Posts

Conditions are perfect for a Silent Killer to attack our minds, bodies, and most specifically, the emotions within our new culture of social-distancing. That Silent Killer? Loneliness. And if you’re feeling lonely during COVID-19, you’re not alone.

Let’s understand what loneliness is. Social scientists, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), define loneliness as “the pain one feels as a result of a discrepancy between one’s social needs and one’s ability to satisfy those needs.” 

Edicts such as “social distancing,” “work from home,” and “shelter-in-place,” can all set the stage for increased loneliness during COVID-19. Regular activities such as after-work trips to the bar, small group studies, birthday parties, Saturday/Sunday worship are halted. Our workplaces, schools, and civic communities are all places where we often connect and interact with people. These places, where we connect with people who help us feel as though we belong, have closed their doors. 

It’s important that we do not allow ourselves to feel helpless during this time of forced isolation.

This is one area where technology can truly help. My son and I have been part of a small group that meets every other week. Last night was the first time we did the meeting online because of COVID-19. It was quite uplifting. 

Thankfully, we interacted with people we have deep connections with within a community that we belonged to. We were able to laugh, talk and just be known by people who care about us. We decided to meet every week instead of every other week because we realized how encouraging it was for our psyche. Part of the purpose of forming social communities is to help us push through difficult times.

How do we use technology to help us ward off the attack of loneliness during COVID-19?

Don’t cancel the coffee dates you have with your friends or the post-work drink you have with your co-workers. Continue with your small group meetings and your marriage double dates with your favorite couple. JUST DO IT ONLINE. Schedule a Virtual Date using Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Houseparty or any other apps available. 

Phone calls are nice and text messages can be helpful. However, there is nothing that compares to actual face-to-face interaction and what it does for our emotional connectivity. The ability to see the empathy, shared joy, or the heavy anxiety on your friend’s face enhances the connection. And it does so in ways that emojis and tone of voice can’t quite match. 

Fighting loneliness is not about the number of people you interact with.

Shasta Nelson is a healthy relationship expert and author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girlfriends. Nelson doesn’t believe that the answer to loneliness is to go out and make more friends, but to deepen current relationships. Instead, it’s being intentional to create opportunities for meaningful interaction within the communities you belong to. And within those meaningful interactions, we must take advantage of the opportunities to connect at a deeper level, to be vulnerable, to be known.

Think about the people in your social community—whether it is family, friends, civic, faith, etc.

Who do you already have deep connections with? Who do you want to develop deeper connections with? And who are the people that you feel the safest with? Sure, we need to feel loved and supported during difficult times. But we must also remember others that are most vulnerable to loneliness as well. Reaching out to those in need is a way to attack our own loneliness during COVID-19.

Nelson suggests that when someone is feeling a deficiency of love and support, “[they should] consider who in their life they would want to build a more meaningful or closer relationship with and then make a list. Start prioritizing those relationships.” There are times when loneliness is at a place where we need to call and get help from the professionals. Don’t feel like you have to win this by yourself. Many professionals are meeting via phone or video conferencing during this period of social distancing.


As we are being intentional about prioritizing relationships, don’t hesitate to meet online for coffee. Schedule a tea using Google Meet. Create a calendar invite for your book club on Zoom. Use Skype for you and your buddies to work out together. Set up a video chat with an elderly neighbor. Create virtual dates within your social community to lessen and hopefully minimize the discrepancy between your social needs and your ability to meet those needs. And while you’re interacting, connect—really connect. Your emotional wellbeing needs it.

Image from Pexels.com

More blogs on loneliness:

Feeling Lonely in Your Marriage? Here’s What to Do.

5 Ways to Overcome Loneliness in America

How Family Structure Impacts Loneliness

Dating after divorce or death can be complicated, especially if children are involved. As people navigate the world of dating and blending families, they’ve asked Ron Deal, stepfamily expert and author of Dating and the Single Parent, the following questions plenty of times: How soon is too soon to start dating? Should I introduce this person to my children?

