One of the toughest things for many of us single parents is to set and maintain firm boundaries with our kids. Without another adult in the house to bounce things off of, and for companionship–we may turn to our kids as companions and end up with more of a “friend” relationship than a parent-child relationship. While having a close, bonded relationship with our kids is a good thing, have unclear boundaries around who is in charge and responsible isn’t.
Making sure to have some balance in our lives helps. Having other adult friends and family members we can turn to for support and encouragement, and keeping ourselves from feeling isolated is an important element is being able to set clear expectations about adult roles and responsibilities and those of the children. If we keep a solid “adult life” for ourselves, we’re less inclined to turn to our children for support and encouragement. Also, the more balanced our lives are, the more self-esteem we will have and the more confidence we’ll feel in our ability to parent.
Kids who grow up in single parent homes, or families of divorce, learn quickly how to try to play both sides–working mom and dad and whoever else might be involved to get what they want or to escape limits and boundaries. This makes it incredibly important for single parents to stay focused on setting very clear limits. While you may not be able to control what happens when your child is at the other parent’s house, this doesn’t mean you should give up on setting your own expectations for what you CAN control. Firm boundaries and consistent follow-through will help kids to feel safe and cared for–even if they have the increased flexibility and ambiguity that can come in divorced families. Additionally, it can be challenging not to get caught up in competition with the other parent or the other side of the family–nobody wants to be perceived as the “bad cop.” But, in the long run, the firm boundaries and expectations, as well as a clear definition of the parent-child relationship will contribute to healthier and more secure individuals.