The Army

The Army

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reimaging your life...or finally figuring out what you want to be when you grow up.

     If you've read my little blip of a page here before, you're probably either a dear friend or a follower of Single Parent Link. I love writing but unless something really gets me fired up there are huge 3-4 month gaps in my posts. And there is a very good reason for this; I returned to college in the Fall of 2012 to finish my Bachelor's degree in Psychology. So in the harsh 16 week winters of my writing soul, this page remains on hiatus.  I've been officially freed this semester, the sun is shining again, and Kelly approached me with this idea. I'm going to share a little about my decision of returning to school- how it came about, how it has morphed some along the way & where I'm at now. I'm also going to share what I hope will be a help to any single parents, or at least older students returning to college.
     Because simply, when I was in college the first go-round...brace yourself...the school didn't even have a website. AOL was on dial-up and the biggest thing were those weird chat rooms. I was back in class for 2 months before I realized I had a separate school email in addition to the "Blackboard" that pretty much determines your online presence in classes. I'm not really an internet flunkie but NO ONE holds your hand when your 35 like they do when you're a sweet 17-18 year old fresh out of high school.
     Prior to my single mom status I had completed an Associate Degree in Interior Design, which after the separation the job search confirmed that I pretty much qualified me to be a manager in the cabinet section at the local hardware store. Working weekends. And all other odd hours. Nope, couldn't do it. I have a roller coaster of a business cleaning homes that has allowed me a flexible schedule and decent pay (when people don't cancel or re-schedule). I quickly realized it was not something that would completely support me and my kids for the indefinite future.  I had taken courses at the local university, before the Interior Design side-track, with a major in psychology and minoring in Elementary Education/Special Needs. How hard would it be to finish the psychology with a different focus?  I re-enrolled at NKU with a Psychology major and double minors of Religious Studies and Criminal Justice.
     And just like that I was back in the world of financial aid, transcripts and finding the cheapest textbooks.
Before anything...even choosing a will want to complete a FAFSA application to determine grants and loan options available. Filling this out in January before the Fall you intend to start classes gives you the best chance at some of the limited grants since they are a first come/first serve basis.
    Next, I highly encourage meeting someone at the school you choose (and I don't think I need to explain the need to research this!) and ask a TON of questions. Here's a few: What school or program specific scholarships are available, and the easiest way to apply? How many (if any) of my prior experience or credits transfer to this program? Some schools offer a way to test out of some credits that is highly discounted compared to paying for the course.  How long will this program take? How long will adding a minor/major add to that time? What do employers really look for in this field? It's not a bad idea to find someone that does what you want to do and ask what was beneficial to them and what they might do different if they could go back.  Where can I find a list of campus resources, especially ones that may help a single parent (child care options, textbook loan programs, tutoring labs).
      Also I highly recommend meeting with someone within your program or major and ask them some things they learned along the way. One thing that was a live and learn for me was that while some classes don't have prerequisites that you have to take prior to later ones, there are classes that are necessary earlier (for someone who isn't there to mess around) like Career Planning as a Psych major, or the fact that taking Animal Learning is completely redundant and excruciatingly boring after Research Methods.
   One of the biggest hang-ups in my scheduling I have found is that some online classes are only open to students in certain programs such as the PACE (returning adult something or other). So even though I need the classes offered online, and there are open seats, I'm restricted from taking them because that is not part of my declared program. Nothing is more frustrating!!!! But it certainly would have been nice to know this before I started.
     So if you are considering returning to school NOW is the time to start your research, file for Fafsa in January and begin next summer or fall.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Journey to Heal by Crystal M. Sutherland

      I have had the chance to be on the launch team of several books last year, and lined up with many this year. Once I heard of Crystal's new book, Journey to Heal: Seven Essential Steps of Recovery for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, I knew I wanted in.
      My personal story is very complicated having dealt with sexual assault as a teenager, and then as an adult dealing with the life-altering choices of my (now ex) husband and the abuse he inflicted on one of my own children. My personal path has led me to recovery through Christ and his plans for my life. But I certainly did it the hard way. And my now heart (and future career in counseling) is in helping others who have suffered childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault, much like Crystal.
      Crystal has taken her own personal journey and given us a gentle, seven step outline to walk through the process of healing. If you're reading this, possibly you or someone you love has been affected by this type of abuse and one of the strongest glimpses into this book I found right in the introduction, "You're Not Alone", where Crystal writes, "My story doesn't end in abuse and brokenness, and neither does yours."
      I'd like to echo that.  I am personally grateful for this book for it's simple overview of the healing process. I really wish I had it in my hands 20 years ago. Healing is never simple, but each step is outlined in an easy to read, conversational tone, clear-cut suggestions to "Move Forward" at the end of each chapter, and Journey Essentials-very practical actions that relate to each step.  I may not have had this resource then, but now that I do, I will certainly be sharing as needs are known. 