“On the topic of blended families, someone once said, ‘People marry and form a blended family because they fell in love with a person, but they divorce because they don’t know how to be a family,’” says Deal. 

Deal believes the key to dating as a single parent is to include the children in the bigger picture.

“Certainly, it depends on the age of the children,” Deal shares. “A younger child is more open to new adults in their life, but you don’t want to introduce your 4-year-old to a person that you just started dating. You don’t even know whether you like this person. Wait until you think this relationship really has a chance of going somewhere, then you bring them into the picture with intentionality.”

For older children, elementary and beyond, Deal suggests talking with them about it first. Ask, “What if I started dating? How would you feel about that?” This way, you are putting it on their radar that this might happen. 

“Once you know that the relationship has potential, it is important to create opportunities for everybody to be together and for additional conversations to take place,” Deal says.

Deal strongly encourages couples to discuss a few things before deciding to move forward with marriage, though.

Some couples decide to test the waters with the two families by living together first. This creates ambiguity for the children. When children experience this uncertainty, it creates chaos and empowers resistance. If they don’t like the idea of the families coming together, the ambiguity leads them to believe they could make the whole thing unravel. 

Deal believes, more than anything, a stepfamily needs two adults who have clarity about their relationship and the family’s future. By having conversations ahead of time, you are valuing the “we,” and then the children. If you can’t come to an agreement on your parenting styles, that’s serious. Deal believes it’s just as serious as marrying someone with addiction issues. The outcome of these discussions should be part of the equation as to whether or not you plan to marry.

“At least half to two-thirds of dating couples don’t have serious conversations about how they are going to parent when they bring their two families together,” Deal says. “If your parenting styles are vastly different, this can be a dealbreaker.”

In many instances, one parent has been making all the decisions for the children. Now add a second adult into the mix who isn’t their biological parent. What will you do when your child asks to do something and your answer would typically be yes, but your new spouse doesn’t agree with that?

There’s no question that negotiating parenting and romance all at the same time is complicated. You have to manage the complex moving parts for sure. But Deal believes that if you’re going to make a mistake as a blended family couple, err on the side of protecting your marriage.

“The goal here is to protect your marriage, which is why it is so important to talk about these things prior to getting married,” Deal asserts. “Biological parents have an ultimate responsibility to and for their children, but if you make a parenting decision without consulting your spouse, it isn’t helpful to your marriage. The goal is to co-create your parenting response. You cannot have two different answers for two different sets of kids. That unravels your “us-ness” as a couple.

“It typically takes four to seven years for a stepfamily to find their rhythm,” Deal adds. “There is no rushing it. You can’t will it into being. There are certain aspects of your family that will merge faster than others. Even in the midst of figuring out how to make it work, your marriage can be thriving.”

Looking for more? Check out this article of JulieB TV on this topic!

Several years ago a company donated Mother’s Day cards for prisoners to send to their mothers, and they actually ran out of cards. The company also donated cards for Father’s Day, but guess what? This time, inmates only used a handful of cards. This shocked the company.

A Pew research piece may offer some insight into why this happened. After analyzing the 2011 American Community Survey, Pew asserted that a record 40 percent of all households with children under 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.

On the surface this sounds like a victory for women, but the report’s details tell a very different story. It shows that two very different groups make up these “breadwinner moms.” Actually, 5.1 million are married mothers who earn more than their husbands, and 8.6 million are single mothers.

“You would never guess from the triumphant headlines in the media that almost two-thirds of the family breadwinners are single mothers,” says Kay Hymowitz, William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of Manning Up and Marriage and Caste in America. “These mothers are not ‘top earners,’ they are the only earners. Only 37 percent of the ‘breadwinning women’ are married mothers who are making more than their husbands, and in many instances, this is because the husband lost his job.”

