How to help single parents de-stress their children




In yesterday’s post, we talked about using nature at church to help de-stress children of divorce. It’s a lonely world out there when you’re parenting alone, and your kid gets stressed out by something you have no control over. For us kidmin people, it’s good to have a few suggestions on hand to help single parents.

When I was a single parent, my kids and I stumbled onto the idea of going outside to calm us down. My son ran, I walked and gardened, and as a family, we spent a lot of time at the swimming pool. Sometimes, my daughter and I just sat in the backyard and talked.

We learned that, after we had spent time outside in God’s beautiful creation, we

  • Felt better
  • Were relaxed
  • Slept better
  • Were all in a better mood
  • Laughed more
  • Didn’t see big problems as catastrophic anymore
  • Enjoyed each other and came together as a family

Now, we have brain research and God’s word that prove this to be true. Psalm 19:1–6 allows us to hear David describing God’s creation. I use this passage of scripture to help single parents realize the importance of acknowledging the beauty of nature with their children.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. Ps. 19:1–6

I want to share with you an exercise that I just used to help single parents realize how important it is to get their kids outside and to see what David saw so many years ago. Many kids in single-parent homes spend a lot of time indoors using a screen of some sort. This is especially true if the single-parent family lives in an apartment complex.

We made up three lists: green activities, not-green activities, and things that we called “nature affected,” meaning they were outside but used man-made items.

Green activities

  • Going to a park
  • Taking a walk together
  • Letting the kids play with neighbor kids, but they have to play outside
  • Riding bikes
  • Climbing trees
  • Go fishing or hunting
  • Swimming
  • Going to the beach, and playing in the sand
  • Climbing a mountain or taking a hike
  • Looking at the stars
  • Bird watching
  • Collecting treasures outside, such as seeds, shells, and sticks

Not-green activities

  • Playing computer/video games
  • Watching movies
  • Watching TV
  • Playing a board game
  • Cooking together
  • Doing homework
  • Reading a book
  • Saying family devotions

Nature-affected activities

  • Skateboarding
  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Baseball
  • Street hockey
  • Shooting hoops

We made all three lists on the board. At first, the single parents could think of a lot of not-green activities. They had to concentrate a little more on the green activities, and the nature-affected ideas seemed to slip in between the two.

None of the activities listed was bad, including playing computer games and videos, but the single parents realized that the activities that were relaxing and stress reducing were things that the kids did outside. While team sports got rid of a lot of energy, they weren’t as relaxing as just spending uninterrupted time in God’s nature.

For single parents who live in apartments or cannot let their kids go outside to play, it is important to know your community and be able to suggest places where they can take their kids, such as parks and hiking trails. Perhaps your church could construct a walking trail or provide a place where a single-parent family could come for refreshing restoration.

Several years ago, I got a frantic call from a single mom in Missouri, where I had just spoke at a single-parents’ retreat. Her son had come home from his dad’s and was so mad that he was almost raging. He was taking out his anger and frustration at his dad on his mom and sister. I told her to tell him that Miss Linda said to go outside and run around the house three times.

She said, “Really? But it’s dark and cold out there.” But her son was a healthy eleven-year-old kid; running outside wouldn’t hurt him. Plus, they lived out in the country, so no one would bother him. Then she was to call me back.

She called back in a little while and, in amazement, said, “He said it felt so good that he ran around the house a couple of more times.”

She went on to say how calm he was. Now he could sit down and talk through his anger and frustration. In the future, the mom was to give him permission to go outside and run around the house any time he felt stressed.

I told her to say, “Miss Linda said” is because, when a kid is upset with one parent, it’s hard for the other parent to get control. Kids will take out their anger and frustration on the parent in front of them. Using my name took the mom out of the picture, so to speak. And because I had met this young man and developed a relationship with him, I knew he would be willing to do whatever I asked of him.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of getting the kids outside. It might be a clear night with a bright moon or many stars shining brightly. It might be an early morning when the sun is first coming up over the horizon.

It might be time sitting in a porch swing listening to the birds. It could be sitting on an upstairs balcony in an apartment complex, looking up at the sky and watching the clouds before school. It could be wandering around a grassy field looking for four-leaf clovers.

Think of these kids as having a “nature-deficit disorder,” and consider what suggestions you can make to relieve that disorder.

What are some other suggestions to help single parents help their children de-stress?


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3 thoughts on “How to help single parents de-stress their children

  1. All this cold and snow this winter has made us want to be “shut-ins.” But we have taken the grandkids sledding a lot this winter and they are definitely de-stressed (and worn out) after an afternoon outside.

  2. Pingback: DC4K » Question of the week: What are phrases, words, or questions can I use to help children of divorce in my ministry?

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