Kids Need To Be Kids

It is an easy place I see single parents cozy up to.  Specifically I see it in single moms.  It's an easy place to go to and it's comfortable for us...for now.  So it makes it okay? Not at all.

What am I talking about? I am talking about kids who are forced to grow up quicker than they are mentally ready for or capable of living productively.  Since I am a mom, I will focus on the single moms here for a second.  It's an easy trap to fall into.  You are alone in raising your children and you have an older sibling that can carry conversations and interact with you on an almost friendship level.  What do you do? You invite them into an adult world much earlier than they are ready.

In one particular instance this teenager I know who has lived with his mom his entire childhood is now living with his dad, who is my close friend.  His dad is up in arms at the things he has been privy to.  He has already seen rated R movies and pornography.  He feels he runs the show because back at home with his mom, he does.  He asks questions prying into the personal life, finances and decisions that his dad makes.  He has absolutely no respect for women and feels he is above rules.  Why? His mom made him "man of the house" with his other 5 siblings.  He runs the show back at home.  He calls the shots and decides what he will or will not watch, do or be a part of.  His brain is not developed enough to understand what he is putting himself through.  His protector (mom) is unavailable to help him as a growing child because she has already made him a man, long before he was ready.

This is wrong.  It is very wrong.  Children need to be children.  Teenagers need to be teenagers.  They should be thinking about the grades they are getting and who their friends are.  They should not be worried about the parental bills or most anything related to the adult world.  As a teenager ages, they will need to know more about the adult world but while they are young, let them be young.  They are not your friends, your stand-in partners in life.  They are children.  Let them be children.

5 Steps- Help Your Child Deal with An Absent Parent

My son has acquired a new friendship with a boy his age who lives down the street from us.  They have become quite close and it was recently that I learned his dad is a single father because his wife walked away from their family when his children were less than 2 years old.  His kids have never met their mother and have told my son that they think she died.  Although my son is without his dad most days, there is a deeper burden that weighs heavy on your heart when you hear that a child thinks his mother, whom he does not remember, has died.  This boy plays wonderfully with my son and when he had left to go home one day, I let my son know that he was a really great friend and that this boy probably needs a good friendship since it is probably hard for him to not have his mother.  My son uttered words that will forever speak volumes to an absent parent.  My son said, "Ya, probably as hard as it is for me living without my dad."  

Shudder.  My son equals losing a mother to death with having a dad who is barely in the picture.  The intensity in that one sentence brought me closer into the reality my son is living with everyday.  Living without his dad most days to him feels like his dad isn't around at all.

Children grieve differently than adults.  Adults are more experienced in grief and disappointment first hand.  Most adults have experienced the range of emotions that go with this and have learned ways to cope with loss.  Although divorce or separation are traumatic for us as adults, we have more maturity for learning ways to "move on".  What holds us back is what we see presented in how our children are coping.   For children, they begin their journey not understanding fully the loss they are encountering, especially if that loss happens as a very young child.  As they age, they realize the loss they experienced deeper and deeper.  They are aware more and more of the absent parent and what they will never experience first hand.  A child may feel guilty for the absent parent.  They may feel they for some reason are responsible for the other parent being distant or not available at all.  They also may feel like they are a burden to the active parent.  Children do not know how to express guilt in the same ways as adults and may be observed in behaviors or emotions that are negatively self-reflective.

So what are we to do? How can we ease these feelings and inspire healing?  I have a few suggestions:

1) Squash negative thinking.  Be sure that you are not reinforcing any negative talk from your child.  Even if what they are saying is true, be sensitive to what your words will reinforce especially if it is reflective of how they view themselves.

2) Express your blessings. Tell them that you are blessed to be their mother/father each and every day.  Let them know the things you love about them and why you are a better person because they are in your life.

3) Be informative.  Let them know how many people love and support them, by name.  "Uncle Joe,  Cousin Susie, our friend Vickie, love you so very much and are available to you when you need them."

4) The details of your situation are not important.  Do not worry that your child understands exactly why the other parent is not around. It really doesn't matter and does not help your child cope with the loss.

5) Intercede for your child.  Unfortunately, we are not always blessed with the possibility to speak with the absent parent on behalf of how their actions cause infliction upon our children.  If it is possible, constructive conversations are necessary to stand in the gap for your child and what they need.   If these conversations are not possible you should still be interceding for your child in prayer.