A whopping 63 percent (8.6 million) of these moms are single mothers, 29 percent of whom are not working at all. More than half of the children in homes with single moms are growing up poor. According to the report, a growing number of these women never married. Other studies have shown that never-married mothers tend to get less financial assistance from their children’s fathers than previously-married mothers.

The Atlantic responded to the Pew research by saying, ‘Employment and gender roles in the United States continue to shift away from the Leave it to Beaver model. Murphy Brown is winning,’” Hymowitz says. “It speaks volumes that the article’s vision of a single mother is a make-believe character who is a television news star.”

Research still consistently shows that children do better in every way when their two parents are present in the home. So what exactly are we celebrating? It isn’t about who makes more – it’s about helping families thrive.

On Father’s Day, perhaps prisoners took so few cards for a reason. Maybe it’s because so many fathers have walked away from caring for and engaging with their children, although others want to be there. Oftentimes, a father’s seemingly irreconcilable differences with the other parent keeps them from engaging with their kids.

Whatever the case, guess who loses? The children.

An analysis of 100 studies on parent-child relationships shows that having a loving and nurturing father is very important. It’s as crucial for a child’s happiness, well-being, social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother.

Dad, your kids need you.

“How do I get my ex to be consistent with discipline?”

“Sometimes I find it very hard not to talk bad about my ex in front of the children.”

“There is nothing that will make my blood pressure go up faster than when my ex says they will do something and they don’t.”

“I honestly believe my ex does things intentionally to get back at me.”

In the aftermath of a divorce, people often realize that instead of being better off as they hoped, they have traded one set of problems for another. There are a lot of frustrated moms and dads who don’t understand why they can’t agree on anything after the divorce when it comes to parenting.

Life is Different

Even though you have lived with this person for a number of years, you are now learning how to live separate lives while still parenting your children well. There may be things your ex is doing that you totally don’t agree with, but you have to figure out how to work within the boundaries of your new relationship – while always considering what will be in the best interest of your children.

For starters, it is important for you to plan how you will manage as a single parent.

  • Get organized. Make a plan for moving forward. Take time to sort through activities, job demands, a budget, available resources, friends who can provide support and backup, etc. This will help you to be more in control of your situation and to focus on what is important.
  • Focus on family. Set expectations, keep the lines of communication open, establish boundaries and set aside time to be together as a family.
  • Throw perfection out the window. It isn’t about having it all together. It is more about doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.
  • Ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. There are resources available, but you have to make the connection. Neighbors, friends and co-workers are often ready and willing to step up to the plate when you need them.
  • Take one day at a time. After you have put a plan together, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.

This transition time can be very challenging. Having a plan in place will help you bring some order into your life and help you keep your cool when things don’t go as planned with your ex.

Keep the Children out of the Middle

An old African proverb says, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

“Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children,” says stepfamily expert Ron Deal. “Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass because they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.”

Parents who want to reduce the negative effects of divorce on their children should strive to be effective co-parents because it reduces between-home conflict and increases cooperation. Taming your tongue, for example, is critical to cooperating. Conflict containment starts with controlling your speech. You cannot be an effective co-parent without doing so.

“Parents have to remember and accept the fact that while they can end a marriage to someone, they will never stop being parents,” Deal says. “While you may be relieved to be out of the marriage, your children have been in a transitional crisis. How well they recover from that crisis has a lot to do with you, the parents. The key to successful co-parenting is separating the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain.”

According to Deal, children successfully adjust to the ending of their parents’ marriage and can fare reasonably well if:

  • The parents are able to bring their marital relationship to an end without excessive conflict.
  • Children are not put into the middle of whatever conflicts exist.
  • There is a commitment from parents to cooperate on issues of the children’s material, physical, educational and emotional welfare.

Many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurturing and disciplining of their children. That does not absolve you of the responsibility to try. Your children deserve your best effort.

Co-parenting does not mean sharing all decisions about the children or that either home is accountable to the other for their choices, rules or standards. Each household should be autonomous, but share responsibility for the children. It also does not mean that rules or punishment from one home cross over to the other home.

