able to attend with all her friends from school.

Friends who know car repair are another place to ask for help with basic car maintenance. These friends can even accompany you to the mechanic to ensure that you are not being taken advantage of or merely provide you the ride to and from the mechanic’s shop.

Local people that you know at your child’s day care or classroom. Establish a babysitting co-operative where each member agrees to babysit in exchange for equal time with their children. This is a great way to be able to run errands or go to appointments without your children and scheduling play dates for them. In return, you can give back to other parents, even if they are not single.

Colleagues from work or study groups. Be able to spend time with other adults is critical for your sense of well-being and developing new friendships. When you have young children, a lot of your day being spent around child-centered activities. Be able to go and hang out with other adults will balance out your days between being a parent and being human.

Therapists and other professionals are good resources for when you need expert or specialized help. Therapists can help you process your emotions as you transition from a two-parent household to a one-parent household. They can help you evaluate how you are dealing with different situations as a single parent. A family therapist is also a great place to discuss different parenting techniques, especially when you have multiple children who can often times try to tag-team on their newly divorced parent.

Knowing when to reach out to an attorney to assist in post-judgment matters can save frustration in the future. We have seen clients who have tried to handle post-judgment issues themselves only to be tricked by the ex-spouse or the attorney for the ex-spouse. It is wise to have someone who is not emotionally invested in the outcome be your voice of reason.

If you find yourself needing to know who to reach out to in your local community for help, then call our office to inquire who we have on our Team 100 community referral list. We will introduce you to a professional we know, like, and trust who can help you

Being a parent is hard. After nine months, we have a beautiful child placed into our arms and there is no instructional manual. We may have our spouse besides us encouraging us and give us needed breaks. But when couple divorces becoming a single parent is hard. There are feelings of failure or embarrassment. The divorce process takes the parent through a range of emotions. During the whole process, parents are learning how to parent their children from two different households. This is harder than dividing assets.

Whether you are in the beginning of a divorce, the middle or the end, learning to put yourself first while meeting the needs of children is essential for your emotional well-being. Here are ten simple things you can do every day to put yourself first.

  1. Sit down for 5 minutes in silence. Just sit and be. Daily life as a single parent means that your children will turn to you for everything that they need from lunch money to bedtime stories. Be sure to take at least five minutes a day for self and just enjoy in the quiet.
  2. Take a bath or hot shower before bed. You can tie this activity in with the previous one. Enjoy the time and let “Calgon take you away” from the day’s stressors.
  3. Watch one of your favorite movies or cartoons from when you were a kid. Let your mind drift into nostalgia. Pull out your favorite Disney movie and rediscover it with your children.
  4. Listen to your favorite music and sing along—loudly! Dance to it. This is an activity that can be done with young children and allows them to burn off energy before having to go to bed.
  5. Say no. Don’t overcommit. You only have 168 hours per week. Be sure to save some of the time to take care of your body, mind and emotional well-being. While saying no may be hard, your life will better for doing so.
  6. Set realistic expectations for yourself. Say no to your internal perfectionist. Friends used to comment on how clean my house was when I was single parent. Little did they know that every night I would clean up every room. It took an accident for me to realize that it is alright for the house to be slightly messy when I go to bed at night. The most important thing I needed was sleep and not a clean house.
  7. Exercise regularly. Even if it is just a quick 5-minute power walk. Everyone has time for that! Exercise with your children. Turn off the electronics and technology and go outside and just have fun playing. When my children played sports, we would work on the skill drills outside together as a family.
  8. Make a list of 5 things each day you are thankful for. Gratitude changes your attitude. Seriously dig deep on this one. I heard this recently on a podcast that I listen to. When you have an attitude of gratitude, you can withstand the struggles of life easier.
  9. Laugh out loud. Whether it’s by watching funny videos or reading something, be intentional to make yourself laugh. This goes along with the attitude of gratitude. Divorce can deflate your feelings of self-confidence or self-worth. Give yourself the boost you need by intentionally trying to laugh and be joyful.
  10. Put down your technology. It is one of my worst time wasters that I always regret. Often, I have said it will just be a few minutes, but technology can quickly dominate hours of my day, if I not aware of how much time I am on the computer, the iPad, or the phone. Put the technology down during dinner time and engage with your children. Recently, one of my grandchildren had to remind her Papa that she was right there during dinner. Children are only little once and there will be a time when they do not want to interact with parents.

I spent eleven years a single mother and learned through the eyes of others just how strong I was at that time. Those outside observations and my reflections have shown how my inner strength as a single mother shaped my children into who they are today. From those observations that I had been told, I am able to encourage clients about to become single parents. I have listed seven of those observations to help you become a stronger single parent.

