Most parents experience tremendous stress going from being married to being single parents. They hope is that the transition will be easy for everyone involved. The reality is a lot more difficult. The crisis point is difficult to navigate. Too often tempers are hot and parents and kids say a lot of things they wish they could take back. It’s OK to hate yourself for yelling at your kids as a single mom, just not forever.
You’re going to make a lot of mistakes between now and when they reach adulthood.
I was nervous. We sat with the kids on the couch united in our facts and story. We were telling them we had decided to end the marriage. Dad was moving to a new home and they’d see him without me. We each held our breath as first one, one then the other child, experienced the reverberations of what they heard. It was no different for me as a child when I heard my dad wasn’t coming home to live with me again. I burst into tears.
The fear of losing your child’s loyalty equals their fear of losing your love.
Navigating this time period isn’t easy for anyone. Therapists, MD’s, and attorneys all worry about the effects an acrimonious fight can have on a child’s relationship with the other parent. Kids panic and being abandoned begins to play out in their fears. GoodTherapy.org writes “Abandonment fear often stems from childhood loss. This loss could be related to a traumatic event, such as the loss of a parent through death or divorce. It can also come from not getting enough physical or emotional care. These early childhood experiences can lead to a fear of being abandoned by others later in life.”
One doesn’t know where to begin parenting by themselves, never mind manage their own tempers and feelings.
Yelling at your kids as a single mom is the kind of stress that makes the best single mom fearful of making a wrong move. You find yourself questioning everything you’re doing. I know that I did. Petrified of messing up and saying the wrong things, it was a scary time. My feelings were all over the place and the stakes were high. I recall asking several therapists and my babysitter/social worker if I crossed the line when I got angry and raised my voice. Their advice: yelling at your kids as a single mom is OK as long as you keep the yelling to what is going on. Not making personal attacks or comments about the other parent. Phew.
Then they advised… I clean it up. Yelling at your kids as a single mom is one thing, cleaning up the anger and hurt feelings is totally another. These are the moments you get to fix what you messed up. And you begin to rebuild faith in each others’ undying commitment toward safety and security. I had to learn to love rebuilding mess-ups.
Repairing the mess-up gives you a chance to not hate yourself for yelling at your kids.
Knowing being a child in divorce isn’t easy, I learned to respect my imperfections as a single mom. As a child, you truly don’t know what is up and where you’re safe. If both parents are running hot, if each drop-off and pick-up is filled with fighting, a child is going to want to stay away from both of you. Even kids who don’t demonstrate their fear or frustration may be experiencing a ton of stress. After all, they didn’t ask for this breakup.
It may not be easy for you to admit to yelling at your kids as a single mom. It’s not easy for me to publicly admit it now. I remember how it felt when my overworked, stressed out single mom yelled at me and my brothers and sisters. But what I do know, when a single mom (or dad) keeps the yelling clean – not bad-mouthing the other parent, not forcing a child to choose (parental alienation) and not making a child’s life impossible, all will be forgiven.
It’s OK to hate yourself for yelling at your kids as a single mom, just not forever.
What’s better as a single mom, is learning how to repair the damage your anger caused. To reach out and extend that olive branch by taking your children aside and one by one admit to them you messed up. Despite being a kid who was once in their shoes, I had to learn how to repair the relationship with my kids. It wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be.
Taking time to rebuild your relationship with a child you’ve hurt teaches them how to move forward with humility and generosity.
My kids were my greatest teacher. When we, as parents, move in with apologies, we open up a chance for a child to learn how to forgive. We all mess up. Every one of us makes mistakes and as parents, we have a chance to teach our children how to navigate those moments.
Once I realized that yelling at my kids as a single mom was actually an opportunity to forge wholeheartedness, no, I didn’t actually continue yelling… I actually began to calm down. I learned that no matter what, my kids trusted me. They knew I loved them and I knew they were loyally next to me. Not in a way that alienated their father, not that. But in a way that even though as a parent, I had messed up, by getting divorced from their dad, they still loved and accepted me. We were still on the same team.
By yelling at my kids, I had to pause, self-reflect, and learn some new skills at compromise.
I had to show up and speak up. By listening to their feelings and concerns, I had to face my own fears and desires. As a result, we’ve been able to build a stronger bond of trust. In many ways, yelling at my kids as a single mom brought me and my kids closer together. They learned the valuable gift of forgiveness. Despite it all, my fear of messing up taught them about humility, courage, and how to start over again no matter what the circumstances. There was no need for me to hate myself forever after giving us all such gifts.