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Single Mothering: Life After Divorce

Building a Better Balance

There is a fine line between enjoying a healthy relationship with your children and making them the center of your universe so you can avoid getting back into the adult world. If you make your children the center of your world to the exclusion of everything else, you and they will have a much harder time if you find a new mate in the future. You limit your options and may create an emotional dependence that is not good for your child. If you are a single parent you do not want to create a situation that stifles growth and independence.

A child can never get too much love and support. One of the fun parts of being a mother is the chance to develop a whole new relationship with your child. You may have more time to spend with your child as a single parent because you do not have the distraction and demands of a mate, but you want to avoid leaning too heavily on your child for emotional support.

When I was a single mother and my older daughter was three years old I loved taking her places with me. It was a wonderful time that both of us still remember. She was great company and I was grateful that I was not so distracted by conflict to have missed out on the bonding that took place. I made special efforts to go to fun places because it was good for both of us.

Learning to Say No

I did, however, get into some bad habits that you would do well to avoid. My daughter and I had a little too much fun accumulating things. It is very hard to say no to a child when it is just the two of you. You want to overcompensate for so many things. There is nothing terminally wrong with it, but habits are difficult to break.

As the child grows older and develops more expensive tastes you will probably not have the budget to keep up the pace. You also don't want to send the message that your child is entitled to compensation because something's wrong with her. I have had to undo some of my earlier choices. It is easier to set better limits from the beginning. Single moms sometimes have trouble with the “n” word. We are afraid that somehow our children will stop loving us.

Maneuvering Around Manipulation

Discipline works with divorced children as well as it works with children from intact homes. It is just a bit more difficult to administer because of all the mixed emotions involved. You don't want to lose your temper, as is perfectly normal under the stress of a divorce. But you do not want to be afraid to be firm.

Just keep this in mind: Children in single-parent homes are master manipulators. Unless you are a clinical child psychologist you will never fully know when you are being played. Your children don't do it with malice. They just learn how to get what they want by playing all sides toward the middle. They have instincts to create equilibrium in any way they can—sometimes by manipulating parents to buy this and buy that.

Keeping the Peace with Your Ex

Your children's manipulation can also extend to the creation and maintenance of conflict between you and your ex. Children sometimes create situations to keep their divorced parents battling. It is a mechanism to maintain security with the emotions that are already known. Conflict has a type of comfort zone if it is what the child knows.

Be aware that your child may be the mastermind of some pretty intricate schemes. You don't want to be overly paranoid. You do not have demon possession in your midst. You just need to stay focused on what you know is right for your family unit. Do not get pulled in directions where you do not want to go.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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