“Hey I’m Jake, single dad. My kids seem to really be keeping to themselves since the divorce like they really don’t want to be with their friends. I’m worried all they want to do is stay on their phones.”
Divorce changes life for our kids in profound ways. Their community is disrupted as they adjust to their parents living separately, going between two homes, and experiencing a new normal. During times of change, kids need community more than ever before. We need to be very intentional with who our kids are hanging out with and who has influence in their lives and how they are using their time. As kids grow up and become teenagers, they stop looking at their parents as the center of their universe. Their peers become more important to them and the voices of other young people around them speak the loudest. Whether you became a single parent through divorce or loss of a partner or for another reason, community can look different for our kids.
As we look at three ways to help our kids cultivate community, let’s consider the impact of our single parent journey.
How has your single parent journey impacted your kids’ ability to have a safe, healthy community?
3 Ways to Cultivate Community for Your Kids
- Teach authenticity
- Cultivate community
- Recognize unhealthy community
Relationships are built on authenticity. Without being real, we can’t let anyone get close to us. We need to teach our kids how to do this. We can do this by modeling it for our kids. We must own our flaws and be honest. There are times we need to “hold it together” for our kids but there are also times we can show them we don’t always have the answers. It’s okay to let our kids know we have things we are still learning and growing in. Sometimes being authentic and letting them know that we struggle at times, let’s them know they don’t have to have all the answers either. A posture of learning and growth is more important and brings more closeness and authenticity than being “an expert” or having “all the answers”. Authenticity helps us build connection. Cultivating community starts with teaching authenticity and having grace for yourself and others.
How are you modeling authenticity for your kids? Knocking it out of the park or a work in progress? What are some barriers to authenticity?
To cultivate community, we must be authentic, and we also need to know how to build relationships. Oswald Chambers shares, “What makes God so dear to us is not so much his big blessings to us but the tiny things because they show us His amazing intimacy with us. He knows every detail of our lives.” In God’s example, we can see how to cultivate connection and intimacy. We do this by taking time to get to know the details of other people’s lives. When we do this with our kids, we show them how to be a good friend. We model getting to know someone and the things they like and care about as tools to build friendships and cultivate community.
Part of cultivating community is remembering that we need to be deliberate to reach out and intentionally choose people to be in our lives. When we do that, we can look for people who will bring life and health As we help our kids cultivate community, we can set boundaries while being kind. We can model for our kids how to be the light and choose carefully who to hang around. This is crucial because we become like the people we spend the most time with. As parents we need to provide opportunities for our children to connect with other children who are likeminded. We can help cultivate friendships through activities with others with similar experiences.
What are some ways you can help cultivate friendships and community for your kids?
Recognize Unhealthy Community
Not all communities are good for our kids. We need to be aware of what is going on in our kids’ lives and be intentional about who we allow them to be surrounded by. Sometimes kids do not have the judgment to recognize a misalignment of values. It is our job to protect our kids from negative influences. We can step in when we notice our kids choosing friends and influences that aren’t good for them. As adults, we can see things our kids can’t, and we can set boundaries and say no. We can also help our kids start to recognize the signs of peers who are making poor choices or taking steps toward potential pitfalls. Our responsibility as parents to help guide them. Our kids will make mistakes. That’s normal but if we see signs of emotional distress, getting angry quickly or distancing themselves emotionally, we need to check in with them and consider their community, whether they need more community or a different community.
Have you seen your kids drifting toward unhealthy connections or unsafe friendships? How do you protect your kids from developing an unhealthy community?
Having community matters. When our children have their needs met for friendship and community, they feel better and behave better. They may not even know how important community is but we can help them understand that God designed us to connect with other people in safe, healthy ways. In helping our kids develop community, we can invite God into the process. After all, it was His idea. We can turn to Him in prayer and ask Him how to help our kids cultivate community.
As you help your kids cultivate community, we would love to be part of your support network. Join our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our online groups meeting every week. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts, and download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single parent families, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.