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insights from a veteran single mom

15 Insights From a Veteran Single Mom

insights from a veteran single mom

 

There are many great articles on what to do when you are suddenly faced with a divorce. But there are not a lot about what to know at the other end of your journey. In July 1999 I suddenly found myself a single mother 4 weeks after my second child was born. Seems my husband had other plans with his girlfriend which did not include me, my 4-week-old daughter or my 4-year-old son.

Let’s see…we were in the middle of remodeling our home and I just had a baby. All the above were left for me to complete. So many friends asked if I wanted to go out and get a glass of wine. You know… to unwind and relax.

My response? I can’t afford to start drinking now; I will never stop.

Then I went to a counselor who told me I wasn’t sleeping enough and that I should take sleeping pills to help me. Ummm… did she miss the 4-week-old baby part? I guess I could set her bottle in the bassinette and hope she takes a swig when she’s hungry. Good grief!

Fast forward 20 years later. I am here to tell you that you can survive despite the well-wishers who are …let’s face it…clueless to your new world. You learn to accept the cards you got dealt with.

You kinda have no choice. You learn to make the best “Gosh Darn” Lemonade you can with the week-old lemons that have fallen from the tree that was hit by lightning.

You sacrifice; you persevere, and best of all YOU WIN! Here are some ways I found to take those steps forward.

Insights From a Veteran Single Mom

1. Find Your Purpose

“As long as you have breath, someone needs what you have.”

Joel Osteen

I have found this to be a strange comfort to me. I guess I have found this to be a reason to keep on keeping on. I do have people who need what I have. But it seems that they need the very energy I need to be able to deliver what they think I have. Hmmm that’s a lot to unpack. Let’s try that again. It seems that “they” need the very energy that “I” need to be able to deliver to “them” what “they” think that “I” have. Well, that is still a mouthful. Work that one out if you can.

My purpose has morphed into many phases that I would never have known of myself before. When I found myself suddenly alone and facing the daunting task of raising a family by myself, building a house that was abandoned by my husband and left to do it all by myself, and all the while working a full-time job and going through a divorce…I had no idea what my purpose was. It changed by the hour. By the day. By the month. Heck, by the minute.

I had an infant so that was the measure of how much growth occurred each month. Literally a transforming child and a transforming mother right before my eyes. But I had a purpose. That purpose, though changing all the time was my navigation to keep moving forward. Step by step. Breath by breath. And at the end of each day, I would literally look at my babies asleep in the room they shared, and say, “Well Karen…you were a good mom today.”

2. Reaching Out for Help

“Most Holy Apostle St. Jude Thaddeus, friend of Jesus, I place myself in your care at this difficult time. Help me know that I need not face my troubles alone. Please join me in my need.”

Prayer to St. Jude

Oh, how hard it is for me to ask for help. It is probably my earliest memory as a child. Needing help. I had a twin sister who was wicked smart. She had no trouble with any subject. I failed math miserably. But for some reason, I guess in the 70’s they just didn’t think to offer a kid struggling any help, by that I mean teachers. Schools.

My mom had gone back to school herself and she had no time for this. So, I suffered. Sadly, I learned how to function well in suffering. I learned how to make it all look easy and not be phased by any of it. I normalized what felt like abnormal. I could not have known what purpose that would serve me later in my life.

But now I have come to see that it was a prophecy of some kind. It was a divinely engineered skill that was necessary when I needed it most. How to function as normal and light to the outside world; to the children you are raising alone; to the friends and family who look at you like you are Rock Star simply because you still smile and laugh while dealing with circumstances, they could never imagine for themselves.

So, in order to avoid bursting their bubbles and shaking the images I have created, I seek help in a Spiritual way. To the beings that know me best and who I feel have stood by me all these years. I seek help from those that I know will not judge me and who I know have felt every ounce of my nerves through these years. They have never let me down, but I do need to always remember to show my gratitude. Oh, things are tough no doubt as you raise a family alone. But they could have been so much worse. I believe in Angels.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Be Still

“I give myself permission to be still. To not worry about anything at all. Happy Birthday, Karen.”

Karen Czuleger

There is only one day that I allow myself to be still. No worries. To not engage my fears. To just be still. That day is my birthday. Oh, I still do everything I need to care for everyone else. But in my soul; I allow it to be still.

4. Remember Your Legacy

“No One With Character Leaves Behind A Wasted Life”

John McCain

I do try to believe this every day that I am on this earth. I feel that because I have character, I was able to raise a family alone and let their father run away due to his “lack” of character. I hate anyone who is derelict in character. I know it’s because of him too. Before, I could have cared less who had character or who didn’t. I just didn’t think much about it.

But now I see lack of character in anyone as a significant sign of weakness; which I, of course, have no patience for. My father was a “Man” of deep convictions. He was a simple man at the same time. He just lived his life with a compass that was extraordinary. He believed he was no better or worse than anyone. He was a man who gave all that he had in order to end anyone’s suffering. He showed me this trait every day of my life.

It showed in epic proportions when I found myself to suddenly be a single mom weeks after my second child was born. He never shirked what he perceived to be his duty. He loved me unconditionally and adored with the greatest depth of love for my children. He stepped up. He stepped in. He was the Father figure he insisted they get. And he was. No one could leave this earth with a better legacy than John Arthur Czuleger.

5. Raise Your Bar

“My tastes are simple. I am easily satisfied with the very best.”

Winston Churchill

I love the best. I love to feel that I have the best of everything. And even if my car is not a Mercedes, my car …to me is the best. But what has motivated me in the past in seeking the best has changed dramatically. I no longer live in a state of want for “things”. I do live in a state of want for love; for protection; for support; for peace.

I watch TV shows and movies that I have seen 100 times. But now that I am older, I see them differently. I feel pangs of jealousy. I know how stupid is that? I watch my old fave, Keeping Up Appearances on the BBC and what I used to laugh at and felt that they were a world away, I now see that they are two older people who are quirky, but who are financially stable. He gets to retire. She never had to work. Oh, what bliss that looks like to me now.  Some days I am even jealous of Wilma Flintstone and Jane Jetson. Good grief.

6. Don’t Give Away Your Worth

“Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me.”

