For the past six years I’ve found myself in a highly important role that I never wanted to play: Single Mom. Don’t get my wrong; being a mom is the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I love my children with all my heart. But when I gave birth to each of them, I never, in my wildest dreams, looked at their sweet little faces and thought, “I sure hope I get to do this parenting thing alone.” No one does. But, it is the reality that is my life.
When I first realize divorce was imminent, I tried to do all the “right” things. (Where is that handbook by the way?! “How to do the right thing in the midst of divorce?”) I tried to talk as openly as possible and age appropriate with my children. I surrounded them with people who loved us and offered support. I watched for triggers that showed they were struggling. I told the school, my church, and anyone else that was in their life what was going on so they would have a supportive environment. And I thought we were making it okay. Not perfect. We definitely have had our share of bumps in the road. But I felt like a “normal” parent (whatever that means).
Fast forward to this past summer, and there were a few difficult events that happened in my kid’s lives. Suddenly all the wheels fell off. My strategy, my plan, my parenting wasn’t working anymore. There were hurts I could not fix. Suddenly there were behaviors that were manifesting out of wounds I didn’t know how to heal. Truth be told, I didn’t even feel like I could find the first aid kit! My “right way of doing things in the midst of divorce” handbook was obviously missing a few pages, because suddenly I was not sure what to do to help these three people I loved more than anyone else in the world. It got messy fast.
That is when I turned to Daystar Counseling Ministries. As a kid’s pastor for nine years at a nearby church, I’d referred possibly hundreds of families to this wonderful counseling center for kids. Look them up online. It is an incredible place! But, I never believed I would need their services for my family. (This is a side note and free advice: Never say never. . . ever. I have eaten those words more times than I can count.) So, here I was, on the phone begging for an appointment with David. They are the two counselors that we now have a standing appointment with weekly. I often think, “How could we come twice a week?” Yep, they are that good. They have walked life with us so well over the past several months. They are key players in the story of our family that is being written daily.
Here is why I share our story. I didn’t know just how much help I needed until I had the help I needed. We all need help. Single parents may need it more than others. I don’t know. I feel like I do. But, it is hard for me to remember life when I was parenting with a spouse. If only I had known when to ask for help, who to ask for help and how to ask for help.
Here are a few tips that may help you:
• Listen to your gut. Your parenting instincts tell you when something is wrong beyond normal childhood struggles. Don’t ignore that feeling. It’s God speaking. That’s a sign it’s time to get outside help.
• Take the first step to reach out to a reputable counseling center for kids in your area. If you don’t know one, ask those you trust. Maybe your church or close friends and family? But, find one.
• Don’t let cost scare you. I had considered counseling in the past, but the fear of what it would cost for three kids was overwhelming. Imagine my relief when I learned they worked on a sliding scale. I was also at a point where we couldn’t afford NOT to go. I would have asked anyone for the money. When that mama bear comes out, we feel like we can do anything don’t we?
During my first session at Daystar, I sat down with our counselors and they said, “Why are you here? What do you hope to accomplish?” After telling our story and sharing our situation, I wrapped it up with this: Our situation is messy. It is not healthy. My kids don’t realize it right now, but some day they will be grown and look back and realize the mess that we are in. My goal for them is that they will not only remember that it was messy, but, more importantly, that we got help and were given the tools to cope with the situation.
For me, I have an end in mind. I want to raise healthy adults. I’m so thankful I’ve found people to guide me, partner with me, and love on all of us as we work towards that goal. Fight for their hearts. Ask for help. You will never regret it!