Effects of Single Parenting and the Buddy Trap

As your children become teenagers, it's only natural to want to be close to them during the time when they are testing boundaries and discovering their individuality. One of the pitfalls is getting too close-acting like their pal instead of their parent. This is typically found more as an effect of single parenting, but it can happen in any family.

Single parents often act out of guilt. We become more permissive with our teenagers because they tend to know more about our home situation than children do in two parent households. Single parents have to have someone to talk to, and our kids end up knowing more about our finances and circumstances than maybe they probably should, which can add pressure to their lives. This is a very real part of dual parenting vs. single parenting.

I know all about this. I was a single parent for years, and made the mistake of discussing our situation-financial struggles and all-with my two children. My son, who was the eldest, took this information on himself and began to worry about finances right along with me. It's not fair to burden children with adult problems, just as it is wrong to be their best friend. This is not an example of bad parenting, just the inability to establish boundaries.

It's fine to be the "cool" parent, but do it from afar. Children need friends their own age and need to develop a relationship with their parents that allows them to also distance themselves so that they can find out who they are. Increasing your child's dependence on you-or worse, your dependence on them-by trying to be their buddy won't work. It is damaging to the parent/child relationship in the long run.

We make this mistake because we think that if we are our children's friends that this will somehow alleviate the guilt many single parents have. We feel guilty that we have to work all of the time and can't see them as often, we feel guilty that we can't give them the material things that they want. Permissive parenting takes hold and we allow them to get away with things that we normally would not, again, out of guilt or exhaustion.

The solution is to know the effects of single parenting and continue to be close to your kids and keep working on trust. When they are adults and gone you will be grateful that you did, because you will maintain a closeness to them even if they move away; as far as your friendship needs, spend some time with other adults (and give yourself permission to do so) so that you can be an effective parent, rather than a needy one.


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