Quincy Jones

This was something I had to really work on. I may only have 2 nickels to rub together, but I have my self-worth. I gave it to every guy since my husband and including him. I gave it to the woman he left us for. I still have nightmares about them, but for some reason I am no longer a victim in those horrid dreams. I am stronger. Oh, they used to be awful. I was humiliated over and over, repeatedly by them in my dreams.

Then I met Mark. He had to make me smaller so he could feel bigger. Then I met Jeffrey. He had to dump all his problems on me and expect me to understand when he sought out others to have fun with. Then I met the Russian. With this wonderful man, I found my strength. Why with him? Because he had enough class and integrity that he didn’t need to steal mine to find his. In order to find your self-worth, you sometimes must get so darn tired of feeling worthless that you need to start looking at the common denominators to these people.

What you find is that they seek your security to bolster their insecurities.

7. Be Confident

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.”

Mark Twain

Single mom or not…remember that you are the best and you are doing your best. Just because you do not have a man in your life doesn’t mean that you are alone. Share in your life’s joys and happiness with your children and never feel lonely. Never feel that you are not good enough for a man just because you have kids and you have made them your priority in some cases for a very long time. My mother used to always say that her children were her wealth! Thanks Mom! Mine are too!

8. Change Your Movie

“Can it be done, Father? Can a man change the stars?” His father calmly replies, “Yes William. If he believes enough, a man can do anything.”

A Knights Tale

Sometimes I wish the end of a movie was at the beginning. Especially scary movies. And there are many days spent as a single parent more frightening then Dracula or Frankenstein! I want to know that everything will be alright. So, change your life movie. Change your power. Think from the end.

Think of the happy ending at the end of the pain.

Think about how you want to feel and feel it. What would security feel like? You knew it before. Feel it again. Imagine it. Feel it. Let the experience wash all over you and seep into you.

Feel your heart rate lower.

Feel your breathing slow down. Check yourself. Continue.

What does support feel like?

Does it feel like a warm blanket on a cold day?

Does it make you take a deep cleansing breath in and allow you to exhale all the way out?

Are you safe?

What does safety feel like? Are you calm?

How do you feel?

Imagine the sweet calm and secure feeling of knowing you are safe. It may feel like a game you are playing with yourself. But what you feel, your body responds to. In the same way when you feel fear or are anxious. Your body responds.

So why not try the opposite feelings? If your organs were your children that you want to protect from harm, wouldn’t you just instinctively protect them? Wouldn’t your Mama Bear just kick into overdrive? It would! You would! Your organs need you to take care of them. They need you as much as you need them! Care for them. Love them.

And the result will surprise you when you realize that even though your reality may still be there to deal with, the feelings and reactions to it have shifted to a better place. Breath. Breath.

9. Love Sees Everything

True love is both loving and letting oneself be loved. It is harder to let ourselves be loved than it is to love.

Pope Francis

By Love Sees Everything, I mean with love there is nothing too harsh to see that can change how one feels. Of course, you can get annoyed by things someone does. But real loves see’s it all in its technicolor glory. You don’t have to mask anything to someone who truly loves you. You have no fear of judgement from them. The harshest judgment usually comes from oneself. Afterall we are our worst critics.

Which brings me to the real issue at hand. Love ourselves in all our own technicolor glory as well. That is, through aging, weight gain, exhaustion, crankiness…everything! We must approve of and love ourselves and not be afraid of what we see in the mirror. If only when we look at our faces in the mirror we saw the sum of all that is beautiful in us, we would never feel fat, old and worthless. We would glory in all of our imperfections. I do!

10. Right Your Story or Write Your Story

“There are those that look at things the way they are and ask why…I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Robert F. Kennedy

I love this phrase because it makes me feel lighter. It makes me feel empowered. It makes me feel less afraid; less daunted; less alone. By writing your story you “right” your story. I am a big believer in visioning. I have had the ability to envision things I wanted ever since I was a little kid. My mom would take us to the fabric store, and we would go to the pattern books and find a dress or outfit we liked and then find our size in the pattern file boxes.

Then we would peruse the store for the best fabrics. I learned to envision things for myself in that fabric store. I could see what the finished dress would look like every time I looked at the fabric. I loved going to the fabric store! It was such a happy place where I felt that my mom gave my ideas and creativity validation.

When one is under siege from stress, especially if you have been a single parent for as long as I have, you one day realize that your visions have lost some intensity. At least I did. I spent so much of my life reacting to everything under the sun. Reacting to crisis after crisis.

These were found in all shapes and sizes from financial stress and the ever-present mortgage to plumbing issues and roof issues. And even the smallest things were a crisis like birthday presents for kid’s parties, McDonald’s trips for the latest toys, school books, school uniforms, grocery trips… everything was a reactive crisis of some kind.

And through those rough seas, I found that I no longer envisioned wonderful things for myself. I stopped myself from envisioning at all because my thoughts defaulted to a fear-based thing and I was too afraid that I would manifest a negative occurrence.

After all, if I had the ability to envision something wonderful and see it manifest, I must have the equal ability to envision something terrible and fear that it would also manifest. So, the answer was…stop envisioning. But here is the funny thing; if I could push through the fear and leap across my mind to the thoughts of seeing myself in a different scene or different job or with lots of money…I have to say that I was able to manifest more good things than I thought were possible.

In fact, I envisioned and would say to myself via an intention, “I am successful beyond my wildest dreams”! Works every time.

Seeing something wonderful through your mind’s eye and saying an intention with conviction can be a very empowering thing to do, not to mention loving.

11. Find Something Greater Than Yourself and Survive.

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short. Shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong.”

Queen Elizabeth II

This one can actually be easier said than done. If you are a good person by nature you are one who naturally wants to please. And sometimes this can be at your peril. But if you take a position to find something that is greater than yourself, greater than the circumstances you find yourself in, it can change the whole dynamic and change your feelings of being lost.

This doesn’t have to be a campaign like Save the Whales or something (or it can be if you want).

It can be a day by day campaign. Maybe you wake up and see that the greater need that day is to go through your closets and finally start purging things that you don’t need and then donate them to a shelter for women and children.

Or maybe it’s helping someone, anyone who is in need that day, for whatever the reason. It all sounds contrite I know. But it adds up. It gets you out of your head and helps you see the world through a new lens. Being of service to someone other than yourself just feels good.

