I was 7 years old when my parents divorced. Because of the hostilities father-childrenbetween them, my sisters and I were separated from each other and we bounced from relative to relative staying in different homes until things settled down. They never really did. The change was a traumatic one and led to some instances of abuse. Perhaps your situation is not that severe or maybe it’s worse. I hope not the latter. Every home has different ideas about what a family is but there is a universal truth and that is that we are the parents that are responsible for our kids, not the other way around. Saying the wrong thing to your kids during this traumatic time (and after) can not only lead to some pretty dysfunctional ideas about family but about who our parents really are.

With that said, here are 5 things single parents should never say to their child:

You remind me of your father/mother

This can only be seen as a disparaging comment towards dad or mom. Keep in mind that your child has an instinctive love towards their parent and always will. Saying this to your child carries a lot of weight and can change their perception about who their parent is negatively. Despite the fact that it was my father who left, I could have learned a lot of good things from him had my judgment not been so darkly clouded during the time I spent summers with him. He gave me a good work ethic and taught me to do everything I do with excellence.

You’re the man of the house

I’ve probably dated myself for mentioning this one (could be a cultural thing as well) but you get the overall idea. What she actually meant was that she wanted me to take on the role of the husband in the home. Once things began to settle I was ten years old. If the car broke down, I had to figure out how to fix it. If the phone company needed to be called I had to be the one to do it. That’s not a fair burden to put on a child. Let your child be a kid whose primary concern is to build a tree house, study karate, or just play.

Are you going to take care of me?

This not only places an unnecessary burden on your kids now but clamps on the chains of guilt for some time to come. The only future your child should be concerned about consists of their hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow.

Don’t be like your father/mother

There are some aspects about my dad that were not so great but others that I wish I would have latched on to sooner. Focus is one of them. He believed that you should work hard at the one thing that you want to do and do it well. He used to say to me, “lazy people work twice as hard.” It makes more sense in Spanish but the message there is that if you don’t do something right the first time, you’ll have to come back and do it again.  As hard as it may be, try to hone in on the good parts that your child inherited.  Remember that your child still wants/needs approval from both parents. They need to know that despite their circumstances the love that they receive from them is a rock that will never be shaken.

Your father/mother hurt me

I’m sure you’re hurting. Of that there is no doubt. But as much as you can be fulfilled through your children you are still the parent which means that we should not rely on them to heal our wounds. Our job is to heal theirs. Take care of yourself so that you don’t have to rely on them emotionally. You can do this by seeking counseling for yourself and focusing on something that will further your career but not at the expense of your family. The better you take care of yourself the better you’ll be able to care for your children.

My dad was no saint but it took many years for me to see who he really was. I’m glad I did. Next month will be a year since I lost him to Alzheimer’s but before he died I got to look into his eyes and see how proud he was of me. This was not because I had accomplished anything but because of who I am, his son. I am also a husband and a father who will never leave. Not because of the devastation it would bring but because I love and enjoy my family.

No matter what your circumstances are . . . enjoy your family.

There’s nothing better in this world than family.

Leonardo Ramirez is an author of Science Fiction and Fantasy http://leonardoverse.com/books/ for more info. You can support his work by purchasing The Jupiter Chronicles, now available for 5.99. Click here now to buy.