Q: I'm adjusting to being a single mom, but I'm really worried about raising my 9-year-old son on my own. I feel inadequate. Do you have any advice?
Jim: Being a single parent is tough. Raising a boy can present some unique challenges for a single mother, so I want to encourage you: You can do this.
One of the most important things you can do is to surround yourself with a supportive community. That could be family, close friends or even people you know from work or church. The main thing is don't try to go it alone. You need people who will come alongside you when the going gets tough.
Not only do you need support, but so does your son. Every growing boy needs a male role model in his life who can be a positive influence. I know you're working hard to be your son's source of strength. But he needs to connect with a male figure who can set a good example of what it means to be a man. So ask a family member or a friend you trust if he'll spend some time with your son and mentor him.
I also recommend you take advantage of books and other resources that are available to help you navigate single parenting. You and your son are both in store for a lot of changes as he matures and develops. There is great information out there that can help you avoid some of the potholes you might otherwise hit. We can help; see FocusOnTheFamily.com.
I applaud your commitment to your son. Many days being a single mom is a thankless job. But with the right support and influence, I believe all of your dedication and hard work can eventually pay off. So hang in there!
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Q: My husband and I can't agree on how to direct and discipline our children. We try to work together, but inevitably one of us will be more permissive while the other is stricter. Without going into who takes which approach, do you have any advice for deciding what's best?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Couples don't always agree about the best way to raise their children. My wife and I don't. But we learned a long time ago that we don't have to fight about which of our parenting styles is correct. Both of us play an important part in raising our kids.
That's a good thing for you and your spouse to remember as well. Opposites really do attract, and the impact isn't only felt in a marriage. It affects our parenting as well. The key is to understand your differences and learn to work together.
Usually, one parent is more of the "rule maker." Your style of parenting is probably more black and white. You love structure and think order and discipline are how to prepare children for the real world.
Many times the other parent is more of a "free spirit." Your style is probably more "gray area" -- friendly and relational. You focus on your child's feelings instead of the rules, and you tend to be more gentle and nurturing.
We often act like one of those parenting styles is right and one is wrong. That's a recipe for negative conflict. But parenting isn't about choosing one method over another. It's about blending the two together for a common goal -- raising a child who sees boundaries as freeing and relationships as essential. Children need the "rule maker's" limits, structure and discipline, but they also need the "free spirit's" nurturing, relational, laid-back attitude.
It will not be easy, but certainly worthwhile. It'll bring a healthy balance to your child's development.