12. Experience the Pain…and Let It Go.

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”

Elizabeth Taylor

This is such a hard one for me and one in which I am constantly trying to navigate. Some days I feel strong and other days I feel the whole thing all over again. What I find is that when I am with my family (my siblings and their families) I feel the most alone. I know that must sound so strange. I mean, my family loves me, right? They do. I know it.

But they are a constant reminder that I am alone. They complain about their respective spouses yet go home every night with them next to them. Knowing that they have each other’s backs and no burden is carried alone. I haven’t felt that kind of security in 2 decades.

I know I have adjusted to the whole fly solo thing now, but that is what makes me sad in the first place. I am now used to it. I now have no expectation of ever being a duo with anyone. And what’s stopping me? The recurring pain.

The movie reel of that old flick running in my head all the time. But it is exacerbated by the picture of seeing my siblings financially secure and well… just secure on all fronts. I miss that feeling. I am not sure I would recognize it if I ever had the chance to feel it again.

But I sure want to try it back on for size one day. But here is what I know for certain, my pain cannot stop me from dreaming of a great future. I am my great future. So, I will put on some lipstick and pull myself together and keep on moving! NO FEAR!

13. Give Yourself Permission to Live

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I really haven’t felt like I have really been “living life” for many years now. I know I have had some wonderful moments that’s for sure. But its been like eating a cream puff that at one time felt so decadent and scrumptious and which now just tastes like something sweet.

The whole emotional experience is no longer there. That may sound like an overly simplistic analogy but it’s the only way I can describe it.

I have become so accustomed to living and existing and operating under stress that I no longer feel the joy of a scrumptious cream puff. I feel the guilt of eating a cream puff. I feel the calories that are seeping into my body. The arteries that are possibly clogging.

The sugar surge on my heart. And why? Because my stakes are so high, and I worry 24/7 and twice on Sunday because so many people rely on me for their very existence.

So why would I enjoy anything when I have so many other things that require my worry energies. Umm “Hey Ding Dong?” Because you are allowed to Live that’s why!! It is your Right to Live!! How silly would we feel if at the end of the day, or end of our lives perhaps…we spent all our healthy days subliminally telling everyone to load it all on us and we will carry it all up the canyon of life like a donkey with a butt load of crap on our backs. No Bueno!

The people who constantly load us up will be the ones who live a happy and light life. There is something just not right with that picture, so take the power back by Living Man!! Throw the pack off the cliff and let someone else carry it now! PEACE OUT!

14. Prepare yourself for a Fabulous Life!

Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.

Dr. Wayne Dyer

This mantra has been drilled into my household walls for over 10 years. Much to the annoyance of my children who are now in their 20’s. But I happen to believe that in order for us to exercise all the steps we need to take to go forward, we need to change our thinking. That usually means, change my thinking from fear and move to thinking from courage.

You may have days that you just can’t muster up the energy to even try to shift. I know I do. But as a practice, try to take a step back from a situation that is daunting you and shift your defaulted worried thoughts to a place of possibility. It should always start with the words, “I can” or “I will”. Starting anything with “I can’t” and “I won’t” is never headed for a good outcome. “I can pay all of my bills”, and “I will pay all of my bills”, sounds so much stronger than the reverse.

Even if you feel you are lying to yourself. By saying it you will find the strength to get creative and allow yourself an opportunity to breathe through it. I find that when I do this, I remember the dozens of other times during this single parent journey that I felt desperate.

But I willed myself through it by saying my positive affirmations. I don’t care how Airy Fairy its sounded, I always seemed to get to the other side.

15. Time to go home.

“You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”

Glinda the Good Witch

This means its time to go home to yourself. You have done the job. You have raised the kids. You have worked the career. You have paid for the house, the tuition, the clothes, the cars etc. You have given every sodden thing in your being to provide a home and security in the best possible way you could.

Now go home. Go home to your reading. Go home to your walking the beach. Go home to your crafts. Go home to your yoga. Go home to wherever you find your soul is nourished and rested. It’s time for you now. And walk courageously to that home with no guilt. Its time to go home.  GO HOME OR GO BIG!

The post 15 Insights From a Veteran Single Mom appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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My First Christmas Tree As a Single Mom

My First Christmas Tree As a Single Mom

first christmas tree as a single momMy first Christmas tree as a single mom.

My first picture of ME lifting him up to put the star on the tree.

You deal with day to day life and it’s fine, you boss up and do your thing every day.

Were MOMS. That’s what we do!

Make sure your child gets to school every day, take them to doctor appointments, make sure they have the right book bags, clothes, snacks, a clean bed and clean house to live in.

Make sure they wake up every day on time and have a nutritional breakfast and start the day off with laughs and lots of pep talks. LOL

Make sure they feel loved every day and read them books every night before bed. Keep the monsters away late at night when they come into your bed and are scared.

But the first Christmas tree stings.

You feel all the pain again. How he gave up on our marriage and our family. How he left me a few weeks before having heart surgery. You get used to someone giving up when the going gets tough and relying on you and yourself only.

And it stings the most because his dad isn’t here to lift him up for the first Christmas ever to put the star on. But it’s EMPOWERING to know I got the picture this year. And To know that I’m STRONG enough to lift him to put the star on the tree.

Running my business from home that my ex never believed in and I’m able to provide for us. To be my son’s safe haven.

To kiss his boos boos when he’s hurt.

To fix refrigerators, vacuums, and anything else going wrong with the house.

To mow all 3 acres.

To snuggle him and feed him chicken soup when he’s sick.

I’m STRONG ENOUGH.

So while I sit here in my PEACEful house with candles lit, tree put up, lights everywhere, the house decorated EXACTLY how I want it. I have PEACE in my heart, PEACE with where I’m at in life, and more importantly for my son and I, PEACE in our HOME.

My little baby and I are happy with just us. I will never stop believing in myself and having faith in God every day and that he has an amazing plan for us.

So keep pushing single mamas out there. YOU’RE NOT ALONE.

Our babies need us as much as we need them.

And we don’t need a man.

Our children come first and they need to see their mamas happy more than anything and never settle for less than that.

I AM ENOUGH.

That’s what matters.

PEACE. Happiness, and most importantly lots of Love.

And Thanks to my mama for the picture. Moms are always there when you need them the most, as I will do for him.

