Whether you are a single mom or dad, chances are that your plate is already overflowing – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the time to help kids learn resilience. Maintaining a full-time job and taking good care of your children isn’t easy. It’s important to step in front of the issues your children may have about your divorce and confront them compassionately.
While acknowledging that they have the right to feel sad/angry/confused/guilty etc., you can turn the situation to your advantage by teaching your children resilience. Resilience is something that every child needs to work on for their own sake; the ability to recover quickly and/or easily from a tough experience, misfortunes, or change will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
Teach your children how to make lemonade when life gives you lemons – and the first “lemon” your family has to deal with is the divorce.
6 Ways to Help Kids Learn Resilience
Let’s take a look at how you can help your child recover from their sadness or anger about your divorce while easing them into accepting new responsibilities that will help your household to run more smoothly – and help you to cope with your new single parent status. One of the best ways single parents can help their children adjust to divorce is by teaching them resilience. Let’s dive into some practical tips to help do just that.
1. Teach them about the Value of Time
Once a divorce happens and you are assigned your child by the court, things start to dawn on you. You are an adult and a single parent and life is rapidly taking place in front of you. The harsh reality is that time flies faster than we can control it. Children should remain children for as long as possible, however.
Make sure that your child has enough time to play each day and do the things they love. School and occasional chores should be parts of their daily routine but don’t be too hard on them. Instead, try to communicate the passage of time to them. Explain to them that you were once a child yourself and try to talk about what awaits them in life in a casual sense.
Don’t ruin their dreams of flying through space or traveling the world – no one knows where we might end up anyway. The value of time is one of the most important resilience lessons you can teach your child as soon as it becomes just the two of you.
2. Help Kids Learn How and Why to Take Care of their Physical and Mental Health
Natural resilience comes from physical and mental health. Children should eat vitamins, proteins, and daily nutrients without skipping an important meal. Many children simply refuse to eat vegetables and other foods that are not “sweet” by definition. The same goes for bathing, brushing teeth, washing hands and hair, or any other health-related activity.
Bargain your way to their bellies by mentioning that you might go for a walk later, play a game together or simply have some family fun. Single parents are fully capable of having family time with their children without their ex-partners present. You can follow an activity up with an important lesson about health and how they can maintain it even when you are not around.
3. Give your Kids Chores – and Reward Them
We all have chores and obligations when you think about it. A full-time job is a “chore” since it’s an obligatory activity that brings money to the house. This can be the perfect introduction for your child to become aware of what “work” is in adult life.
Simple house chores such as learning to sweep and vacuum, or wash the clothes or dishes can give your child a real boost in self-confidence as they master the tasks. They need to understand that the clothes, toys, and snacks they love don’t just appear in the house by magic. Instead, mommy or daddy is working hard to buy gifts and experiences for their beloved child.
Teaching your child about chores will only work if you apply the same rules to every child – and to yourself, as well. Make sure to have some form of a reward ready for them as they complete more demanding tasks around the house. You can tie their allowance to completing chores – perhaps with a bonus for doing a really good job without being asked or nagged.
Now that you’re single, it is time for your tween and teens to pitch in and clean up their rooms and the house every now and then. This simple one-two punch can help you both out tremendously and teach your child about everyday resilience in a very effective way.
4. Teach them that School Work Matters
If your child loves to go to school – count yourself lucky. Many children simply aren’t enthusiastic about formal education and academia in general. Your child doesn’t have to have a 4.0 GPA however. The divorce you have gone through recently affects them just as it affects you. Make sure that your child is aware of the importance of school, however.
Try to explain that good grades lead to very cool job opportunities and lots of money later in life. Explain to them that if they don’t do well in school, they won’t be able to buy all the toys and snacks that they might want. After all, this isn’t far from the truth.
Tackling the issue in this way won’t break your child’s illusion of childhood, so don’t worry about making them sad. School work can easily be a team activity if you have some time to spare for them. In the end, you are your child’s best teacher in life, regardless of the academic education of their formal professors.
5. Take them Shopping with You
Whether you have a boy or a girl doesn’t really matter – what matters is that shopping solves every problem. Shopping is a great way to spend some time with your child and teach them new things along the way. You can teach them about prices, how cashiers work, and what it really means to grab groceries every few days.
The same can be said about buying new clothes or yard supplies – provided you have a need for them. Don’t simply leave them at home or exclude them from the process. Ask for their opinion and try to get a critical thought out of them. If money is tight, shop sales, consignment shops, or thrift stores and model sticking to a budget. They might be resistant initially, but when they see that they can get two good-quality shirts and a pair of pants for the price of one shirt in the mall, they might come to see things your way.
Deep down, they know what they want to say about that pink pullover you got them – it just hasn’t come up yet. Shopping can also be tied into chores and work habits, giving them a much clearer picture of the financial cycle involved.
6. Encourage Your Child to Express their Feelings (Appropriately)
Children of divorcees go through a lot of emotional change early on. The problem is that parents often overlook these feelings as a sign of protest for what their parents did. Talk to your child and ask them about their two cents on the matter. How do they feel now that mom and dad live separately? Do they miss family times together or are they happier now that there are only two of you?
Some things need to be said aloud in order to be understood by both of you. Don’t allow your child to grow up with repressed feelings about your marital status. Try to help them understand that adults think differently and that mommy and daddy simply thought this was for the best.
You can open your child to emotional expression by leading by example. Assuming your child is both old enough and mature enough to cope with hearing that you get sad or scared sometimes, you can share a memory, a thought, or something that burdens you – as long as it won’t burden them – and then discuss the steps you took to resolve those issues.
NOTE: Never force your child into the role of your therapist or main confidante: you’ll be stealing their childhood and making them anxious about your ability to keep them safe. Keep your worst fears for a compassionate friend or therapist/life coach – someone with the tools to help you work through those powerful feelings so that you, in turn, can help your kids.
Show your child that you are as human as they are – only older, taller, and (hopefully!) wiser in comparison. This process can lead to extraordinarily strong bonds between single parents and their children.
However, you must also teach your children that there’s a time and a place for everything: for example, the classroom or the library isn’t the right place to throw a full-on tantrum fuelled by the grief, pain, anger, and loss they’re feeling. And if your Straight-A child’s grades suddenly start dropping, or if she’s acting out or shutting down at school or home, you should seek professional help for her.
To help kids learn resilience, parents can offer support, advice, and teach them as much as possible about the world that awaits them. Resilience in children builds up as time goes on.
As we’ve mentioned before, don’t try to make your child grow up prematurely. Their youth is the best possible period to bond with you and learn about everyone’s role in their new single-parent family. When you are divorced with children, those kids become more than just your offspring: they effectively become your “junior partners” in everyday life. Be mindful to have age-appropriate expectations of them, give them age-appropriate responsibilities and tasks, and reward them for living up to those expectations.
Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. She works her voodoo regularly on the Pick Writers blog and occasionally contributes to other educational platforms. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin has been gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. She now finds herself to be a freelance writer.