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After My Husband Died, My Kids Became Little Entitled Monsters (and it’s all my fault!)

When my husband Elliot passed away, all I could think about were my kids. Forget about losing the love of my life, I had two children under five who had just lost their father Thinking about the things they were going to miss out on by not having a dad just crushed me.  It broke my heart the day my little girl came home from school and said she couldn’t go to a dance they were having because it was a Daddy/Daughter Dance, and her daddy was in Heaven.  Taking my son to his first Cub Scouts meeting, knowing my husband would have LOVED doing that kind of stuff with him, and also knowing I sucked at doing anything outdoorsy, made me feel like I was failing my son as his only parent.

How could I make it up to my kids?  What was I supposed to do as the surviving parent? The one that got the honor of seeing our kids grow up. I had to make up for not having their daddy…right? 

The Excuses

Instead of parenting, I became an excuse machine.  Every time they misbehaved, told a lie, disrespected me, didn’t listen to me, made a bad grade in school…I told myself it was because they had lost their dad and I wasn’t enough or doing a good enough job at being their mom.  They didn’t give their father cancer, so how could I hold them accountable?  They were so young.  How could they understand just how much their daddy’s death had affected them? 

I thought I needed to give them more time, more space, more understanding.  It couldn’t be that they were just being normal kids, doing and saying things that would get them in trouble at home or school because they were 5 and 3.  At least that’s what the little voice in my head would tell me. The little lie I allowed into my thoughts because of my own grief and confusion.

My Little Monsters

All my excuses, all my understanding, only succeeded in doing one thing – I created little monsters!  I allowed them to get away with almost everything.  I would go out and buy them all the toys and games they wanted, thinking I could take away their sadness and pain by giving them things I thought would make them happy…I was SO wrong!! 

Of course, my kids didn’t refuse the toys. They thanked me and gave me huge hugs and kisses. Their smiles made me smile but I started seeing this “entitlement” attitude creeping into their behavior.  Every time we’d go to the store, or when I’d ask them to clean up the playroom or go brush their teeth or feed the dogs I started getting a  “what’s in it for me”  attitude from my little darlings.  After all I’d done to make up for the loss of their daddy, I about lost my $&*%. 

Then I realized…I did this!  I had totally created these little entitlement monsters by trying so hard to make them happy by giving them materialistic things.

And it hit me…there was really only one thing I could do to help them find happiness after such the tragedy we all went through…I had to be the parent.  Simple as that! Ok, well, that’s not quite so simple, but it was the truth, and what my children needed from me, so I asked myself, “What next? What can I do at this point?”

I had to deal with my survivor’s guilt.

It was crushing me.  The unanswered question of why my husband had to die?  What if I’d been the one to get cancer?  Why did I have to raise our kids alone?  I couldn’t be doing a good job because we were supposed to be parents together.

“I’m okay…We’re doing great…”  those were things I kept telling my family and friends, when in reality, I was barely hanging on.  I didn’t have a clue what to do for my kids.  I was angry, sad, frustrated…and had so much guilt for being happy that I was able to see my kids every day and watch them grow up.

I needed help.  I found a great counselor, who I felt comfortable talking with, could say anything to and felt no judgement from.  Over time, she helped me realize I may not ever know why things happened the way they did, but I could move past it.  I could give my children what they needed from me as their mom, and only parent.

I had to set boundaries.

I am the parent, not the best friend to my kids.  I am the one person in this world that has the most influence over my children, so I had to step up to the plate.  Boundaries needed to be set.  Expectations on behaviors, attitudes, manners, and respect had to be understood.

I did a lot of research on parenting styles, reading book after book on raising kids as a solo parent.  I wanted to find the perfect “model” for being the perfect parent. You know what I found?  There are many great parenting styles and books on how to be the best solo parent you can be, but there’s not just one way for everyone. No one is, or ever will be, the perfect parent. Single, married, widowed, divorced, doesn’t matter, we all struggle with raising our children.

I took bits and pieces of styles and ideas that resonated with me.  Those things that made sense and complimented the way my husband and I had discussed raising our kids. They are what I held on to.  I found MY way of parenting.

I sat my kids down and explained the rules.

Yes, we have rules in our home.  We also have consequences for breaking those rules, and my children know what they are.  No screen time…early bedtime…and one that my mom introduced and made a world of difference…writing sentences!!  Genius!!

My kids know what the boundaries and expectations are and why they were set. They also know the consequences for not following them.  They were given a choice.  There were no surprises.  They had control.

Consistency is KEY!

Am I 100% consistent?  No, but I try to be.  I still get frustrated, tired, and stress out about being a solo parent. Sometimes I let things slide; however, we have certain routines in our home that I’ve found bring my kids a sense of stability, safety, and comfort.   

Don’t forget FUN!

Along with the rules, we have fun too!  One thing my kids get so excited about and absolutely LOVE is Friday Night Family Movie Night!  We pop popcorn, curl up on the couch and watch a movie together…as a family.  It’s okay to have fun, both you and your children need it.

So, remember, when trying to help your child…and yourself through the grief journey, be the parent.  Your children don’t need the material things in life to take away the sadness. The sadness and grief will always be there.  It will lessen over time, but in its own time. Give them what they need most…love, support, stability, and new happy family memories!