The post My First Christmas Tree As a Single Mom appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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single moms at christmas

A Message To Single Moms At Christmas

single moms at christmas

 

A Message To Single Moms At Christmas

Hey! Hey, you! I see you there, staying up late, searching for the best deals and worrying about how you’re going to put presents under the tree. I know you’ve been squirreling money away since July, hoping to surprise your kids with more than you were able to give last year.

I understand all too well how much easier it would be if you had another income to work with. How much weight would be off your shoulders if you didn’t live paycheck to paycheck all year long?

I know that this time of year is hard, if only because you want to do so much more for your kids than you can.

But I saw you carrying a tree as big as you through the lot all by yourself, never once complaining or asking for help. I saw you bundling the entire family up, going neighborhood to neighborhood to admire the lights as Christmas carols played on your car radio.

I know that most nights, when you’re not too tired or rundown, you try to sit with them and read at least one Christmas story, sometimes in front of a fire. I’ve seen you making hot chocolate and breaking out the advent calendar, determined to make happy holiday memories for those little people you love so much.

I know you’ve been sharing your favorite holiday movies, beaming with pride as your kids laughed at Elf” or giggled through “A Christmas Story” (Fun fact to impress them with: The same kid who played Ralphie grew up to play one of the head elves, supervising Buddy at the North Pole. Ask your kids if they can spot him!)

I saw you flipping through your Christmas cookie recipes, trying to plan a time to bake with your favorite little people—trying even harder not to think about how much you don’t need those cookies around your house. (It’s the holidays, let yourself indulge a little. I promise you deserve it.)

I know you may be worrying (or even heartbroken) about spending Christmas alone this year (perhaps it’s their dad’s turn to have them) or about not being able to give them the Christmas they deserve if they will be with you. I know that it’s not just the presents that get expensive this time of year.

The visits to Santa, the tree, the new ornaments, even the baking supplies; it all adds up. And maybe you have a job where you won’t get paid on the days you aren’t working, making this a short month with less money coming your way.

I see you trying to do the very best you can anyway.

I know you bolt out of bed some nights, remembering that you forgot to hide the elf. So you jump up and move him while it’s on your mind, and then you can’t fall back asleep for another two hours. Only in the morning do you realize how unoriginal your new hiding spot was.

And I know that you are the only one wrapping gifts and that because you’re tired and stressed out and a little short on personal time, the corners aren’t just right. And you’ve got a few presents with scraps of paper taped together because you don’t have any to waste.

But you know what? Your kids don’t seem to care. They don’t mind that there are only a few presents under the tree, or even that the tree is second-hand and a little beaten up.

They aren’t upset you had to skip the Santa visit this year, and they remember all the Christmas stories by heart—because you’ve read them every year before now. And do you want to know the best part? They think you are beautiful enough to eat all the cookies without fear.

Maybe this is the first year you’ve been doing it all on your own, or perhaps it’s always been like this. Either way, there is an extra pressure there when you are solo parenting around the holidays. You never want your kids to miss out. You never want them to feel as though they don’t have everything every other family does. And this time of year, that missing presence can feel even harder to ignore.

But I promise you’re doing just fine. Amazing, even.

Because every step of the way, you are putting your kids first. You are pushing and striving to make this holiday season better than the last, to stick to the traditions, to create the memories and to show your kids just how much you love them.

You are a superwoman. And I’m here to tell you, even if those attempts don’t go exactly as originally planned, they know it.

And they see you, too.

They see you bending over backward to make the holidays special. They see you slapping a smile on your face as you sing, even though the circles under your eyes are dark. They may not be beaming with gratitude just yet; in fact, it might take them years to tell you just how much your efforts meant. But they see you, and the memories you are working so hard to make.

You are singlehandedly creating Christmas, and your kids are benefitting daily from that fact. They see you, and they’ll always remember…

The carols.

The hot chocolate.

The lazy elf.

The love.

All of this will mean so much more to them than anything you could possibly put under the tree. In fact, years from now, they won’t remember what gifts they got this Christmas—but they will remember how hard their mom worked to make it special.

You’re doing an amazing job. So be kind to yourself this holiday season; you deserve some happy memories, too.

Merry Christmas,

Olivia

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efficient single mom

7 Habits Of Highly Efficient Single Moms

efficient single mom

 

There is definitely an art and a science to successful single parenting. Since I was raised by a single parent and raised two children solo for a few years, it’s worth mentioning that there is a silver lining to being a single mom. Fortunately, many moms gain self-confidence in their ability to handle challenges and their children become more determined and independent.

However, making the transition from married to single life won’t be easy for you or your children. It takes time to adjust to financial changes, expanded household and childcare responsibilities and being alone. It’s essential that you develop daily habits and routines to smooth the way for you and your children.

The key to successful single parenting is to reflect daily upon the importance of preparing for your new life and accepting that change is necessary. It will take time for you and your children to adjust to your new lifestyle but developing a positive mindset will help ease the transition.

Since I’ve always found paradigms and principles useful to setting goals, I will borrow habits from Stephen R. Covey‘s Habits of Highly Effective People and adapt them for single moms. In several cases, I borrowed his heading and in others, developed my own.

7 Habits of an efficient single mom

1. Be proactive: Get support for yourself and your children. This includes counseling, social outlets, and child care. Avoid playing the role of victim and remind yourself that things will get better over time.

2. Create a positive vision: Take control of your life and develop a clear picture of where you are heading. Decide what your values are for raising your children and start with setting three goals that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that it can take up to a month to see any change.

3. Prioritize: Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep the focus on spending time with your kids and positive interactions. For instance, in our house we had pizza on Tuesday nights which gave us one weeknight to spend more time together when I wasn’t so focused on cooking and cleaning up.

4. Think win-win: Make peace with your ex and keep it that way. No matter how you feel about your ex, don’t bad mouth him or argue in front of your kids. Children pick up on petty fighting and may take it personally. So walk away or take on the role of peacemaker if tension is brewing with your ex. Otherwise, your children will feel forced to take sides, which may cause them to develop loyalty conflicts and possibly emotional problems if there is high conflict.

