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How to Navigate Relationships as a Single Parent

How to Navigate Relationships as a Single Parent

Being a single parent can be difficult. Factor in holiday expectations and stress along with your unique relationships, and it can be fertile ground for anxiety and added challenges during this “blissful” time. Let’s learn more about how to navigate relationships as a single parent..and the most important relationship of all - the one you have with yourself. Thank you Nicole Kumi, PHD, PMH-C, and Certified Perinatal Mental Health Professional for your thoughtful attention to this topic. With Mommy’s Bliss 360 and our wise experts, let’s keep the “happy” in “happy holidays”. Read more… 

Everyone’s journey through pregnancy and postpartum is different and sometimes you will find yourself comparing your journey to others, especially if you are a single parent. There will be times when you overcompensate because you are the only parent in your child’s life, and then there will be times when you are frustrated and disappointed that you could not deliver what you had hoped because you are a single parent.

Your experience and feelings about being a single parent are valid, regardless of the reason you are not parenting with a partner. With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important for you to maintain your mental health which will inevitably be tested by your relationships with family and friends. There are a few things you can do to protect your mental health, and navigate some of the challenges that come with single parenting through the holiday seasons.

Assessing Your Current Season

Stressful situations have the ability to bring out the worst of your characteristics and being a single parent during the holiday season can bring about an array of other emotions and feelings. It’s important for you to understand what areas/situations cause the most amount of stress for you, and your willingness to compromise these feelings for the benefit of your child/children and extended families. There might be some members of your family that are not beneficial to your mental health, and that is ok. Having some insight into who these people are can help you assess whether or not it is in your best interest to spend time with them throughout the holiday season. A few questions for you to consider when assessing your current season:

  1. How has my mental health been the last 30 days?
  2. What am I doing to take care of myself?
  3. How have I been managing my stress in the last 30 days?
  4. What situations elicit stress and anxiety for me?

This might be your first holiday season as a single parent and that can impact your ability to navigate through this time so be reminded that with time, boundaries, and experience you will find yourself managing better each year. In the early months/years of postpartum you will have additional emotions, hormones, challenges present that will fade over time. Developing awareness about your current season will allow you to start putting some skills in place to help you work through stressful events or situations, and once you can effectively regulate your emotions and feelings you will be better prepared to manage your child/childrens. See, you are not the only one who will need to learn to navigate these relationships. Your children are impacted by your parenting status (neither good nor bad), and will have their own relationships they need to explore and feelings they need to process. Again, with time comes experience so positioning yourself to successfully work through challenges will allow your children the opportunity to do the same.

Identifying Your Community

You might experience loneliness, especially when looking at social media or close friends who seem to have a loving and present partner. You might be experiencing resentment, guilt, shame, grief, and frustrations over your circumstances, especially if you feel they did not go as you had planned. This can be exacerbated during the holidays that are focused on love, joy, and happiness. Just because you are not with your child/children's other parent does not mean that you have to be alone, or do it all this holiday season. There are people in your life who have, and continue to show up for you and your children. They are your postpartum team community. They are the individuals or entities that can allow for you to find joy, navigate the hard things and be present in your children's lives reminding you just how strong you are.

Your community could be comprised of:

  • Co-workers
  • Church members
  • Moms Group
  • Neighbors
  • Self-help group members
  • Social media friends
  • Local charities

You have probably leaned on a lot of people to get support since becoming a mother, and those people are your village, your community. They are there for you to lean on and ask for help, as hard as it may be.

Preparing For The Journey

Acknowledging that not every relationship in your life is healthy or beneficial can be a difficult task for anyone. Some people may feel as though they “deserve” to be in your life because of the children and this can make it hard to set a boundary and communicate to them there are parameters to being in your life. This can be more challenging when they are family members that we had a good relationship with, but since becoming a single mother they have made disparaging comments about your situation or over inserted themselves into your life.

One relationship that challenges most single mothers is the relationship with the father of your child/children. Maybe your relationship ended on good terms and communication is solid. Maybe it did not and you are searching for them during the holiday season so your children can see them.

It’s important for you to realize that you cannot control the actions and behaviors of others, no matter how great your relationship is with them, and that at some point you might be in a place where you have to speak up about the impact it has had on you and your child/children’s lives. It’s helpful to have a few key phrases on hand in the event you find yourself having to do this and struggling with your confidence.

Here are a few to keep with you:

“We committed to other plans at that same time.”
“Right now is not a good time to visit.”
“Please, call ahead next time.”
“We should set some expectations around our relationship.”
“I’m dealing with some stress right now and don’t think this environment is best for me.”

Remember, every situation is different so identifying the triggers or precipitating events that led to your situation can give you a heightened sense of awareness when it comes to working through these relationships. Navigating new territory can feel overwhelming and scary, and the more you do it the easier it becomes. You are deserving of peace, joy, and love during the holidays and the more you are aligned with those feelings, so too are your children.

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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