There is hope for real healing, for God to pick up and restore all the pieces that feel broken, and to come to a place of wholeness once again. 

My little blog post is at the end of the launch process and blog tour, but hopefully we'll wrap this beautiful start up with a bang.  If this topic resonates with you or a loved one, I'd like to offer several resources for you to begin your own journey to heal. 

 1. Here are 2 very important links for Crystal's website and the one specifically for the book. 
Crystal's website and Journey to Heal.  From Crystal's website you can connect with her on several social media sites, as well as a Closed Group (private) Support Group right on Facebook. 
At the Journey to Heal site you will find more information about an upcoming (starting June 1st!) online course that will walk through the book in seven weeks.

2. You can purchase the book at your choice of retailers: AmazonChristian Bookstores, or Barnes and Noble

3. I'm going to offer a free copy, signed by the author and sent directly to you. Please share this post on Facebook, or other social media and tag me in the comments. All will be entered in a drawing to be held Thursday, May 19, 2016. If you wish to share with someone in private message, that's ok too...just send me a screenshot! Comment below and I'll be looking for the notification. For screenshots, my email is 

4. Feel free to contact me by email or Facebook, I'd be willing to discuss the book, counseling options or just be a safe listening ear as you begin your Journey. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

40% Brave

I've been reading The Cure for the "Perfect" LIfe, 12 Ways to Stop Trying Harder and Start Living Braver, by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory.
As you can see from the cover, it is help for those of us whose icing has slipped off our matter how perfect we want them to look (Perfectionism), how many we offered to make for the bake sale (Performancism), because we are just want others to be happy (People-Pleasing), OR how last minute we waited to bake them (Procrastination). Notice a "P" theme there? Those are the "P-bullies" and this book (unlike the pretty pink icing) is anything but fluff for dealing with them.

While I have struggle with all four of the "P-bullies" there are two that this book has really enlightened me on dealing with, primarily Perfectionism & Procrastination. I'm sure my friends are laughing at that "admission", as I've always made my procrastination a joke. But a lot of the so-called procrastination I joke about is more reflective of the crazy life I live as a single mom of 3 (at home) kids who works, is finishing a degree and writes.  I have to be very careful to give my children the time they need and manage all I need to complete by various deadlines. It's my "Ecclesiastes" approach....there is a time for everything under heaven.  Sometimes the best time to finish that paper is the day/night before it's due because of other priorities.
But the Procrastination Bully really hits me hard when I put things off when I know I can't get them Perfect. As in, "There's no way I can slug through my daughter's room to help her put toys and clothes away in the time I have. I'll do it tomorrow (next week, next weekend, after school starts, etc.)" And do you think it ever gets done? Absolutely not, because I don't have time to do it to perfection so I put it off, and put it off until it becomes a new monster living in the precious space left in my head not dedicated to my kids picky eating habits and the lyrics to You Are My Sunshine.
Here's what The Cure says about Procrastination, "Procrastination is sly. He never says, 'I'm not going to let you do this." No, he takes a much more subtle approach. "Oh, you most certainly are going to do this. I know you will. You know you will. But now is not the right time. You certainly can't do it right now!"

 It's like Kathi & Cheri had a little recorder right in that cramped brain space of mine. 

They go on to write that each project has it's "last minute" that is when procrastination leaps into activity motivated by fear. The Procrastination Bully has us beaten when we buy into his thinking that we can be truly motivated only by fear. (paraphrased)

Cheri remind us of what God says in 1 John 4:18, "Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." (NLT)
And in the chapter titled, "Perfect is for Pinterest" (who can't get behind that?) she shares the verses 24-30 of Matthew 25, better known as the Parable of the Talents. Read over it and see if you don't agree that "it is an illustration of the fear of not being perfect keeping us from doing what God wants us to do."  Sometimes I avoid doing things out of fear of not being perfect, but there are those times I do something out of fear as a result of procrastinating.
But what I am learning is recognizing these Bullies for what they are and learning the tools to combat them and lean in closer to God and his perfect love.