5. Seek first to understand: then to be understood: Open up the lines of communication with your kids. Be open and honest without giving them too many details or blaming your ex for the divorce. Even if you perceive that he was responsible they shouldn’t hear it from you. Take every opportunity to listen, support, and encourage them to talk about their feelings with you and/or someone they trust.

6. Ensure smooth transitions. Work with your children and possibly your ex to reduce stress in the lives of your children. Children often experience stress moving from parent to parent after divorce. Try your best to develop routines for their leaving and coming home. Be sure not to make them a messenger or ask them to report on the parent they just left. Attempt to be flexible yet consistent with the custody schedule. Keep in mind that as kids reach adolescence they may become rebellious about following the original custody schedule and need more control.

7. It’s Me Time: Take time to do the things that you enjoy. Set expectations for your children to do regular chores. This doesn’t mean overburdening them with too much responsibility. However, having high expectations for your kids will set the stage for making them more independent and will allow you to have more downtime.

How can you embrace this time of your life as an opportunity? First of all, it’s imperative that you focus on the things that are truly important and learn to let other things go. This involves making a commitment to helping your children adjust to your divorce and practicing amicable co-parenting. Working together with your ex and communicating effectively is ideal. However, if this isn’t possible, either because your ex is absent or adversarial, you can still become a successful single parent.

Be patient with your children – it will encourage their cooperation. Give your kids time to adjust to the news that their parents are no longer married.  Keep in mind that they will need time to get used to their new schedule and they may show signs of distress or withdraw at times. Reassure them that you are there for them and that things will get better.

At times, you may feel guilty about putting your children through a divorce but don’t let that stop you from setting effective limits and boundaries. For instance, allowing your children to stay up late or sleep with you may backfire because you both need your space and sleep. Be aware that kids play parents off each other and may say things like “Dad lets me stay up until midnight.” Even if this is true, you can say “Your dad has his rules, but in my house bedtime is at 9pm.”

As a single mom, it is of primary importance that you help your children cope with your divorce and develop a mindset of being a positive role model for them. In order to do this, you must take care of yourself. Parents who take control of their own lives, with courage and resilience, help their children do the same. Being a single mom draws on every ounce of energy from you, forcing you to become a more compassionate person.

Learn to trust yourself and embrace your new life by taking care of you. For example, sign up for yoga or an exercise class, eat healthy, and schedule in social times with friends. You will be a more effective parent if you are rested and feel connected to others. Counseling, coaching, or a support group can be helpful supports that will enhance your transition to your new life.

As a parent who is taking care of herself and gaining confidence, you are equipping your child with the best tools possible and the self-esteem to move forward with their life. Developing a sense of adventure and new rituals such as family game night or walks will help you stay connected with your children.

Your divorce can be seen as a transforming event, and you alone are responsible for creating a new kind of family for you and your children. You can choose to model self-acceptance and hope for your kids. Learning to laugh at yourself and focusing on the big picture will enable you and your children to make a good adjustment to divorce.

Terry Gaspard on Facebook, Twitter, and movingpastdivorce.com

More from Terry

6 Ways to Mend Trust After Divorce

Building Resiliency in Children After Divorce

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4 Ways to Build Your Single Mom Community of Support

4 Ways to Build Your Single Mom Community of Support

single mom community of support

 

None of us can do everything by ourselves. We need friends, family, and community. But how many of these people can you reach out to who have an understanding of your life as a single mom?

How do you create a community of support when you’re juggling your children’s lives and all their activities, working, running your household and all that goes along with being a single mom, right?

You need a tribe, a group of friends and even some family members who’ll be there if you need a shoulder to cry on, someone to bitch about your kids to or help with childcare.

And, don’t forget that person to share a glass of wine or cup of coffee with. Someone you can talk about your latest relationship with, the new jeans you purchased or how damn broke you are. It all helps but when it comes to being a single mom and building that kind of community, it’s beyond difficult.

Ways to Build Your Single Mom Community of Support

Babysitting

Create a babysitting network with other single parent friends, offering to supervise someone else’s kids for an evening on a rotating schedule with all people offering same. Not only do you gain time away from the kids you build relationships with other single moms.

Facebook Page for Local Single Moms

Use social networking wisely. Join or create a Facebook page for local single parents. You can swap ideas, services, potluck dinners, meetups, the list is endless and can provide connections if you don’t have built-in ones through family or your kids’ friends.

My local single mom’s Facebook group has 63 members. We go hiking, kayaking, out to lunch, to movies, museums and have a book club that meets once a month. Since we’re all single moms’ effort is made to schedule activities based on member’s availability. If there is an activity that can’t be scheduled to suit everyone, we’ll do that activity twice to make sure everyone is included.

Church

Join a church. Even if you don’t consider yourself religious or the church-going type. Churches often have mother’s groups and provide daycare. Then you’re meeting people who are in the same phase of life as you and your kids get to have fun and make friends in the process too.

The church I go to has a once a month meeting of single parents. On the third Thursday of each month, we have a pot-luck dinner. We share a meal and have a gathering where no topic is off the table. We’ve talked about dating, sex, networking for careers and childcare amongst many other things. We even gave ourselves a name and had T-shirts printed up…Cornerstone Singles. Next month we’re all running a half marathon!

MeetUp.com

You can create your own single mom group on meetup.com. Or, explore groups in your community and join one that has already been created. The great thing about meetup.com is that you’ll find groups for all kinds of activities. If you’re into quilting, wine tasting, or just hanging out with singles in your age group, you’ll find it on meetup.com.

2-1-1

If you’re in a bind, and it’s not a traditional emergency, try dialing 2-1-1. Many states help through 2-1-1, which operates much like 9-1-1, but provides free referrals to local social service agencies, groups and organizations. Simply dial 2-1-1 from any phone and tell the operator what kind of help you’re looking for, and they might be able to connect you to community programs for single parents.

Building your supportive community as a single mom is critical. No one can do it all, and as single moms, we feel like we are expected to do everything.

A friend told me that this generation of parents is really the first generation that believes that we have to do everything. We work, take care of the home, take our kids to activities, review and help with homework, and everything in between without asking for help.

As a matter of fact, another friend posted on social media about how her mom was coming over to help her with her laundry and another woman with children scolded her for being a burden. We are conditioned to do everything alone and refuse to ask for help because asking for help shows weakness.

