Picking Your Battles with Grace: A Primer for New (and Not So New) Single Moms Part 1

Samantha Gregory-Applewhite

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Little Carrie and Johnny are about to launch WWIII, your fool-proof casserole is burning and your child support delinquent ex is on the phone demanding visitation rights even though he hasn’t sent one red cent in child support in the last six months. Does this sound like a typical day in your life? For single moms this scene is all too common.

Everyday issues like these arise and threaten to send you into a tailspin. It is hard to keep it together with everyone pulling you in five directions. Money is tight, the kids are fighting for attention, and family is in your ear with unwanted advice. The best thing to do at this point is pick your battles. It is easier said than done but your sanity demands that you decide what battle you will fight today, this week, this month, or this year. Pick your battles when it comes to your kids, your ex, your family, and the public service agencies from which you are seeking temporary help

The Kids
Children have more demands that one person can reasonably keep up with and your children are probably no exception. No matter what their age, kids want their needs met and it can be frustrating when the needs pile up. The demands include what will and will not be eaten, bath time, clothes, and friends. Choose what you will fight about with them. It is a no-brainer that kids have to eat so that is not an issue, but children can be fussy about what they eat, where they eat, and how much. If you have a picky eater, introduce foods gradually. Require that they eat at least one nutritious food a day. Suggest that they help prepare what they want to eat (age appropriately, of course) and take the burden off of yourself. To make up for the the nutrients you feel they might be missing make up a fruit smoothie or the popular breakfast shake.

Bath time is a love-it or hate-it activity. Some kids love to take baths while others hate it. Make bath time as fun or as quick as possible. With a reluctant child, you can add waterproof toys, a mini basketball hoop, or a mirror to make bath time more fun. The leisure bather can be coerced out of the tub with a timer game, a reward of longer t. v. time, or some other interesting activity. The point is to reduce your stress as much as possible.

Clothes are the beginning of self-identification for children. They do not always want to wear what you choose for them. Here are a couple of ways to reduce the conflict surrounding clothes. For younger children pick out two outfits and allow your child to choose the one they want to wear. For older children who insist on being difficult suggest that they wear a uniform all of the time. Threaten to buy all of their clothes in one color; hot pink, baby blue, candy apple red comes to mind. Whatever you decide to do, keep in mind that your stress level is of vital importance right now and that your kids will recover from any minor embarrassment they may encounter.

Friends become the center of existence for kids, as they get older. You go from occupying first place in their lives to maybe forth or fifth place. There are or will be times when the first place status your kids have assigned to his or her friends becomes another stress producer. To combat this infringement of time and space, not to mention the new attitude that develops, devise a plan of action that is designed to eliminate your stress.

Make clear the boundaries in which your child’s friends must remain. Late phone calls, late nights out, and undue influence that produces unacceptable habits must all be dealt with. Help your kids understand that they have choices. They can come in on time or risk getting locked out of the house. Better yet, they can go and live with their friend. They can limit their phone time or risk no phone time or no phone. Period. They can maintain an acceptable level of respect and manners or risk being sent to military school. These alternatives may seem harsh, but your hormonal pre-teen or teenager is not in the frame of mind to care about what you want right now. It is a good idea to insist on meeting all of the people who call themselves your child’s friend. They are likely to influence them in one way or the other. A face-to-face meeting with your child’s peers can offset some problems by establishing a connection and commanding respect.

The kids are calm and playing peacefully, the phone is silent, the check has arrived on time, and dinner is perfect. Have you had a day like this? You can once you decide that a stress-free existence is what you deserve. Learning to pick your battles with your kid is the first step. Next time we will discuss picking your battles, instead of fights with your ex and your family.

Samantha Applewhite is a writer and former single mom. Visit her website to learn more about effective ways to manage life as a single mom. She is the author of 100 Secrets of Successful Single Motherhood: A Guide for Christian Single Moms. Get the book and sign up for the monthly newsletter Single Mom’s Free Resources at http://www.96singlemomsecrets.com .


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