I want to invite you on this trip with me. Here's a few ways you can do that.
First join us on Facebook at: Tiny Act of Rebellion, purchase the book (here's just one place) Barnes & Noble and while you anxiously await for it to arrive you can get started with Chapter 1.

You don't need to be 100% brave, 40% is enough to get started!

I am just one little, tiny piece of this launch team, please check out all the other great posts by women who've been changed by The Cure for the "Perfect" Life. The Cure Blog Tour

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Importance of Serving Others

By serving you will change the world....
that of the ones you serve & your children's

     Single parents are probably one group in our society that many would give a "get out of serving" free card to. But there are several reasons why we, as single parents, should skip on the free pass and jump in to help others.  

    Today, we hear many complaints about entitled or spoiled children. There is something uniquely different about the culture our children are growing up in compared to our generation. What is this difference? I don't have research backing this up, but the thought has occurred to me that as the American divorce rate has risen so has the epidemic of entitled children. 
     This relates in one of three ways. First scenario is mom gets custody, while dad gets weekends and vacations. Guess where the kids have more fun? Guess who feels guilty about not being with their kids more often? We've all heard the term "Disney Dad". While the kids may certainly enjoy the time & bonuses in this scenario, it's easy for them to feel that is how things should be. Second scenario is parents may have equal custody but the child has learned that everything is not equal and "to work the system". You may hear things like, "But I have an Ipad at Dad's house" or "Mom let me have a kitten."  The child(ren) work this well! Or the third scenario, maybe mom or dad is on their own with the kids and after a long week of school and work, the guilt sets in over lost quality time and a little indulgence is bought to show how much we love those little ones we barely saw that week.
     I find my self just shaking my head in my own little guilt trip once in  awhile. We went from being a family with a stay-at-home mom & homeschooling where I could spend all the time in the world with my kids to it being just me, working and school 40-50 hours a week...sure you can have that piece of candy I just want to see your little face light up today. My kids rock the check-out lane like a boss. Or the $5 movie bin, they know if they can agree on a single movie, it's coming home with us.  While these little goodies are not bad in and of themselves, it's the child's attitude in receiving & the parent's attitude in giving we need to examine.

We all know this adorable, selfish little girl from Willy Wonka.
No one wants their child to be the "Bad Egg"

     How does all this relate to serving?  I believe serving others, especially WITH our children is crucial in building the right attitude of giving & receiving. 
    Many of my single parent friends are the most generous with their time, money and other resources that I know. I believe the reason for this is because we know what it means to do without or be short-handed in some aspect, and strive to relieve that burden from others. But what can we do if we look at serving as a vital & intentional aspect of our parenting? Especially if you are combating one of the scenarios I mentioned?
     For adults and children, serving provides a visible reminder that no matter how bad they have it, they are gifted in a way someone else could benefit from. Each one of us has God-given talents that make us unique, using them to help others builds confidence and self-esteem.
     For children, it also teaches them the differences in "wants" and "needs". Wanting ice cream at the store is much different when they realize that some children need food for dinner. Or wanting that new pair of special jeans when they have 5-10 other pairs and knowing another child needs what they have so many of. Or in my world..."Jonah, put the candy back, do you realize there are some children who have never had a Reese cup, what can we use that $1 for instead?" 
   I know many of you may say, "What can I do with my kids? What does this look like in the everyday?"
There's so many things you can do! And some have great lessons that you can talk about with your kids that are unique to that opportunity. While I've done many things with my kids, I polled Facebook (because you know that's where all great research comes from) and compiled a list unique to the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area, though many have counterparts in other cities. Please use this as a jump off point, focus your efforts on organizations that are near you, or have special meaning to your family.  And go as big or little as you can manage, just get started! 

