When stepfamilies and single parents think of having support, they generally first think of their friends and/or family.
Especially if things are calm in your family life right now, you may believe that you are doing well and have a good support system in place.
My experience has been that you need to have the right people in place- not because you are having trouble at this moment- but, because for the first few years of single life or stepfamily life, you will have challenges that will come up unexpectedly. If you have additional issues like a high conflict ex, children with developmental issues or disabilities or any of a number of other issues that can affect any family, you will handle the unexpected and the disruptive like a pro.
But first, you have to build your team. And it can’t be just anybody because the friends and family you choose to lean on are helping you make decisions that can have unintended long term repercussions… For instance, the ex does something mean, and your family or friends want you to sue them in family court. While it feels great to have our friends and family “feel” our pain, this kind of emotional decision making is not the best kind of advice you need.
Six Attributes of Truly Supportive Family and Friends:
1: You need to be able to talk with them and know that it’s 100% confidential. It’s really important that you be able to talk with your friends and know that it’s not going to be repeated to other people.
2: Some single parents or stepfamily couples talk a lot about their ongoing problems with many people. It’s really important to resist the urge to do that. People really don’t want to know every detail (and you really don’t want them to know every detail). Limiting the information to a few people who care for you means that it won’t be misinterpreted. Things won’t happen as a result of it that would not speak well for you or your children.
3: Talking badly about your ex or your partner’s ex is simply not good or loving to the children involved. It doesn’t matter what the ex did to you, how they treated you or how you feel about it. It simply isn’t loving to the children in your life to badmouth them- not to your children and not to others around you. That’s why it’s important to find one or two people who you can let it all hang out with about the ex in your life. The rest of the time you need to keep it to yourself.
4: Examine whether your friends/family are really giving you good advice? For me, good advice to a single parent or stepfamily member means that they help you be calm. They help you to not make rash moves. They encourage you to calm down before you do something, say something or write something.
A lot of times, we react to things because of everything going on as a new single parent or in a new stepfamily. You want friends that can help you to be calm and not incite you to do things you will regret later. In fact, I suggest that no single parent or stepfamily member should text, email, or call until they have calmed down.
5: Good friends/loving family help you pay attention to consequences. They encourage you to act maturely. This means cooling off rather than getting upset and really being careful about what you do.
6: You need to have friends and family who let you know you are not crazy. They let you know that it will be okay. You need friends and family that give you faith and hope for yourself and your children.
It took me a while to find the right kind of friends for me. I figured out who helped me and who didn’t. For some single parents or stepfamily members, this may mean changing the way you communicate with friends who make you feel bad or family members who judge or misunderstand you. You can still have relationships with all of these people. You just don’t want to tell them as much or involve them in the same way.
Every time I started feeling bad about my single parent life or stepfamily life, I tried to remember that it was as good as I wanted it to be and was willing to make the effort to improve it.
Having good people around you can really make a lot of difference.
It’s important that you choose friends and family members who will reassure you, give you hope, and help you make wise decisions.
What kinds of friends and family do you have? What are their best attributes?