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Raising Strong Children from Shaky Relationships

By Sylvia Wells

I always wanted five children, just like my mother. Even knowing they would all be boys in accordance to the needle and thread test I did when I was about ten years old. The funny thing is that, although I planned to have all these children, I didn’t put a second of thought into who their father would be. Fast forward thirteen years to find myself in a short term relationship with an egomaniac and holding a baby boy in my arms. Fast forward another five years and I’m a single mother of an only child. I was blessed with remarkable boy, but now that I was single I couldn’t imagine having any more children.

It was somewhat disturbing and yet comforting to know that almost everyone around me seemed to be in the same situation. Either they were single mothers or weekend dads, all trying to juggle their own lives and children that were sometimes there and sometimes absent. It is not natural for a parent to be away from their child for extended periods of time during their youth and it does not go without repercussions on both parent and child. The situation can easily affect a child’s character now and later in life, it is all in the way the parents handle their responsibility to the child that will either help or hurt them in the future.

Some children become spoiled with parents who try to outdo each other with game systems and toys. Other strong children sadly get completely neglected by parents too interested in their own lives to worry about the damage they are doing to their children. My son, I fear, is suffering from an over-loving mother who kisses and coddles him every chance I get. Goodness knows what that will amount to emotionally when he’s older. His father is the self-involved type so maybe it will even itself out.

Fast forward another few years and I have a lovely little house with a man that came into my life and loved me so much that I wished I’d met him ten years ago and did things right. Meaning marriage and then children. However, he did it in that order himself and it didn’t work out for him either. He brought with him a couple of precious parcels (not baggage). Two daughters. He is a weekend dad. Together we’ve done our best to create a stable home for all of our children to flow in and out of with ease. They all have their own rooms, their own possessions and they are all considered an equal part of the family. Structure for young children is key to helping them cope. Each child is responsible for cleaning up after themselves and we routinely gather as a whole for meals, movie nights and outings.

There are so many factors to consider when you are a parent of a child in a separated situation. What should always be top of mind is your child’s mental health and how your actions (or reactions) are affecting them. For instance, your attitude toward their father or mother. If you have a negative attitude toward the only other person who they love as much as you, well, how can that not be confusing for them? It is best to keep your opinions to yourself when little ears are listening.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that when your children are away for a few days and then come back, there is an adjustment period for both parent and child. The fathers’ in this case seem to suffer this more severely due to the more extended periods away from their children. You just get used to the freedom of going about your business and now have to focus on being a parent again. Not being used to having children around makes a person somewhat less tolerant of the noise and whining and neediness of children when they come back home. At the same time, the children have just adjusted to all the rules and behaviours of one home to be tossed back into another home with a completely different set of rules and behaviours to adjust to. So both parent and child are stressed and a little less tolerant of each other for a day or so during the weekly transition. Sadly for the fathers, this takes away a good chunk of quality time with their kids in that the first day is usually spend banging their heads together.

The only suggestion that I have to smooth this transition is to create a tradition, something that is expected by both sides at each weekly reunion. The most effective would be something in the form of a decompression chamber which can translate simply to sitting down for a quiet dinner and talking about the week behind and the week ahead. Reconnecting is vital to any relationship and it will make the transition smoother and more enjoyable for both parent and child.

Managing stress is a technique that is essential to any adult wanting to keep their head above water in a separated family situation. Especially if you have more than one person with children from another lifetime in your relationship. Sporting events and family activities become the epitome of awkwardness when so many separated parents are facing their exes and trying to be civil in front of the children. It’s somewhat comical if you can image what they would rather be saying than, “Hello” to each other. Schedules and routines are nearly impossible to manage as well if you don’t learn fast how to be organized, coordinated, and keep an open line of communication with your child’s other parent. The last thing you want to be responsible for is Grandma missing Junior’s school recital. A nice trick to relieve stress as a couple is if you can manage to have the same weekends away from your kids to vent and recover together before they return.

There is a new generation of children being raised today. I could argue that children who come from separated families are more likely to be successful. They are able to cope and handle stress better than others if they are given the right tools by their parents. That is, if the parents are good at coping and dealing with stress themselves. It is absolutely essential in these situations to pass down strategies to your children and find ways to help each other as well. Children from separated homes are likely to be more compassionate people as they are able to identify that there are always two sides to every story. And if parents aren’t careful, another thing that children from separated families can grow to be is manipulative. That is if their parents allow them to run the situation themselves and manipulate one or both of the parents into giving them what they want through guilt.

As it stands, our little family is not perfect, but I think we’re on the right track. We cannot control the actions of our ex-partners as they pertain to our children no matter how frustrated we may become. However, we can certainly control how we deal with those problems and how we manage the children while they are under our roof. Plenty of patience, empathy and authority are needed to be a good parent. Nobody said parenting was easy. I’m here to tell you that the new generation of parenting is hard work but can be done successfully if your mind and heart are in the right place. Don’t forget to enjoy your children and your step-children too. Remember what it was like being a kid and try to make sure that they get all the love and support and discipline that they need to grow up strong and healthy in mind and in spirit.

Author Bio:

About the Author: Sylvia Wells is a working mother from Oakville with one son and two step-daughters who knows that she is not the only one who finds it challenging to be a parent at times.

One Response to “Raising Strong Children from Shaky Relationships”

  • When we were kids we really had a lot of crazy ideas. We thought we could do anything and we really didn’t think much of how we would do it. For the author, she said that “she wanted to have five children” further stating that she was not “even planning who the father would be. I can also say the same for me wanting to be an astronaut, yeah i know it sounds common, without even thinking of the things one will go through to become one. But I can be thankful to my parent that they made it possible for me to dream like that when i was young. Even for others, we can only be thankful that we were able to dream just about anything we want to dream about when we were young. And as we grow, we turn out to be just fine. We can say that our parents raised us well. Now as we grew to an adult, we face reality and we narrow our dreams to something achievable and reasonable. Raising a child is not a business, it’s a life. We should help them dream like how we did when we were their age. We should help them enjoy their youth, for when they grow old it will be those things that they’ll be looking back. Let’s make sure there’s a lot of them. Because as an adult who’s already working, time passes by so fast and we can hardly enjoy it anymore. It’s just the joy of seeing our kids enjoy that we can also enjoy.
    By the way, i found out about this website http://www.nurturenetwork.com.ph and it really helped me a lot with my questions about raising a child, family health care and things like those. They also have a free consultation to doctors, pedia and even dentists. You should try it out. 🙂

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