     My favorite means of doing for others is Operation Christmas Child. We have been participating in packing shoe boxes since 2008 when I was introduced to this ministry via our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. Over 100 million shoe boxes have been packed and sent to children who often don't have anything that belongs just to them. Paired with a Gospel tract & follow up ministry this is a very simple, yet life-impacting means to get your children involved in the life of another child. In our house, because of my tight budget (and lesson to be taught), our OCC shoe box items come out of our entire Christmas budget. My kids get less so another child can have something. The kids love picking out items for another child in their age range & seeing how much they can get stuffed in that box. We pray for the child that will get it, and if I'm organized enough we add a short pen pal type letter about our family. We occasionally get wonderful letters from one of the children who has received a box. Nothing beats that experience! Samaritan's Purse, the organization that runs OCC also helps with disaster relief & has a shoe box processing center in North Carolina that runs by volunteers. More information on all aspects are listed at the link above. 
    Another, Lifeline Ministries, serves the Northern Kentucky area. They provide help in many ways and accept food, clothing & furniture donations. And they have many ways you can help, either through donations or on site, so there are several things you can do with your children to help those in the community with less. I urge you to check their site for specific ways you & your children, depending on their ages can assist. This is often where our outgrown clothing & unused household items go. I would much rather know it is given to someone that needs it than for someone to be charged for at a thrift shop that makes a profit. 
    Hands Against Hunger is another outlet located in Cincinnati that is dedicated to serving the needs of those hurting. They gladly welcome families, groups, teams or individuals during Packing times. They make specially designed food packages that meet daily nutritional requirements that are sent to areas lacking resources to adequately feed themselves. Their site has a whole section of how you can volunteer & when their Packing events are scheduled. Our family did a packing event with my daughter's AHG group and had so much fun. 
Matthew 25 Ministries lists specific times & guidelines for children volunteers. Everyone works on sorting, counting & packaging donations to be sent to locations all over the world. 
Other suggestions from my official Facebook poll were: Rose Garden Mission in Covington, Ky., Master Provisions (both with service opportunities that children can take part in) as well as ideas for finding something yourself. These included: Nursing homes, where residents love visitors to talk with, do crafts, sing or a movie night. Shut-ins (elderly) or others in need could often use help with yard and/or various house work. Pastors & other church leaders could also use practical help while they are serving others, they often get overlooked.  Homeless shelters are always in need of supplies and other help, and unfortunately there are many to choose from. Fundraisers, like lemonade stands, candy bars, etc. are great ways your kids could work to raise money for any of the organizations listed.  
Members from our church including myself
& my two middle children.
We painted, sorted clothes, pull wire through walls,
 cleaned and helped build a playground. 

You may be more creative depending on your  circumstances, availability and interests of the kids. We've even used our vacation time & money in previous years to do a mission trip in Oneida, Ky where my kids could do little things alongside the adults. 

   Thank you to all my professional assistants on Facebook & friends at Single Parent Link


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Single Parenting Shifts: Homeschooling & Public School

     In the midst of everything else that went on at the beginning of our "new life" we had to put a lot of consideration into what school would look like for our family.
     For seven years we had been homeschoolers. We started when my oldest, Leah, was finished with 4th grade at public school. Leah was gifted, and well above many in her class. We had argued for her to skip a grade from first to second, but was turned down. Her fourth grade teacher agreed with us that it would be in her best interest, but then we were left with the dilemma of moving her from fourth to sixth, which meant middle school in our district. Leah was definitely ready intellectually, but we decided that due to maturity (and safety) to look at other options. Our home school was created.
     Our oldest son, Jon, was born the same year, followed two years later by Trinity, and two years later by Jonah. My "little ones", although they aren't so little anymore, were completely oblivious to public school.
    We lived the home school life...natural waking times, co-ops, volunteer work, play dates with other families, 4-H, music lessons, home school gym, Boy Scouts, American Heritage Girls. We visited family when we wanted, we read at the park and yes, we had the infamous "field trip to the grocery store". The kids and I managed to learn, have fun, and have a great bond. It was messy, crazy, busy, social, always backed up on work, spontaneous, loving, frustrating and I wouldn't trade one second for anything...good or bad.

It was us. It was our life. 
Leah's last family field trip, Salt Festival
 Big Bone State Park Oct. 2011

I think that is the hardest part for those outside of home schooling looking in to see. It's not just how you do school. It's not public school at home. Yes, I know there are options to do public school at home, but often the parents who choose to home school are looking for an alternative way to school their kids in a way that is structured to their values, their children's learning style and/or ability or for a variety of other, often deeply personal reasons. Sometimes those reasons change as we go through the experience of homeschooling, but there is something that settles at the core of the family.

