FAMILY FUSION: Single parent, value your child
I don’t think I realised how stressed I was, being a single parent. It was really, really stressful. It’s not easy on anybody.
AS A MAN, I will never understand what it means to be pregnant and have the experience of giving birth. I can only imagine what it is like.
However, from all reports, the pain associated with those moments of bringing the child into the world seem to differ from mother to mother.
I have been reliably informed that the foregoing discomforts during birth are often disregarded when the mother holds and looks into the eyes of her little bundle of joy. For some single parents that I have met, however, those pleasant thoughts may be mixed with feelings of sadness because of the unsure and sometimes unsafe environment into which their children may have to enter.
Last week I wrote about single parents valuing themselves. Today I want to challenge you to value your child. In this instance, I will classify a child as an individual falling into the 0-11 age group.
These years are considered very critical for laying solid building blocks in your child’s life, which may help shape and solidify his/her personality for a productive future. Here are some suggestions that can be considered when shaping your child:
• See your child as a gift to be cherished.
Because they are gifts, you must help them develop character and compassion; integrity and independence; discipline and decency; focus and fortitude; self-respect and sound relationships.
Although it may be challenging, you must purpose in your mind to chart a course of destiny for your child as it is your primary responsibility and not first the duty of any other institution, like the school or church.
• Bond with your child.
Bonding takes time, especially at the early stages of your child’s development when verbalising his/her needs is difficult. It is important that as a parent you seek to interpret a child’s requests through their smiles, cries and touch.
Actions such as cuddling, talking, laughing, caressing, playing and holding the little ones close to you, can do wonders for the promotion of trust and intimacy. As your child gets older, building on the early foundation principles will create a safe environment for a healthy growth pattern.
• Understand there are different developmental or transition stages through which your child will pass.
Although children may differ in growth and development stages, there are behavioural and physical patterns your child may exhibit which are normal indicators of their growth. Understanding those displays will assist in guiding you to deal more intelligently with your child’s transitions. Between ages 0-3; 4-8 and 9-11 your child will display different characteristics that are descriptive of normal progress.
For example, a child at two years saying “no” does not mean that he/she is rebellious, but this is a normal way of conveying that he/she is growing up and beginning to exhibit some form of independence.
Of course, you have to make sure that this independent trait is directed in the right path. As your child moves away from age three, she/he will begin to think literally because the brain has not yet developed to process concepts like the 11-year-old.
For example, if you tell your five-year-old to look up and down before crossing the road, your child may look up in the sky and then on the ground, rather left or right. So be careful what you say to them at that age. Check out children agencies in your country that can assist in providing you with information about your child’s transition characteristics.
• Understand your child is wired up differently from any other child.
Treating your child with this knowledge will go a long way in guiding him/her along a unique path. Never compare him/her with any other child. Refrain from saying things like: “Why can’t you be like . . .” or “(name) is brighter than you . . .”.
Such words used on a regular basis may damage your child’s self-confidence and could deprive him/her of a good, secure start in life. Bolster your child’s self-esteem by habitually letting him/her know how special he/she is to you and to God. Also, encourage your offspring to love themselves and not be in competition with or inferior to anyone.
• Discipline your child.
God said in His Word, the Bible, to “train up (discipline, shape) a child in the way he should go [in keeping with his individual gift and bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Discipline should not be interpreted as beating up your child every time he/she does something naughty. Discerning and progressively developing your child’s innate gifts goes a long way in shaping your child’s life toward a fulfilling future.
Setting aside times for play, bedtime, homework, church, social interaction are all disciplinary actions. Speaking firmly and yet loving to your children; and depriving them of things that they enjoy when they violate known rules are good forms of discipline. When speaking to your children, make it a habit from early of making eye to eye contact with them.
Through this, your child will get to know your expressions of approval and your expressions of disapproval. Avoid shouting and screaming at them. As wisdom would dictate, it would be good for both parents to be involved in agreeing on all forms of discipline that should be applied to their children.
• Accept help with your child.
The stress associated with raising these children can be more than the mind and body can bear. In order to get a breather, you need caring family members and faithful friends to assist in periodically helping to lift your burden. I would also suggest that where the other parent is in a position to lend assistance, make all provision for such to be possible. Remember, never try to be superwoman or superman.
As a single parent, do all you possibly can to give your children a solid foundation: mentally, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It may be tough, but never give up on your goal. Seeking help from caring people and institutions can help reduce the stress that you may experience from time to time.
Also, take good care of yourself.
Next week I shall look at valuing your teenager.
• Reverend Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email [email protected]