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MomTalk.com April 19, 2018:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Survival Network: A proactive approach to stress



By Diane C. Shearer, LMFT, CFLE


Since the single parent lifestyle often involves a great deal of stress, it's absolutely imperative that single parents surround themselves with caring people who are interested in their success. This also means weeding out the negative relationships life which won't produce anything but a bad attitude and destructive behavior. Since we derive much of our identity from the company we keep, making the switch from negative relationships to positive ones isn't easy. However, deciding to nurture a positive network of friends can surprisingly turn stress into productive energy. It's also a way to pro-actively handle stress before it happens.


What will you do when your car breaks down? How about when your babysitter cancels or you need advice about a particular problem? Will you rely on the friends you have now to help? If the answer is "no," you need to start a list of people who will not only be there as a friendly sounding board when times get tough, but who will have wisdom and practical services to offer. Label the list your "Personal Survival Network." The people in your network might include:


Personal friends: Male and female single parents, married couples, older mentors
Relatives: Parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles
Professional advisors: Counselor, pastor, minister, rabbi, priest
Health providers: Family physician, dentist, gynecologist, eye doctor, pharmacist, veterinarian
Automobile advisors: Insurance agent, mechanic, automobile club representative
Household advisors: Home insurance agent, heating/cooling repairman, plumber, general repair person
Financial/Legal advisors: Local bank representative, attorney, financial consultant
General help: Daycare providers, co-worker(s), post office worker, grocery store manager, etc.


You probably won't be able to complete your list all at once, but at least make a commitment to adding one or two people to your list every month. All it takes is a phone call or a personal visit. Doesn't it feel great to walk into your local bank branch or grocery store and have a teller or clerk call you by name and even ask how you are? Something as simple as that can make a big difference in your general daily attitude, giving you a feeling that people in your everyday life are there for you. But remember, many of these relationships will depend on you to take the first step.


Once you've established network members, call them and ask if it is okay if you have them on your network list in case you need advice or help. Especially people like babysitters or mechanics - often you need their last minute help and it is nice to know that these people understand your situation and can work with you in a pinch. Also, be sure to keep in touch with them on a regular basis to let them know how you're doing. You may be able to offer services in exchange for others' or simply to show your appreciation for their help. For example, babysit for a friend so she and her significant other can have a night out in exchange for you having her on your on-call list. Cook dinner when someone is ill or call just to check in. For those on your list who you will probably only call when there's a problem (mechanic, repair person, attorney), be fair when they help you out. If they don't charge you their full fee, that's great, but you can still show your appreciation by doing something special like making cookies for them or sending a thank you card.


Where do you find these people? Believe it or not, good trustworthy people do still roam the earth, but you have to be willing to spend time seeking them out. Here's a few ideas:


Church groups
Just because people affiliate themselves with a church or religious group doesn't mean they are good people, but churches and synagogues are still the best place to find people who will genuinely care about you. Get involved and offer volunteer services to the church now and then and the good deeds are likely to come back to you.

Community clubs or support groups
These are people who have similar interests as you do, i.e.Parents Without Partners, divorce/widowed recovery groups, PTA, charitable organizations, garden clubs, etc.

Children's activities
Parents, married and single, often find companionship with each other at their kids' karate class, baseball game, swim meet, piano recital, or daycare function.


Building valuable relationships takes time and commitment, but is a key factor in the success of every single parent family. If you're not sure about your current network of friends, take a moment to analyze the people you regularly spend time with. Do you feel good about yourself when you are with them? Do they encourage you or tear you down? Are they interested in your family's success or are they jealous of everything you do? Are these the kinds of people you want to influence your children? If your answers point to a not-so-good group, decide today to begin fostering positive relationships in every area of your life.

Diane Chambers Shearer is a licensed marriage and family therapist, divorce mediator, and parent educator in Atlanta, Georgia. She is author of Solo Parenting: Raising Strong and Happy Families (Fairview Press, 1997) and publishes The Peaceful Co-Parent, a quarterly newsletter for divorce parents. For ordering information, visit her web site at DianeShearer.com



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