For example, if your child gets in trouble on Thursday and he loses his television privileges, in an ideal world it would be great if your ex were willing to enforce the consequence over the weekend. That may not happen in reality, so the actual consequence would go into effect when your child returns home to you Sunday evening. Telling your ex that he/she has to enforce your consequence usually leads to more conflict between the two of you and more angst for your child.

Deal believes effective co-parenting should look something like this:

  • Work hard to respect the other parent and his or her household.
  • Schedule a monthly “business” meeting to discuss co-parenting matters. Make a list of things that need to be discussed. A word of caution: Do not discuss your personal life or that of your ex. If the conversation drifts away from the children, redirect it toward your children and their activities, schedules, etc.
  • Never ask your children to be spies or tattle-tales on the other home. The goal is to decrease distress, not create more. If you hear information about what happened while they were with their other parent, listen and stay neutral.
  • When children have confusing or angry feelings toward your ex, don’t capitalize on their hurt and berate the other parent.
  • Children should have everything they need in each home. Don’t make them bring basics back and forth.
  • Try to release your hostility toward the other parent so that the children can’t take advantage of your hard feelings. Bitterness, hurt and anger keep you from being the person and the parent your children need.
  • Do not disappoint your children with broken promises or by being unreliable.

In the midst of a complicated and difficult situation, you have the opportunity to show integrity, honor and respect. Even when you don’t like someone anymore or you don’t think they deserve it, you can still find a way to be respectful.

  • Make your custody structure work for your children even if you don’t like the details of the arrangement.
  • If you plan to hire a babysitter for more than four hours while the children are in your home, give the other parent first rights to that time.
  • Suggest that younger children take a favorite toy or game as a transitional object.
  • If you and your ex cannot resolve a problem, change in custody or visitation, agree to problem-solve through mediation rather than litigation.

Moving On

“The reality is many parents who were poor marriage partners are good parents and their children enjoy them very much,” Deal shares. “Give your ex-spouse the opportunity to be wonderful with the children, even if he/she wasn’t wonderful with you.”

You are traveling in uncharted waters. While you probably have friends who have experienced this and are willing to give you advice, it may not be right for your family.

A father once said that it had been six months since his divorce and it was time for his “kid” to get over it. Children of divorce don’t ever “get over it.” They may learn how to cope with it, but every day for the rest of their lives they will have to make decisions that are a result of their parents’ divorce.

As time goes by, you may feel like you are moving on, adjusting and putting this chapter in your life behind you. However, this is not something your children will ever “put behind them.” At every turn your child will gain new insights and more questions. They must understand the divorce was not their fault. Equally as important is being intentional about modeling healthy relationship skills with your children.

Additional Resources:

The Smart Stepfamily: Seven steps to a Healthy Family – Ron Deal

Parenting After Divorce: How to Work Together with Your Ex-Spouse for Happier, Healthier Children – Ron Deal

The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce – Judith Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis and Sandra Blakesless

What About the Kids?: Raising Your Children Before, During and After Divorce – Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee

Smart Stepfamilies

Looking for more? Check out this video by JulieB TV on this topic!

For many years social scientists have been warning society about the cost of family fragmentation. There have been ongoing discussions concerning the impact on children and adults emotionally, educationally, economically, physically and in other areas of life. A 2008 report reveals the economic cost of family fragmentation to taxpayers.

According to The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing, by the Institute for American Values, The Georgia Family Council, The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and Families Northwest, divorce and unwed childbearing conservatively cost taxpayers $122 billion annually. The costs are due to:

  • Increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty,
  • Criminal justice and education programs, and
  • Lower levels of tax revenue from those negatively affected by family fragmentation and increased childhood poverty.

“In 1970 the number of children residing in two-parent families was 85 percent,” said Dr. Ben Scafidi, principal investigator for the report. “In 2005, only 68.3 percent of children reside in two-parent families. This is a dramatic decrease over a short amount of time. Clearly we are seeing the impact.”