Be focused and goal oriented. Know what kind of life that you want to provide for your children and achieve them. Friends would tell me that they admired my focus and drive. Back then, I did not fully understand what they were seeing. I had visions for myself and my children. I knew where I wanted to raise my children and what beliefs I wanted to instill in them. This was my focus and I did whatever it took, including swallowing my pride, to achieve them. It was not easy, but the visions would motivate me to keep moving forward and to not allow the financial struggles or daily setbacks to halt the progress forward. Today, I watch my adult children set their own personal and family goals that are focused on building a better life for their children.

Be well-organized. Schedules and planners were my best friends as single parent. I allowed my children to follow what their passions were and that meant that I would to coordinate five different schedules. Our days were planned from the moment that we woke up to the moment we went to bed. I had established time frames for doing homework, having dinner, getting ready for bed, when to put away toys and belongings for the night, and quiet times in the house. For some of the children, the schedule helped them thrive and for others, it allowed them to know what was expected.

Be flexible. Having four children to raise on my own meant that something would not go as planned. Sometimes, the bus would be late to drop off a child from an out-of-town game. This would mean finding ways to communicate when the bus was back in town in enough time to minimize wait time in a car with siblings that were tired and needed to go to bed. Appointments would go longer than expected. Life would just happen, and I had to be willing to adjust and pivot quickly.

Be involved with your children. While my children played sports or participated in other extracurricular activities, I was always involved with them. Sometimes, I would volunteer to coach a team, which minimized the financial costs. Other times, I made a point to be at every game that I could attend and cheer for my child. There were times my children did not appreciate my sideline encouragements and requests were made that I not be so loud, but I was present in their lives. But I watched them grow and develop their own independence and confidence.

Know when to be independent and when to ask for help. I learned how to repair my car, re-caulk a tub, and many other tasks that typically live on a list for husbands. I did not allow my gender to be a reason for why I could not do something. However, I knew when something needed the right person to do the job. When my son’s baseball bat catapult went through a window, I was able to reach out to friends who knew how to replace the glass in an older wood-framed window and where to obtain the glass. I would exchange babysitting with other single mothers to be able to run errands or do my Christmas shopping.

Believer in yourself. There will be many times that doubt will creep in and try to convince you that you are ruining your children’s childhood. But if you act with their best interests in mind, they will know it. While you are one parent in a child’s life, know that it is enough. You are not perfect, and you will make mistakes. But from those mistakes, you will learn how to be a better parent. Keep a journal and document your journey. You will amaze yourself on how much you can accomplish whether out of necessity or because you want to.

Give back to others. This will be difficult on days you are exhausted or when money is tight. But find small ways to give back to others. Do not be afraid to let your children see your generosity. Let your children observe what a charitable heart looks like and why it is important to lift others up in their times of struggle.

Being a single parent is not something to be ashamed of. It is a just a stage of your life. Embrace the life lessons that you will learn and the personal growth that you will realize. If you need help finding resources in your community or a plumber, call our office for a referral to a member of our Team 100.  We are happy to recommend local professionals and technicians in the area that we know, like and trust. 

Last month, we tackled teen dating violence head-on. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When I was a child and young adult, domestic violence was not something that was talked about. It was still a skeleton in the closet. It was not spoken about and friends were not brought home out of fear that it would happen again. Those who lived daily with domestic violence did so in silence and feeling alone.

However, today that is changing. Now, we are saying “No More” to violence in relationships, whether dating, married or divorced. There is an organization called No More Project that is fighting to end domestic violence and sexual assault. You can visit their website at www.nomore.org and learn more about domestic violence, sexual assault, and how you can help end the violence.

But to end domestic violence, we need to shine a light on it that is so bright that there are no shadows to hide in. One-third of women will experience domestic violence or sexual assault during their lives. As a child growing up in a house with domestic violence, I did not understand that we were not the only family where this happened. I did not understand that other families in my own neighborhood were experiencing this as well. I did not know the impact of the domestic violence I witnessed would have on the choices I would make as an adult. It is just not one third of women who are experiencing this, but their children who witness the violence and aftermath of it.

In addition, 65% of those who come forward say that no one helped them. The biggest key in ending domestic violence is to do something and not simply stand by silently observing. Be a friend who listens and helps create a plan to leave in safety. Be a friend who watches young children, so papers can be filed at the local court for personal protection orders. Educate yourself on different ways you can help. No More Project has a page dedicated to providing tips and scenarios. You can access it at https://nomore.org/learn/bystander-scenarios/.

If you have a friend or family member who is in a violent relationship and they are ready to break free, be their support as they go through the process. Accompany them to hearings, appointments, or offer a safe place to stay. If your friend needs legal help in filing for personal protection orders, call our office to schedule an appointment.