By Chyna Snell
The journey of parenthood: it is a road in life that comes with its own roses and thorns. No two paths look the same, nor is comparison appropriate when it comes to the diverse families that exist in today’s world. To be a single parent in the past meant facing unfair judgment, stigma and even discrimination. In present times, the number of single-parent households is on the rise, and the resources available for single-parent families have increased to meet this need. Simultaneously, the reality of single parenthood has become more normalized. Raising a child without a partner poses unique challenges, though a single parent is capable of bringing up happy, healthy children.
People become single parents in a myriad of ways and for a variety of reasons. For domestic violence survivors who become single parents, learning how to cope with change and deal with both real and perceived losses is a task that both parent and child face. There is hope. No family needs to adjust and cope without the assistance of a support network and community. Reaching out for the help that is available is the outer work. The inner work of a single parent navigating their journey as a domestic violence survivor will take time. It isn’t work that one must figure out on their own. Several strategies exist that can help single parents healing from trauma move forward into wellness, wholeness, and happiness.
Silence the inner critic.
Naturally, one’s priorities must shift when flying solo through the skies of parenting. Take it easy on yourself. You are one person who can indeed do anything, but not everything. You might not be able to cook three meals a day from scratch while balancing work and helping your kid with homework. It’s okay. Throw that five-minute frozen stir fry on the stove and call it a night. Being gentle with yourself means prioritizing self-care. Take care of yourself by focusing on what you can do. Accept that done is better than perfect sometimes.
Let go of the “coulda-shoulda’s”.
Allow yourself to be fully present. All those thoughts about your past relationship, mistakes that you think you made, what could have been–replace them with new intentions. Even if you have to fake it till’ you make it be consistent with positive affirmations that feed your spirit. Give your child the gift of a parent who can model resilience. Whether they’re two or 18, our children are always learning from what we do far more than what we say. If you say or do things to try to compensate for what has been and no longer will be, relieve yourself of that burden. The chips will fall where they may and it’s good practice to make something new of the pieces you do have. Don’t just say that things will get better. Let your kid see you getting better one day at a time. Practice what you preach; you are being watched.
Take comfort in rituals.
There is something to be said for the grounding, reassuring power in having a regular pattern. Give yourself something concrete to look forward to. Even if it’s as simple as sliding into your slippers the moment you close the door on the demands of the day. No habit is too small, and one regular habit tends to snowball into several accompanying habits. Before you know it, you have found a rhythm that keeps yourself and your child-oriented in space-time.
Accept help when offered.
As a single parent, your support network is your lifeline. When you are offered help of any kind–a neighbor bringing over a homemade meal, a trusted relative who will pick your kid up from school so that you can get your nails done–take it. Have no shame. Know that the experience of community and interconnectedness is priceless because we all need to find our tribe. When you lean on your network, your child will learn to form healthy relationships with guides, teachers, and peers.
Keep an open mind.
Being the head of a single parent household is a huge responsibility. Whenever doubts, fears or other self-undoing thoughts creep in, remember to breathe. Be here now. Trust in serendipity. Believe that you’re lucky, and allow yourself to notice opportunities everywhere. It’s only human for haunting old records to replay in our minds, calling all of the ghosts of yesterday to take up residence in our lives. Be not afraid, because every new day brings new choices for us to make. Choose strength, choose your family. Most importantly, choose you.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.