The children in my class were all turning ten that year. The girls enjoyed helping with tasks in the classroom and would often chat to me companionably while busy. One situation in that group comes to mind as I write about how single parenting can be more effective with a team.
Sasha was excited about the upcoming holidays because her father and stepmother was expecting their first baby and she would be there for the happy arrival. She anticipated helping with the baby and being part of it all. When she returned to school, I noticed a change in her. Sasha was quiet and withdrawn and her face looked peaky. She didn’t volunteer to help me but kept to herself. During class I noticed she was restless and tired and her spark had gone.
After a few days, I asked her to help me with a task once all the other kids had left the class. I asked her about the baby and her time with her father. Sadly, things didn’t turn out as she had hoped. She was finding the changes difficult to accept and was confused about the signals that she received from her dad. She wasn’t feeling well. Actually, she didn’t feel like eating breakfast and didn’t fancy her lunch at school, so after a bite or two, she was tossing the rest in the bin. Things were tense enough already so she didn’t want to worry her mother. She wasn’t eating very much at all.
I asked her if she would like me to talk to her mother and after processing some of her hesitation, she agreed. I was able to arrange a meeting with Sasha’s mum and gently explained what Sasha had shared with me. Thankfully, the story had a happy ending as I was able to help mother and daughter hear each other and Sasha was given the support she needed to cope with the changes in her life.
From solo to team
Parenting solo can be difficult. Keeping all the plates spinning, processing your own emotions, supporting your kids and adjusting to a new life is a tall order. At the end of the day though, it is the kids that we worry about the most. If they are coping, we can breathe. But how does a single parent ensure that they have their finger on each child’s pulse? It feels close to impossible, but it doesn’t have to be.
A great strategy is gathering a TEAM around you. Take stock, who do you have?
In chapter one of the Mending Chronicles of Liam and Emily, there is an activity in the Work it Through pages called ‘who loves me?’. The purpose is to help the reader recognise the people they have in their lives who love them, as a strategy to combat feelings of rejection. There are two categories – those who are super close and special and those who are loving and kind but not as close.
If you had to apply this activity to a team of people who could help and support you, who would you identify in the category of super close and special? Who has your back and knows your kids? Who do you trust, and who will give you the kind of feedback and help that works for you? This is your team!
Your team can help parent when you can’t anymore. They can:
- bring in the fun when you have no fun left
- pick up the pieces when you can’t see where any of them landed
- bring in the sunshine when the grey won’t go away
- change the solo to team
- say things that you know are truth.
Team also extends to those people who can be your eyes and ears around your kids when you can’t be there. Who are your kids talking to and who would pick up when your kids are off-kilter? Who is a safe space for them? These could very well be the people in your second category.
The next step after identifying your team is to activate them. Give them permission to help and support you. Initiate conversation about how your kids are doing. Be open to their feedback and suggestions. Let them in. Sasha’s mother could have been defensive and the situation could have ended differently. Fortunately, she was open to what I had to say and I’m glad to have played a minor role on her team.
Remember to thank your team too. Let them know that you see their contribution and you’re grateful for their support. In darker moments you may not even be aware of the effort some team members make. That’s okay, but some day you will. Be sure to thank them anyway, even though a chunk of time may have passed.
Trusted and caring friends and family are our most precious asset. No man is an island, we need each other. After divorce, these amazing people become like rafts, carrying us away from the dark depths to the shallow waters, where we can have sure footing once again.