Single Parenting With Integrity

Tips for Staying True to Yourself

mother and her child cuddling in a park
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It can take a while to find your footing as a newly single parent. When you're in the middle of a conflict, within yourself or with your ex, it's important to remember who you are and what you stand for. That's what single parenting with integrity is all about.

Single Parenting With Integrity

In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey defines integrity as "keeping promises and fulfilling expectations." Having integrity is keeping your word, when it's convenient and when it's not. It's making sure your actions match what you said you'd do, and it includes keeping your word to your kids, your ex, and your extended family—as well as yourself. Let's explore some tips for how to single parent with integrity through all of the challenges you face.

At times, keeping your word to your kids and keeping your word to your ex may contradict each other. And that pull—in two or more directions—makes it even harder to manage conflict with integrity. As M. Scot Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, points out: "The problem of distinguishing what we are and what are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems of human existence."

What makes things even more complicated is that you may be dealing with a high-conflict custody battle or a co-parent who has his or her own agenda. If you're up against this type of co-parenting relationship, you're already all-too-familiar with the pattern of twisting things around in order to manipulate this situation or ramp up the drama at every turn.

The Power of Integrity for Single Parents

So what's the antidote to internal and external conflict? Responding with integrity. And if single parenting with integrity means keeping your promises, then you have to be very clear about those promises are. For example:

Promises to your children. You probably make verbal promises to your kids all the time, such as "We'll go see that movie this weekend," or "I'll be at your game." But other promises exist within your gut, and you live by them, even if you've never spoken them aloud. For example:

  • I'm committed to encouraging my kids to have a meaningful relationship with my ex.
  • I promise to let me kids be kids. I won't force them to grow up too soon by confiding in them about my adult issues.
  • I love my children unconditionally, and I want what's best for them more than I want what's best for me,

Promises to your ex. You've probably never spoken these promises aloud, either, and that's okay. These are promises you're making for your kids' benefit, not yours. Examples include:

  • I will support my ex's relationship with my children.
  • I won't argue with my ex in front of my kids. 
  • I will treat my ex, in the same manner, I'd like him (or her) to treat me.

Promises to your ex's family. These commitments are also for your kid's benefit. They include:

  • I will encourage my kids to have a relationship with my ex's parents and other family members.
  • I won't hold my ex's family responsible for his or her behavior. (After all, as an adult, your ex is responsible for his or her own choices.)
  • I will treat them, in the same manner, I'd like them to treat me.

Promises to yourself. These promises have to do with treating yourself with respect, which can be hard when you're accustomed to being disregarded, or even openly disrespected. Examples of these commitments include:

  • I will surround myself with people who support and encourage me.
  • I won't stoop to my ex's level.
  • I've decided to take the high road because that's better for my kids and myself.

Why Integrity Matters

Being a single parent with integrity is essential, whether you're divorced or widowed, whether your ex has 50-50 custody or rarely sees the children, and whether you once had a close relationship with your ex or have always been a solo parent. No matter what your circumstances are, you're bound to face some conflict along the way. And handling that conflict effectively can make things a whole lot easier for your kids and yourself.