If you haven’t heard this yet, let me tell you that this is a lie! Don’t buy into the idea that you need to be strong, need to be able to do it on your own! Don’t miss out on critical rest or peace of mind because you are trying to be Supermom.

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physically fit on a single mom

How to Stay Physically Fit On a Single Mom’s Budget

physically fit on a single mom's budget

 

Staying in shape is not easy when you are a single Mom. Either you cannot go out because you need to look after your kids, and when you actually can those fancy fitness classes are just too expensive. However, even if you cannot afford a gym membership it is time to dust off your sneakers.

There are so many free ways to work out and burn those calories, so just pick the one you like and work those muscles!

Staying Physically Fit on a Single Mom’s Budget

Download an app

Instead of listening to your trainer telling you what to do, you can listen to an app. Although some apps you will need to purchase, there are fitness apps that won’t cost you anything. Whether you prefer running or full-body workouts, you will definitely find an app that meets your needs.

Join a club

Not like a fitness club, those can be pricey. These days a lot of people are searching for like-minded individuals online and forming fitness groups anybody can join. There are all kinds of clubs, from marathon training teams to yoga clubs. The best thing about working out in a group like this is that you will receive support and encouragement that can positively influence your exercise habits. Peer pressure is not always a bad thing, you know!

Go hiking

Were you going to the gym just so you could spend some time on a treadmill? Well, forget about paying for a membership and explore the great outdoors for free. There are so many trails just waiting for you to discover them, so pack your backpack and hit the road.

Use your bodyweight

Did you know that short, high-intensity bodyweight workouts are more efficient than never-ending cardio routines? Training with a resistance band is a cheap yet really effective way to get in shape. With just a band (that can easily fit in your bag) and your body, you will be able to exercise anywhere – at home, work or in the park.

Exercise on your way to work

Even if you are a single Mom who spends all of her time with her precious babies, you still have to put the food on the table, right? Since you have to work anyway, you might as well exercise on your way to the office.  By walking, jogging or biking to work, not only will you get in shape, but you will save money on gas or public transportation while doing our planet a favor.

 Search for free fitness events in your town

If you live in a city, there is a good chance you will be able to find at least a dozen free fitness events in your area every month. You can track them down on Facebook’s events page and since plenty of them are indoors, you will be able to sweat your worries away even during those cold or rainy days.

YouTube to the rescue

Every day we use YouTube to learn all kinds of things, from how to make a fishtail braid, do our makeup to how to make the best chocolate chip cookies for the kids. Therefore, why not use YouTube to get fit? Nowadays so many personal trainers have their own channels and are regularly posting videos to YouTube. This is a great option for all you single Moms who need to keep an eye on your children during the day. So, skip the expensive fees and go straight to sweating.

Hit the road, Jack

The best thing about running is that it is completely free and you can do it almost anywhere. Whether you live in a village, small town or a huge city, you can find an interesting route through your neighborhood, or do a quick Google search and see whether your local high school or college track is open to the public.

Do Yoga at home

What do you need in order to do yoga? Just a mat, right? So why should you pay for a yoga membership when you can easily find thousands of free yoga resources online, and get fit from the comfort of your living room.

Getting fit and burning those calories doesn’t have to break the bank. Whether you cannot afford the gym membership or leaving your home for more than 15 minutes is not an option, with these tips you will be able to easily get in shape.

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child discipline after divorce

Child Discipline After Divorce: 8 Tips For Single Moms

child discipline after divorce

 

Child discipline in an intact family is a responsibility shared between Mom and Dad. Once there is a divorce the custodial parent will have to take on the majority of this responsibility. Non-custodial parents should remain as actively involved in child discipline as possible but it only makes sense that the parent spending more time with the child will end up doing most of the work where discipline is concerned.

It is a dirty job but someone has to do it! It is especially important that children who are struggling to cope with the changes in their family be given a structured environment to help them cope with the many changes that come along with divorce.

This is a guide for the custodial parent who may find themselves not only attempting to cope with the stress of being a single parent but also the impact of divorce on their child.

8 Tips for Child Discipline After Divorce

1. Idle Hands Are the Devil’s Workshop:

Busy children are less likely to get into or cause trouble. Keeping your child engaged in fun or productive activities will not only keep them out of trouble it will keep you focused on something other than your own problems.

My ex sees our children 4 days out of the month which leaves me to deal with any disciplinary problems that arose on all those other days. I found that life was easier for not only me but the children also if I stressed the importance of not only having fun but also being productive.

They both had after school activities to participate in that were outlets for creativity and an opportunity to relax and distress. They also had responsibilities they had to tend to once they were home for the evening. Their homework had to be done, dinner dishes had to be cleaned and they were required to do 45 minutes of reading. By bedtime, they were so tired from their “fun and productive day” they welcomed the idea of crawling between the sheets and settling down.

2. Focus on Positive Behaviors, Not Negative Behaviors:

You can sit my younger son in time out all day or, take away his favorite toy and he would turn around and misbehave…over and over again. The trick with him was to give him something he liked doing as a reward for not misbehaving.

Once I figured this out I spent a lot less time punishing him and more time praising him. For example, he loved feeding the fish and cleaning the fish tank. That was his job unless he misbehaved and to hold onto that “job” he works hard at behaving in a way that is pleasing to his Mom.

If you have a child who isn’t responding in a positive way to standard forms of discipline try rewarding him/her with a liked task in exchange for good behavior. As a parent, it is so much less stressful to be able to say, “job well done,” instead of, “to the corner young man.”

3. Set Clear and Age Appropriate Boundaries and Rules:

Don’t expect your children the respect boundaries or follow rules they are not old enough to understand or physically capable of following. I had a written contract with my elder son that outlined his responsibilities and the rewards for living up to those responsibilities.

My younger son had a chart with stars. He was awarded a star for good behavior and lost a star for bad behavior. And they both knew what I considered good and bad behavior. I was specific with them about the rules and the consequences of breaking the rules. And the consequences for my elder son were different than the ones for my younger son.

4. Be Consistent When Disciplining:

As a single parent, it is easy to take the path of least resistance and relax the rules a bit. Let’s face it, at times it is easier to just “do it yourself” than engage in the power struggle that can ensue when trying to get a child to act.

