Most people would agree that family is what makes our lives meaningful, our most valuable resource. Family is multi-dimensional: it’s what we’re born into, develop out of, and continue to create throughout our lifetimes. Family carries on long after we are gone. Because of the increase in the rates of divorce and separation, today’s family often includes children, stepchildren, and half-siblings; husbands, wives, ex-husbands and ex-wives; parents and step-parents; and a host of extended family members including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws.
Whether a mother, father or grandparent heads the family, single-parent families share many strengths and challenges. Among the important strengths derived from being part of a single-parent family is learning to work together. This fosters resilience, independence and competence. One of the foremost challenges is learning to become more flexible to be able to confront new and changing circumstances while maintaining important values. Like all parents, single parents need to help their children be strong, optimistic, and enthusiastic about life; and to develop good self-concepts, good relationships, and good coping skills.
Single parents can achieve these goals by adhering to certain principles, attitudes, and methods that are important to all families, and which can be adapted and modified to fit their circumstances. What’s most important is to recognize that you can grow and develop strong, positive, constructive, and emotionally connected lives together no matter what form your family might be.
Take some time to assess what’s really important to you and what you really want. It’s easy to get distracted from your values by the day to day stresses and future worries.
However, what carries you through is keeping in mind your values and the positives in your life. Find ways to implement these values and to keep practicing them until they are integrated into your every day life. This takes time. You don’t achieve your objectives with one try. You have to keep working at it.
One important value to nurture in your family is mutual respect. A good way to learn this is to practice good communication skills. Ask everyone in the family to agree to not be critical of each other and share his or her feelings instead. Always emphasize how important it is for all family members to understand their own feelings and those of other’s. You can model this skill by working hard when you listen to your children, no matter the subject, and take their feelings into consideration when making family decisions. Explain that good listeners do two things: first, they listen before expressing their own perspective; then, they acknowledge the other person’s feelings – what the other person said – before speaking him or herself. When you express yourself, you try to take ownership of your feelings. This fosters mutual respect. Family members need to respect each other even when they disagree.
Along with the importance of respect and good communication, here are five other goals to work toward: