Creating a Stable Home for Our Kids

In a recent survey of single parents, creating stability for our kids was one of the number one concerns for solo parents.

Parenting alone is a challenging proposition already. Children who have experienced divorce have likely seen some volatility between their parents, at least relationally, and have felt the effects, emotionally and physically. If your child has lost a parent to death, the trauma they have experienced can create a significant crack in the foundation of their home, and if a child has only known the experience of one parent since birth, their parent has always carried the weight intended for two.

So how do we create a stable situation at home when things seem unstable?
Single mom, Elizabeth, has an eight-year-old son, Jax. Since the divorce, he spends fifty percent of the time with both parents. Elizabeth’s concern from the start was that her son was always having to go back and forth between two homes with different rules and parenting styles. She didn’t like him having to be without her for a full week at a time. She couldn’t help thinking “this can't be stable for him” and it brought up all kinds of fears. Kimberley, a former single mom to two kids, understands. She worried her kids wouldn’t be able to function without two active parents. Her mom reassured her that God would be with them through it all.

These concerns are common for single parents who wonder how their children will adjust. Elizabeth recognized some of her concerns were focused on what she was missing when her son was with his dad. It helped to shift her thinking by remembering that time with each parent was important and needed for her child. Kids with divorced parents need to know they can see and love both mom and dad.

Kids who are coparented have adjustments to make that others may not but we can still find ways to provide stability. Kimberley shares she tried to make sure that when her kids were with her, they knew the rules and what to expect in her home. “I played worship music every morning. We had nachos every Sunday night.” Especially when the kids were younger, routine was really important. Creating that security helped her kids adjust to being away from her for a time because they knew what they were coming back to.

Parents magazine recently talked with an expert about what to do when parents handle things differently. They shared it is okay for kids to experience different rules and expectations in different environments because it helps them learn to adapt to other situations better, like at school, a friend’s house, or at their grandparents. Different rules apply in different situations.
Coparents just need to be able to say, “I know you don't do things like this at your dad's house (or at mom's house), but this is what we do here.” Being consistent with your child when they are with you is what is most important. Let them know what to expect in your home.

Studies show that the presence of one nurturing parent is a key factor in moderating the impact of divorce on kids. Having a parent who is emotionally and relationally helps predict more positive outcomes after divorce. There are two important ways parents can be and stay present for their kids: self-awareness and self-care.

Knowing where you are in your journey and knowing what you need as you go through the challenges of parenting alone is the first step. This includes being aware of  your limitations so you can reach out and ask for help. You can't give what you don't have. Being present and creating stability starts with being aware of what you need so you can better attend to the emotional needs of your kids.

Second, parents need to be deliberate about self-care. To be in a position to care for our children, our needs must be met in healthy ways or we may find ourselves depleted, not being able to show up for them emotionally, or even leaning on them for support. Kids must be allowed to be kids. Parents need to find support with other adults in community. Groups like Solo Parent Society help single parents find others who understand. Providing stability for kids starts with this idea of being present and the foundation is self-awareness and self-care.

Single parents, you don’t have to be perfect. It’s more of an overall mindset. Not everything in life has to be predictable but it helps our kids experience stability when we are nurturing and deliberate in showing up for them.

As a single dad, Robert Beeson, founder of SPS, found ways to provide stability by creating predictable routines, habits, practices, and rituals at home. These are anchor points that help provide a sense of security and stability. These can include things like having dinner together every evening, folding laundry as a family, or putting a note in your child’s lunchbox every day. Just a few regular practices like these can help establish stability at home especially when other things may not feel stable.  

Mama Village on Instagram shares that the best parenting advice is to “show up for your kids consistently and imperfectly and with love”. If you consistently show up and pour love into a child, you will make a tremendous impact on their life. Decades of research back up that having at least one reliable and consistent caregiver is one of the best predictors for resiliency.

What does it look like to show up for your child?
1. See your child for who they are, not who you want them to be. What are they interested in? What do they care about? If you don't know, find out.

2. Spend 15 minutes a day in your child's world. Play UNO. Let them paint your nails. Pretend to be a dinosaur. Race cars on the floor. These 15 minutes a day can change their life forever.

3. Let their feelings be instead of trying to fix or solve. Start your sentences with, “I hear, I see, I'm here for you.”

4. Apologize to your kids. Apologize when you make a mistake. Simply say you’re sorry and try to do things different next time.

Remember, children are whole people worthy of our attention, respect, and presence. We can’t control all the factors that impact them, but we can be intentional about what we do at our home. Creating a stable environment where kids feel seen and loved helps them to learn, to adapt, and be resilient and confident.

Dr. Chip Dodd, author, therapist, and speaker, shares that, “Regardless of marital state, children need sanctuary. This is best found in parents who can tolerate the feelings and needs of a child. A parent can remain a sanctuary by growing with other people they can connect with who support them.”

As a single dad, Robert admits he didn’t always have that focus. Instead, he overcompensated in many areas. Over-functioning or under-functioning as a parent is not stability for your kids. We need to understand and rest in our humanity, trusting God has put us in this position on purpose. Single mom, Amber, shares that over-functioning led her to a place of instability. “I was trying to do too much. I knew I needed more support, but I didn't know how much. I was trying to achieve a daily routine and experience for my kids as if there were two parents present. This just created increased stress and made me less emotionally available - which is what they actually needed.” As parents, when we don’t recognize our own limits, we can do more damage by overcompensating and over-functioning.

Single moms, single dad, it must be said:  You are probably a whole lot more stable than you think you are! God has chosen to be the parent to your children. Focus on being present emotionally for your kids. Consider how you can create stability in simple ways that work for you and your kids. Make the most of small moments and let go of the things you can’t control. Don’t expect too much of yourself. This isn’t about perfection. It’s about showing up consistently and imperfectly but with great love. God is with you through all of this. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Solos, you are not alone.

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