The idea behind setting rules and boundaries is to let them know who is in charge. The more you bend the rules, the less parental authority you have. Bend them enough and you will soon find yourself with no authority at all.

Being consistent requires a parent have self-discipline, it requires a lot of effort. In other words, being consistent will probably be the hardest part of disciplining your child. If you are able to remain consistent you will not only promote growth and maturity in your child but yourself also.

5. Be Quick and Concise When Disciplining Your Child:

My mother was notorious for threatening me if I misbehaved when away from home. She would shake her finger in my face and say, “when I get you home you will pay for that.” And there I would be, filled with anxiety for hours over what was going to happen once she “got me home.”

She didn’t want to make a scene in front of others but didn’t mind dumping hours of stress and fear onto me in order to save face. Punishment is far more effective and less damaging if it is doled out at the time of the bad behavior. Justice should be swift when dealing with children and it will be more effective if done immediately.

The trick is to have a separate set of consequences the child will suffer if bad behavior takes place away from home than those you have for home. It can be as simple as telling her child if he/she misbehaves at a Birthday party you will remove them from the party. Whatever the consequences, whether at home or away from home do it on the spot.

6. Keep Your Anger Under Control When Disciplining Your Child:

When we discipline we are attempting to send a message…certain behaviors are not acceptable and will not be tolerated. When you become angry and scream or yell the message gets lost. All your child hears or retains is the anger that is mudding up the message.

Keeping your anger under control also helps promote a respectful and loving relationship with your child. You will also be setting an example for your child on how to deal with a negative situation without going off the rails emotionally.

7. Allow Children to Help Set House Rules and Boundaries:

This is especially helpful when disciplining teenagers. An older child will feel more motivated to follow rules and respect boundaries they have helped set. Teens are on the brink of adulthood, they are living on the fence so to speak. It is a very frustrating time of wanting control but having none.

Giving your teen the opportunity to negotiate such things as curfew and what happens if they break curfew will give them a sense of control. I found, as my boys aged the more power they felt they had, the less likely they were to take advantage of that power.

8. Work Constructively With Your Co-Parent When Disciplining Your Child:

Your job as a single parent will be easier if you work with the non-custodial parent when setting up rules and boundaries for your child. These can be a challenging part of co-parenting but for the sake of your children, it is helpful for both parents to be on the same page when it comes to crimes and how those crimes are punished.

As parents, we want to teach our children certain morals and values. If divorced parents do not work together they fall short of teaching their children anything other than to engage in conflict and power struggles.

The rules at one house don’t have to be the same for the other house but parents should be in agreement about the need for setting and enforcing rules and boundaries. Doing so is best for all concerned.

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single motherhood

Single Motherhood: A Path I Never Imagined

single motherhood

 

“Children always choose their mothers,” a psychic once told me. She believed that from the spirit world, unborn children made this decision which would then impact the rest of their lives. I forgot about the reading until I had my own children. Then I adopted her belief and often say to my children, “Thank you for choosing me.”

Because becoming a mother is indefinable. It is an honor, a challenge, and a paramount responsibility. It is amazing, frightening, difficult, rewarding, and emotional. The highs are highs and the lows are lows, and the emotions I feel as a mother can change instantaneously. And nothing can adequately prepare a woman for the experience of motherhood.

However unprepared for motherhood I may have been, my plan was never single motherhood.

I married and waited several years before I became pregnant. During my pregnancies, the images I played in my head always included my husband and me as parents and partners. When my daughter was born, I was excited about embarking upon life as a family.

Becoming a mother made me vulnerable in a way I had never been. I felt as if my heart was now carried by another being, and her well-being was inextricably tied to me. Eighteen months later, my son was born. I had been so frightened I would never love anyone the way I loved my daughter, but hearts are expansive, and, much to my surprise, mine doubled in order to include my son. I was more vulnerable than before as my heart was now shared by two little people.

Motherhood suited me. Instinctually, I knew what to do to care for my babies. And if I didn’t, I turned to my mother, my sister, and my friends for advice and support. The one person who could never be relied upon was my husband. He, physically and emotionally, began to abandon the marriage as soon as we had a child. When my son was born, he disappeared. One friend best described his abandonment when she said, “You are growing up; your husband has grown down.”

Most of the time, we have choices. I chose to embrace parenthood. My husband did not make the same choice. I love the imagery from the Robert Frost poem, “The Path Not Taken.” The lines, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference,” has always resonated with me. It is empowering to imagine oneself standing at a fork in the road and making a difficult choice. But sometimes one does not get to make a choice. A path has already been predetermined. That is how I feel about the path of single motherhood. It is not one I chose, but one upon which I was forced.

The path of single motherhood can be lonely, especially because my idea of a family always included a mother, a father, and children.

I actually had never considered any other version. However, that was not to be. And so I walk a path, I never imagined. And there is always beauty in the unexpected. The view from this vantage point, no less stunning than from the one I had originally pictured.

Most days, I have confidence in my role as a single mother. There are days I feel lonely and scared but never for very long. I am not perfect, but my children will have to the opportunity to witness my strength and courage in the face of the unexpected.

And so, I don’t need to be a psychic to realize I have made many good choices. Over the summer, my daughter threw a penny into a fountain and made a wish. She came running back and said, “Mama, I wished for a mom like you.”

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Pressure Of Single Parenting

How To Cope With The Pressure Of Single Parenting

Pressure Of Single Parenting

 

Do you feel that, since you’re raising your kids alone, you have to fill in for their dad as well? You’re not the only one. There are more than 11 million single-parent families with underage children in the U.S. Out of those, more than 80% are single-mom families.

Whether the father is present or not, he surely doesn’t play the same role he would if you were living together and working together for the benefit of your children. Now, most of all the responsibility falls on your shoulders. You need to look after them, provide for them, talk to them, be there when they need you, and still be able to laugh.

It cannot be easy, and there are surely times when you feel exhausted, desperate that you will never get things done the right way. Well, take a deep breath and move on. You’re already doing a great job, and, even if you weren’t, no one has the right to judge you.

In fact, you should give yourself some slack and make efforts to relieve some of the pressure or, better put, cope with it. How do you do that? You’ll find some ideas and advice below.

8 Tips to Cope with the Pressure of Single-Parenting

1. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help When You Need It

Raising healthy and happy kids is a challenge for many two-parent families. It is downright difficult for single parents, so don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s normal to need help, and you shouldn’t feel bad asking for help.