Long-standing research shows the potential risks to children from broken homes include:

  • Poverty,
  • Mental illness,
  • Physical illness,
  • Infant mortality,
  • Lower educational attainment,
  • Juvenile delinquency,
  • Conduct disorders,
  • Adult criminality, and
  • Early unwed parenthood.

“This report isn’t just about the money; we are talking about real people and real suffering,” said Randy Hicks, president of the Georgia Family Council. “The economic and human costs make family fragmentation a legitimate public concern for all of us. Historically, Americans have resisted the impulse to surrender to negative and hurtful trends. We fight problems like racism, poverty and domestic violence because we understand the stakes are high. And while we’ll never eliminate divorce and unwed childbearing entirely, we can certainly be doing more to help marriages and families succeed.”

The 2008 report sponsors say this is not a slam toward divorced people or single parents. It is purely providing information that we have never had before, and it could be an opportunity for communities to take grassroots prevention efforts to the next level.

So what can YOU do?

  • If you have a teen, encourage them to participate in healthy relationship skills class.
  • If you’re engaged, participate in skill-building classes that teach you how to have a healthy, long-lasting marriage.
  • If you’re in a healthy, long-lasting marriage, encourage newlyweds and offer wisdom along their journey.
  • If you belong to a religious organization, look for ways to engage couples and families in ongoing programming that seeks to meet them where they are and give them skills, hope, words of encouragement and a network from which to draw strength in tough times.
  • If you’re in a business setting, make sure your employees know about community resources and encourage them to take advantage what is available.
  • If your marriage is in trouble or distress, seek help.

It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The report states that a 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion annually. This doesn’t even take into account the heartache and emotional upheaval that could potentially be prevented if this report is seen as a call to action to the people of our country.

Singles everywhere are bracing themselves for the holiday they dread the most – Valentine’s Day. This week there will be an onslaught of commercials advertising amazing packages couples can take to celebrate their love. If you don’t have a special someone in your life and wish that you did, it can be really painful. Some have even dubbed the day, S.A.D.— Singles Awareness Day.

There are certainly options for ways to handle Valentine’s Day and the weeks surrounding it. Some choose to ignore the day altogether, claiming it is nothing more than a made-up holiday to generate revenue. This could be true since people will spend more than approximately $650 million on food, candy, flowers and other Valentine’s Day gifts. Others sit at home, lamenting the fact that they don’t have someone special in their life.

One group of singles decided they were done being irritated and sad about the day. They came up with a plan for an annual dessert party and contest. The guys had to come up with a dessert recipe and make it with no help. The desserts would be judged on presentation, creativity and taste.

Each year the ladies in the group developed a different theme and gave awards based on the theme. The theme of the party was not announced until the night of the party. Past themes have included the Olympics, Reality Shows, current events and news headlines.

There have been some pretty amazing entries such as volcano cakes, replicas of landmarks, Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding and jalapeno brownies. There have also been some epic failures. For instance, one guy tried to make something kind of healthy thing that turned out to be totally disgusting.

Bottom line, it didn’t really matter whether it was a winner or a serious dud, it was a great way to spend time together, celebrate and laugh, which made it a fun way to spend Valentine’s Day.

Through the years some of the original members of the group have married, but they still participate in the annual contest.

If you are single and dreading Valentine’s Day, here are a few tips from other singles for making the day fun.

  • Gather with friends. Have dinner and make Valentine’s cards to send to people who probably won’t receive a Valentine, like an elderly neighbor who has no family.
  • Make a batch of Valentine cards and send them to some single friends without a signature.
  • Invite friends over for a special dinner instead of going out to eat.
  • Offer to babysit for some married friends so they can go on a date.
  • Send yourself some flowers.
  • Throw your own dessert theme party or come up with your own creative party idea.

Valentine’s Day is not just for romantic couples; it’s a celebration of the love we feel for others. Take time out to acknowledge those who have made a difference in your life through their affection and support.