 It was tied to everything in everyday.  It was our life.

     So what happens to that life when there is a huge shift in another part of the core? Well, it's as simple as homeschooling continues or the kids enter public school. And that's where the simplicity ends. Actually, I think Simple took a running leap off a tall cliff into a deep, dark ravine, but I'm sure you know what I mean. First, the decision to home school in the first place is rarely a "simple" choice, although it is a choice that is increasingly on the rise in the U.S. There are outside of school factors that are considered such as: 
                Income of parents, will one stay home with the kids, or both work part-time? 
                Type of curriculum to be used, cost, time, outside review, testing. 
                Extra-curricular activities (why anyone thinks home schoolers are unsocialized is       beyond me, please don't hate) and so much more. 

And it is no different for the single parent.

There are many decisions to make, but it is doable. I've done it. Many people helped me pull it off, but Leah graduated from our home school. We completed a very difficult 2010-2011 school year and a slightly smoother 2011-12 school year. For us this decision had many factors. Primarily, Leah was a sophomore the year everything changed for us. I looked into enrolling her in public school for junior year. It was not feasible. She had more than enough credits to graduate, in accredited classes, but they weren't anything that resembled our school system. Leah would have been a round peg in a square hole. It was best for her to finish high school as we started. She interned at our church and doubled up on English to complete her requirements in one last year. 
    And then there were the "little ones". Jonah had begun preschool in January 2011 when I started to work full-time. He went to school with Ms. Ann on site where I cleaned. The other two went with their Ms. Ann, another homeschooling mom who worked with my kids as a reading tutor and took them along with her daughter to their co-op. We did additional work once we all got home.
Even though this looked very different from the outside it had a measure of familiarity to us that I may not be able to express clearly, it was still us, still our life with a twist. 
Leah was old enough to understand the changes and the reasons behind them. The little ones were not. They were 3, 5, and 7 at the time. I had to consider all they had been through. 

¨People use the word "stress" to describe a wide variety of situations - from your cell phone ringing while you're talking on another phone - to the feelings associated with intense work overload, or the death of a loved-one.
But perhaps the most useful and widely accepted definition of stress (mainly attributed to Richard S. Lazarus) is this: Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that "demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize." In less formal terms, we feel stressed when we feel that "things are out of control"."  The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale            
I'll mention a few other issues without detail: My parents lived with us, my mother suffered 11 strokes in 12 months. My husband was arrested 12/29/10. My mom's biggest stroke was 5/17/11, she passed away 12/30/11. I started working full time. We lost our home, resulting in a move. My father moved in with his brother so he was no longer in the same home. Relationships with my in-laws were unusual at best, strained on good days.  So if I was looking back to evaluate my health and the health of my children at the time it would look something like this chart. Notice that school options are selected. 

440! Here's what that means: 
     I love psychology, but I didn't need a scale or empirical research to tell me what I felt was best for me or the kids. Something had to give, or in our case, remain constant. 

We had to have a sense of control over the one thing in our lives that could still be controlled.  

     Upon Leah's graduation, one and half years had passed, my mom had passed. We were starting to get an idea of what this new life was going to look like. I finally felt like I was standing and not just crawling from day to day. I felt capable of making decision for more than a week out. One thing that had become clear is that my income needed to be at a level to support this new family and my current line of work wasn't for the long-term. I decided to return to school. Which led me to options for the kids. I knew that attending school full time, work full time & home schooling was not something I wanted to tackle and have everything suffer. 
     So we talked, I tested the waters and then enrolled the little ones in the elementary school as a Kindergartner, a second grader and a fourth grader. 
And this was us. This is our life.

     This was the first morning of the first day. They had no clue what was really coming! There's been happiness, success, set-backs (literally, Trinnie tested 2 weeks later and was transitioned to first grade), fear of the unknown, tears at night, begging to home school again, sleep overs with new friends, field trips- with and without mom, class pictures, amazing, amazing teachers & staff.
      There has been tons of paperwork, doctor appointments, book orders, lunch money, school dues, picture money, penny wars, field trip fees, homework, reading and just SO much to get used to! The bus comes at 8am!!! Every. Day. (If you are or have been a home schooler reading that, enough said!) 
     But they are thriving. I sincerely believe it's because it was in it's own time, not forced, not rushed, not just because I became a single parent.