You surely have a relative, friend, or neighbor who wouldn’t mind watching your kids for a couple of hours now and then. If not, perhaps there are single parents with kids of the same age that you can befriend and help one another.

Unforeseen problems will always appear. It is important to have someone to rely on when they do. It is also important to be able to give yourself a break every once in a while. You are human too, and you have your needs, be they physical or emotional.

2. Take a Day or at Least a Couple of Hours for Yourself Regularly

How long has it been since you last went out on your own, or enjoyed a glass of wine over a hot bubble bath? Perhaps you could go to a local spa for a massage, have your hair and nails done, or just lie in bed and get some sleep.

Your worries and responsibilities won’t go away but you will at least recharge your batteries to be able to better cope with them. You will feel better in your own skin, and you will be more relaxed and patient around your kids.

3. Show Your Kids Some Love

If you and their dad have just broken up, they are surely affected, no matter if they are able to express their feelings or not. Perhaps you feel that they are getting out of control but all they need is some love and attention.

Forget about your chores for a moment, as they won’t go anywhere if you do. Take some time to play with your kids and have fun. Take them to the park, play some games, go out for ice cream, bake some cookies, or microwave some popcorn and see a movie.

As you do, don’t avoid open discussions. They have questions, fears, and things they need to share. You should listen, answer, and share back. After all, you only have each other. And, last but not least, don’t hesitate to tell and show your kids how much you love them. They need it!

4. Build a Routine

Kids also need stability and knowing what to expect. You need a schedule, to be able to better cope with your responsibilities. Building a routine solves both problems. Start by having your meals and going to bed at the same hours. Continue by scheduling homework and playtime.

It will be a little difficult in the beginning, especially if you used to live chaotically, but it will prove useful in the long run. You will be able to function on autopilot even on your worst days if both you and the kids know what’s next.

5. Don’t Forget about Rules and Limits

Both you and the kids are vulnerable. It is easy for them to cross boundaries, and it is normal to be tempted to overlook some actions and mistakes. Don’t! They need to know what’s right and what’s wrong, and they need to understand that actions have consequences.

Therefore, set strict rules and enforce them. Those who do not follow them should put up with the consequences. With kids, restricting internet use and TV time is the best punishment. Of course, good behavior should be rewarded too.

6. Find Your Emotional Triggers and Control Them

Even though you’ve created routine, set rules, and gotten used to the idea that you’ll be raising the kids by yourself, there are times when you still lose control. Perhaps you get angry and start yelling, or you get vulnerable and start crying.

Although such reactions are normal, they do not benefit the kids, so you should learn to manage them. You can do that by identifying and dealing with the emotional triggers, namely the words, people, or actions that cause your outbursts.

Try to look at them from a different perspective, a positive one. Look for their fun or educational side. Don’t hesitate to go to therapy if you need to. It is better to acknowledge problems and deal with them than deny them and hope they would go away.

7. Don’t Isolate Yourselves

Both you and the kids need people in your lives. You need support, inspiration, and fun. While rushing into a new relationship is not a good idea, getting to know people, setting playdates, and spending time with friends and families is.

Make sure to include some friends and family members of the opposite sex, if your ex is not involved in raising the kids. Your children need a role model. They need a fatherly figure in their life, just like you need the occasional help with repairs around the house, football training, fishing, and camping, etc.

8. Remember to Take Care of Yourself

While it is normal to put your kids first, you need to look after your own needs as well. Take care of your body and soul, learn to relax and have fun, and, as time goes by, don’t close the door on new relationships.

You cannot raise healthy and happy kids if you are not healthy and happy yourself, both on the inside and on the outside, so see to your own health and happiness! Things will get better with time, and the pressure of single-parenting burdening your shoulders now will fade and make room to hope and fulfillment.

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safe as a single mom

4 Tips To Help You Feel Safe As a Single Mom

safe as a single mom

 

While living alone can come with a series of benefits for one’s mental well-being, it is also associated with a litany of challenges. One of these prominent challenges includes personal safety. Fortunately, there are easy ways to begin your journey as a single mother safely and securely. Here is how you can start today.

How to Feel Safe As a Single Mom

Have a Home Security System

In today’s day and age, technology can help people in a variety of ways. When it comes to your house, getting a home security system would be an excellent first step in ensuring your safety. This is because having this security system will not only ensure that people who are not supposed to be in your house stay out, but you will be alerted of any danger before it arises.

There are a series of components that can make a home security system even more powerful. For example, a motion detector will be able to track if someone suspicious that you were not expecting approaches your house. You will also be able to interface with the system so that it recognizes only you as the primary entrant. Wire-free cameras that latch onto the outside of the house is another cost-effective alternative to give you a view of what is taking place outside.

Build a Rapport With Neighbors

Moving into a new neighborhood can be a fun experience, but that does not mean you should ever let your guard down. One of the best ways to approach this is by establishing a support system in the form of your neighbors. When you move in, introduce yourself kindly and try to get their personal information. That way, if something were to happen and your family isn’t around, you can always rely on those next door to you.

Many people do not like trying to establish a relationship out of fear. However, do not let fear get in the way of helping out with your safety. You never know when an emergency may arise and if you will need swift assistance.

Do Not Reveal Your Status

There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to being a single mother living alone in a home. However, you should realize that revealing this fact could prove to be a huge safety hazard. Unfortunately, many would-be criminals or thieves see a single mother with no one else living in the household as an easy target.

You can be confident in yourself all you please, but understand that many home invasions occur in groups and not just singular adversaries. Take pride in being independent and do not be ashamed of it. At the same time, be wise about it and do not make it obvious that it is only yourself and furniture inside your home.

Use Common Sense

Finally, you will always want to use common sense, especially to deter potential criminals. What does this entail? First, you will want to close all of the curtains so as to not reveal how many people are currently inside. Also, you will want to keep some of the lights on until late in the night. After all, the key for criminals is stealth and the ability to commit a crime without having their identity exposed. Also, make sure that your windows are shut and your doors are locked. You can spend money on security systems, but common sense helps.

As you can see, living alone can be fun, but it comes with great responsibility. Follow these tips and you will feel more safe and secure.

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