Does marriage matter? People have been asking this question for decades.

For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America examined how family structure impacts the economic fortunes of American families. Dr. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University, conducted the research.

They concluded that marriage is key to productive adulthood, stable families and healthy communities.

Five significant findings emerged from this study about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America:

  • The retreat from marriage is key to the changing economic fortunes of American family life. The median income of families with children would be approximately 44% higher if the United States enjoyed 1980-levels of married parenthood today.

  • Strong associations exist between growing up with both parents in an intact family and higher levels of education, work and income. Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual “intact family premium.” The premium amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.

  • Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty to their individual incomes. Plus, both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics.

  • Growing up with both parents increases the odds of attaining higher education. Higher education leads to higher odds of marriage as an adult. Both the extra education and marriage result in higher income levels. Men and women from intact families who are currently married enjoy an annual “family premium” in their household income. The premium exceeds that of their single peers from in non-intact families by at least $42,000.

  • All populations benefit from growing up in an intact family and being married. It applies about as much to blacks, Hispanics and whites. The advantages also apply to less-educated men and women. Men with a high-school diploma or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to single peers.

Strong and stable families are economically vital. Consequently, Wilcox and Lerman contend that business and civic leaders and policymakers should strengthen and stabilize marriage and family life in the U.S. And since the poor and working class feel the impact of the nation’s retreat from marriage most, Lerman and Wilcox believe the efforts should be focused on them.

The authors also recommend:

  • Public policy should “do no harm” when it comes to marriage. Policymakers should eliminate or reduce marriage penalties.

  • Civic institutions, private and public partners, businesses, state governments and public schools should launch a national “success sequence” campaign together. This would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage and then parenthood. It would also stress the benefits of being born to married parents with a secure economic foundation.

Lerman and Wilcox contend that the nation’s retreat from marriage is worrisome. It not only affects family inequality, but men’s declining labor-force participation and the vitality of the American dream.

 ***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The challenges of single parenting are many. Holding down a job, taking care of the children’s needs and household repairs, and a whole host of other things vie for the 168-hour week. How do single parents make it through the trials and come out feeling good about themselves and their children?

When Martin Luther King III was asked how his mother handled being a single parent, he responded, “My mother did the best she could. She surrounded us with caring adults, including my grandmother, who loved us and provided structure and security to help us grow to be responsible adults.”

Census reports indicate there has been a significant increase in single-parent households. In fact, more than 13.7 million men and women find themselves in the position of parenting alone. Things that have never been issues before are now on the radar screen, often producing anxiety, fear and many sleepless nights.

“I have been a single parent of three for six years,” says Richard.* “I didn’t know a soul when I moved here and had no family support. The biggest obstacle for me was keeping all of the balls up in the air. I was launching a new business and trying to keep my family going.”

Richard describes his transition into single parenthood as highly emotional.

“I was living in a one-bedroom place,” Richard says. “At the outset it was very difficult. I realized I was insecure emotionally. I remember taking lunch hours to do laundry at the laundromat.”

Fortunately, Richard found resources that were available to assist in his parenting efforts.

“The aftercare program at school was a lifesaver,” Richard shares. “There were teachers and friends who helped out in many ways. We were befriended by many people to whom I will always be grateful.”

If you’re a single parent trying to find your way, here are some helpful suggestions from seasoned single parents:

  • Get organized. Make a plan for moving forward. Take time to sort through activities, job demands, a budget, available resources, etc. This will help you to be more in control of your situation and to focus on what is important.

  • Focus on family. Set expectations, establish boundaries, keep the lines of communication open and set aside time to be together as a family.

  • Throw perfection out the window. It isn’t about having it all together. It is about doing the best you can under difficult circumstances.

  • Ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. There are resources available, but you have to make the connection. Neighbors, friends and co-workers are often ready and willing to step up to the plate.

  • Take one day at a time. After you have put a plan together, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.