 It is because we did what was right for us.

So for those of you who may run across this who know someone in a single parent/homeschooling situation, please take to heart that they are doing the best they know how, for them, their kids and everything they are dealing with, some of which may not be clearly apparent from the outside.
This was just my timeline, my outcome, which hinged on: 1. My daughter graduating, 2. Me returning to college.
 I realize this single parent/homeschooling combination isn't the largest segment of the single parenting OR homeschooling communities, but it isn't as uncommon as you may think. 

For those of you who read this and happen to be in this difficult conjunction of seemingly contrasting lives, have hope. It can be done, and if it's what is best for your kids I'm sure you will find a way to do it. 

Stress checklist available at 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Do's & Don'ts For Interacting with Single Parents

In the three years that I've been wandering this scary single mom track, I have been incredibly fortunate and challenged in so many ways. I've had my eyes opened to an entirely different way of life, even though I was a single mom the first four years of my oldest daughter's life. These past three years have definitely been unique with ups and downs.
I spent 15 years dating and married and a lot changed in that time period, such as divorce rates and single parent household statistics. In my experience, I've seen that most people have a stereotypical view of the single parent. This view may not specifically apply to those single parents they actually know. Thanks to the social media infiltration of our lives, these negative views are tossed out there as casually as someone would change their shirt. I'd like to share some thoughts in a Do's & Don'ts format of interacting with single parents, though more so from a momma's perspective. I have not experienced all of the Don'ts personally, but I have seen the hurt inflicted on those in my motley network of single friends. Likewise I have not experienced all the Do's either, but one of my favorite sayings is, "See a need, fill a need." (quote from the animated movie "Robots." I'm sure many parents will recognize.) I will start with the Don'ts so we can end on a positive note.

1. Please don't ask if all the children have the same "baby daddy" or "baby momma." Do we all know what that means? I'm asking you not to assume that the single parent with two or more kids has been sleeping around from one dysfunctional relationship to another. Single parents are in that situation for a variety of reasons and even if the case involves different biological parents, it should not factor in receiving help in any way. We already feel the loss of the other parent(s) and the effect that has on our children without this rude question.

2. Please don't assume the reason my child doesn't have______________ is because the money was spent on drug of choice __________________. Single parents often have to make hard decisions of where their often limited income is spent and if their child has to go without, believe me it is probably already weighing on that single parent without the added suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse. The media has played a huge role in this stereotype by flashing stories of parents fighting a losing battle of addiction while neglecting their children. We see horror stories that go viral on the social media, but it's not the face of the majority of single parents.

3. Please don't assume we are "working" the system. This goes hand- in-hand with suspected substance abuse and multiple children in order to reap the benefits of the Welfare system. We hear stories of fraud and deception by parents (and non-parents) manipulating resources that are meant to be a "hand up, not a hand out." This is one that I've felt particularly hurt and put on the defensive by in my single parent journey. The following pictures help to explain:

And my favorite:  

Taken from that breaks down where the tax dollars of a typical married couple with 2 kids paying taxes on $80k a year goes to. (You can enter your tax info or income to get your breakdown)
Job and Family Security (Overall) 17.26% $771.35 
Unemployment insurance 0.99% $44.24
Food and nutrition assistance 3.89% $173.84
Housing assistance 1.74% $77.76
Earned income, Making Work Pay, and child tax credits 2.81% $125.58
Supplemental Security Income 1.74% $77.76
Federal military and civilian employee retirement and disability 4.45% $198.87
Child care, foster care, and adoption support 0.57% $25.47
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families 0.61% $27.26

The largest demographic of who benefits from the program are children and others who are not expected to work, such as the elderly and disabled. As the first picture shows, it is shameful to admit needing that help to feed our families. Most single parents wouldn't use the program, unless it was absolutely needed to free up money they earn (working!) to pay for other necessities, such as utility bills. TANF (commonly called "Welfare") takes less than $30 from the typical taxpayer, less than the cost of that family to go out to dinner and the SNAP program falls in under $200. Yet, the receivers of this assistance are targeted with a prejudice that is overwhelming in regards to the actual facts. I've been brought low by inconsiderate generalized comments online, as well as the case workers who have made me feel like a criminal trying to steal from them. To be fair, not all single parents are on assistance.

