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Single Parents and Disagreements with Your Child

If you and your child are increasingly at odds with each other, creating more stress in the household, you may not have anyone else to turn to for support, now that your ex-spouse is out of the house. If you are beginning to feel over­whelmed by this situation, here is a strategy for regaining control:

Stop arguing. Step back from the problem at hand and try to understand what is really at issue between you and your child. Then, without operating in the heat of the disagreement, try to clarify with your child what is preventing the two of you from getting along with each other.

Perhaps changes in the family circumstances will force both of you to make adjustments. Calmly explain the new situation now that your child's father is no longer living with you. For example: "We cannot afford a housekeeper any longer, so I need your help in keeping your room clean." Or "We just can't af­ford to send you to soccer camp this summer, but you can get together with your friends at the neighborhood recreation center."

Avoid arguing about situations in which there are no options. Your child may complain that he can't go to the summer camp he would like to, but your budget simply may not make any other choices possible. He needs to under­stand that everyone in the family has to adapt to the new demands brought on by the one-parent family. Help him take part in the problem-solving; use these trying times as learning experiences.

Parents often become upset with themselves when they are not able to give their children everything they would like, and that sense of failure can cause tension in the household. Single mothers and fathers may need to adjust their expectations about what their child needs in order to be happy, keeping their expectations realistic in order to minimize the amount of stress in their lives.

Children are quite adaptable and will rise to the occasion if you give them the opportunity. The more often you and your child can sit down and talk, the better. Involve him in discussions of what each of you would like to see hap­pen in the future, taking into account your changing circumstances. It is bet­ter to talk regularly, as well as when issues arise, rather than yell at each other when you reach an impasse.

As one single parent told his child: "When you and I don't agree on some­thing, let's sit down and try to understand what our disagreement is all about. Then let's both try hard to come up with a solution."

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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