Single Moms: Therapy Can Help You and Your Kids
With a strong, supportive cast of characters (like a mom and dad, siblings, and/or BFF) it's still almost impossible to be a single mom. Most likely those who know and love you best are still unequipped to help you successfully manage your daily challenges, deal with your long list of responsibilities and handle the emotional roller-coaster. More likely, they are great at listening, lending an ear or a dollar now and then, and offering up a much-needed hug.
If you're like me when I was a single mom, then you have no family, your BFF lives 1000 miles away and your child is at an age where they want answers to their confusing questions.
What to do?
I grew up with parents who were therapists (I know, there's a special place in Heaven for me). Because of that, and my personal (negative) experience with my parents, to say I was adverse to therapy is a major understatement. So when it was suggested that therapy might be an option to help Lexi deal with her absent father, I thought (and said): "No freaking way."
About the time Lexi entered kindergarden, she started to act out and I believe it's because she saw other kid's dads show up for them in a variety of ways (attending school activities, playing with them at the park, etc.) and her friends all had dads at that time. She was noticing she didn't have the same thing, and was starting to be angry and frustrated ... and wasn't sure what to do with those emotions. How that manifested is that she wouldn't stay with anyone who wasn't me, besides attending school. Babysitters ran screaming from our home, and if I did have something I had to do, she threw such incredible temper tantrums that I was called and requested home immediately. And, to make it even more fun, she was throwing tantrums just for me, too.
Because I was at a loss of what to do, and up against my own parenting limitations, when one of my clients recommended a therapist, I called immediately and left a message. When the therapist called back, I started to cry because I literally felt like help was on the line and I needed help. I just didn't know what to do for my daughter, and felt at a loss for what to do next.
The therapist laid out a clear set of rules: whatever was said in therapy was confidential and I was not to ask questions of Lexi after the session. It was to be my daughter's safe place to discuss what was on her mind, and that's exactly what happened. It also became a safe place for me to learn tools that I lacked -- we learn from modeling our parents, after all, and I didn't want what I had seen to become what I did. Over time, the therapist gave us both tools for dealing with each other, all the while providing advice, tips, strategies and of course, calling us on our shit. When I was being cranky or unreasonable, I heard about it. When my daughter was being overly dramatic, she heard about it. We learned a lot about what healthy and normal was like.
Best of all, when a situation came up (I wanted to introduce my now-husband to my daughter; Lexi wasn't making friends easily), we had an unbiased, neutral third-party trained in how to deal with them.
If you are a single mom without a solid set of parenting tools, I recommend therapy for you. If you still feel angry, resentful or sad about your children's dad, therapy could be helpful.
If your kids are asking questions you don't know how to answer, a therapist can bridge that gap. They can also provide a soft place to fall, a safe place, to process what's happening and get a handle on it.
I hope that's helpful to you and your kids. The best thing I can say is that it does get better: the intense emotions lessen with time and you get the hang of the single mom thing. Before you know it, everyone will be feeling better. Hang in there!
NOTE: If you are looking for low cost therapy, check out this list: http://buff.ly/18hDCXY, and ask about sliding scale fees. A big thanks to @Dr_Leah Klungness for this resource!