After going through the trauma of a breakup, loss or abandonment, it’s easy to shy away from asking for help for fear of being seen as weak. Most single parents will say this is not how they wished things would be. But over time, many single moms and dads realize the experience has made them stronger and that it is truly okay to ask for help.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Julia Espey was a retired NASA researcher and single mom. While walking through a New York park with her 4-year-old son one afternoon, she realized that she had to be both mom and dad for her child.

“It was an overwhelming moment,” says Espey. “I knew how to put a 20-ton aircraft in space, but I didn’t know how to guide my 20-pound son. I started looking for respectable men who were successful in every area of life – work, family, etc. Then, I asked them to share how they raised their children, why they did the things they did and how it worked out. My goal was to learn from the best examples and then surround my son with great male role models.”

Espey interviewed 35 very successful men from all walks of life. She asked them to complete this sentence, “If I were your daddy, this is what you’d learn.” This ultimately became the title of her book.

She was surprised to find that many of them, despite their significant successes, had never been asked to share their thoughts about parenting.

“Greg Link, who teaches leadership and critical thinking nationwide, shared the ‘OREO technique,’” Espey says. “When his children were young he began teaching them how to make good choices on their own. They would sit as a family and do the OREO:

  • What is the Opportunity?

  • Are Risks Involved?

  • In what kind of Environment will you be?

  • What are the potential Outcomes?

“As the children practiced this in their younger years, it became second nature to them. When they became teenagers and had much tougher decisions to make, they automatically turned to OREO.”

Espey used the men’s input to go from feeling overwhelmed to applying what she learned in an effort to parent her son well.

“As I talked with these men, I moved from fearful to calm in my parenting,” Espey says. “I became very intentional about inviting male friends who shared my values over for dinner to spend time around my son. Since writing the book, I have remarried and have used many of the techniques I learned while writing the book to help us navigate the road of becoming a healthy stepfamily.”

Espey wants parents to use this book as a mentor guide to improve their successes with their kids. She also hopes it will help parents better cope with challenges, identify their children’s uniqueness, and provide strong family support.

“These men speak from their heart, sharing words of wisdom for those of us in the midst of raising kids,” Espey says. “I appreciated their vulnerability to share personal stories about dealing with kids on the edge, mistakes they had made and lessons learned. I also recognized that it was not wise for me to try and parent alone. Whether I ever remarried or not, I had plenty of friends and family who could mentor my son.”

Many divorced parents face the reality of divided time with their children. Arrangements vary from weekend visitation to splitting time with each parent right down the middle. This often creates problems between the two homes: sometimes one parent is strict and the other is lenient, one parent may try to fill both parental roles, or perhaps one parent’s home is like a vacation spot.

Occasionally, parents refuse to work together for the good of the children out of spite for each other. This sets up an environment of competition, guilt and resentment, according to stepfamily expert, Elizabeth Einstein.

How can you work together for the best interest of your child?

First, you must put your issues aside. It is helpful if both of you:

  • Complete a joint-parenting plan and agree on expectations and limits so that your child can’t manipulate you;
  • Work as a team to provide consistency for the children;
  • Agree not to degrade or talk negatively about each other even though you might still have unresolved issues and anger;
  • Allow the children to talk about their feelings while listening and comforting them, as they also are going through a very difficult time; and
  • Try to make home as normal a place as possible.

Each of you should have a plan in place for how to spend your time with the children.

  • Remember to make sure it is not necessarily all fun and games, but give them the freedom to learn and get to know you better, just as they would if they lived with you all the time. It is important that the parent-child relationship does not only become one of playmate, peer or buddy when visitation time comes, but one of bonding.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for the visitation, and do not expect your kids to be cheerful and happy all the time. They are going through adjustments that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
  • Remember, no one is perfect. Do the best you know how to do. Work with your children to establish new traditions. Stick to the agreements in the joint-parenting plan, and above all, be consistent during the special times you have with your children.