4. Please Don't judge the single parent on the actions and behavior of his or her child. Single parents are already more than aware of how our children behave and many times feel self-conscious as it is. Many things feed into a child's behavior. I will say upfront that many parents agree consistency is the key for discipline, and I'll apologize if I speak out of line here, but consistency is a very hard for a single parent to accomplish. If the child spends time split between two homes, that child is typically exposed to two sets of rules, consequences, and parental buttons to push. If the child is with one parent 24/7, then that parent is facing exhaustion, no breaks and an infinite number of times that require direction or correction. Consistency can be a death march. In either situation, single parents lack serious quality time with our children and sometimes that results in guilt- purchases, free passes "this once", or just not knowing how to handle a situation on our own. Not asking anyone to overlook something that is inappropriate, or would cause harm, but hold the judgement because parenting is a tough job even when you have a partner. This isn't even touching on the complex combinations of a child's development and personality.

5. Don't offer advice along the lines of "If I were in your place I'd ________________________" "You should really __________". or "Why can't you_______________" (my personal favorite "Why can't you….come workout at the 5am class, get that done before you start your day?!" Um, because I can't leave my kids in bed while my non-existent partner sleeps in the other room. Yes, this person was aware of details of my situation. THE hardest thing I have found about being on my own (even if there's a dating partner or best friend) is the fact that NO ONE walks this same walk, fully invested day- in-and-day-out in my little crazy family.

Which leads directly to the first "DO"S…...

1. Do be honest if you want to help. Ask if they would like suggestions or if they just need someone to listen to them. Sometimes we do need advice from those not in the trench with us, but from a clearer perspective the outside provides, just temper that advice with kindness.

2. Do remember the single parent's birthday, special days, and holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, or Father's Day. If you are close enough to the family then offer to take the kids out. Even if it's just to the dollar store to purchase a surprise for their parent, or maybe making a special craft. It is so magical for a child to pull off a surprise! And that is very hard to do when the child's only source of income & travel is the parent they want to surprise.

3. Do offer practical help. Oh, this can cover so, so much! Think outside the box, if you have a talent or business that is a common service such as auto repair (minor like oil changes, etc.), sewing, yard work, financial planning, photography, carpentry, plumbing, or electrical. Ask the single parent if there is a way for you to help. If you can be brave, step up and offer child care. We just lived through the worst winter that most can remember, my kids had 13 full snow days not counting 1 or 2 hour delays. I finally worked something out with a mom friend after the first 3-4 panic filled days of trying to find someone. But a rare evening out or a special time with only one of my children? Those are almost completely unheard of for a single parent. As a mom that works about 20 hrs a week cleaning houses, 16 hrs in school, 10-15 hrs with a small business...not counting homework x 4, some of the greatest gifts I have received (especially Finals Week) has been in the form of BBQ, pizza & casseroles. Pass the dish and share the love!!

4. Do think of single parents you know before throwing something away or donating it to large, unappreciative donation center. Especially if it's resulting from a "luxury" purchase. For example, your husband had to have that new grill, but the old one works perfectly fine. You updated the throw pillows, bedding, or curtains, but they are still in good shape. Even if they are older, "vintage" is trendy! I haven't met a single parent yet that will turn down new or gently used clothing. My personal favorite (and yes, this happened to me!) “You need to update appliances in order to sell your house.

5. Do share good deals you find. Maybe you are a coupon saver and you get a few freebies like toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, and deodorant. Make a little basket and surprise them. For something extra special, pick up an extra soap or lotion at the good Bath & Body sales. Around Christmas, if you purchase gift cards many places will throw in bonus cards, nothing out of pocket for you and certain to be appreciated by that single parent!! There are also many deals like BOGO memberships to museums, play places, and attractions. Offer to share, making each ½ price, or donate if you would willingly pay full price.

6. Do ask what the single parent's greatest concerns are. For example his or her greatest concern may be utilities, a vehicle that is running on prayers, gas money, childcare, housing maintenance...or it could be a million things. You may not be able to help with a drop of it. That's ok. Even the concern and thoughtfulness will be appreciated. You may end up running across a possible solution (maybe a great car in their budget) once you know what that single parent needs. Even if you can't provide a tangible fix, then you can pray for this family.

Find this article and more at Single Parent Link

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