As a mom, there is nothing more important than keeping our kids safe. This world we live in is a scary place. If you are a single mom, whether, by choice, divorce or death of a spouse, you have so many things vying for your time and attention. It is easy to forget you are the gatekeeper of your home. Are you unknowingly exposing your children to the risk of harm?
In my day job, I process police reports. I have read hundreds of reports detailing horrific things that happen when single moms forget their role as gatekeeper or guardian of their home and unknowingly endanger their child. Being a gatekeeper means you monitor who you allow in your home and who has access to your children. I want to share the lessons I have learned with you.
1). Give yourself and your children time to heal after a divorce or death of a spouse. Some experts say to wait at least a year before heading back out on the dating scene. Take the time for counseling for yourself and your children. Reflect on what went wrong and what went right with the relationship. What do you want to be different next time? For a time, just focus on your family. Don’t even think about dating. Pray and ask God to bring healing to your family.
2). Do a background check on a potential boyfriend BEFORE you start dating. There are plenty of websites that charge a small fee for this service. If you can’t afford their fee, look for court records online. In Washington State where I live, you can go to http://dw.courts.wa.gov. You can search by name for court records. Also in Washington State, you can check for conviction history with the Washinton State Patrol. There is a small fee for this, but the results of your search are available right away. Their website is http://watch.wsp.wa.gov.
3). Check the Sex Offender Registry online. You may think this step is over the top and that you would certainly recognize or have a sense of someone who meant to harm your child. Let me assure you, you don’t. Sex offenders come in all shapes and sizes. You might be surprised to know that most of them look like the guy next door. Many of them love to work where they have lots of contact with children: schools, day camps, scouting, the YMCA, and yes, even churches. You must be diligent in protecting your children.
4). Do not bring a new boyfriend into the lives of your children until you have been dating several months, preferably six months. One adult child of divorce shared with me, “There was nothing worse than finding some strange man in the house. The latest in a long line of my mom’s boyfriends.” Not only is this situation terrifying to the child, you are teaching them that relationships are disposable. Get to know the person before you start to date. If you do not think this person is marriage material, then do not waste your time.
5). If your child comes to you and tells you that they are being touched inappropriately by anyone, go to the authorities! Do not confront the person, or question your child further. Go to the police and report it to them. Let them do the investigating. Block the person from all access to your child. Go to the court and get a protection order to keep the person away. Above all, do not make excuses for the suspected abuser or try to rationalize away their behavior.
6). Talk to your child about their bodies and their private parts. Use age appropriate language, but make sure they know that no one is allowed to touch their private parts (the area covered by their underwear or swimsuit). Help them to feel comfortable talking with you so that if something happens they will instinctively come to you.
My husband always says, “Being a single mom is the toughest job on the planet.” He should know. He watched as his mom struggled to raise three children alone after a divorce. “Being a single mom forces a woman to wear many hats that she shouldn’t have to wear.” God’s design for families is for a mother and father to parent their children together, each one bringing their God-given strengths to the task. It is normal to want to have another relationship, but now that you have children, you must put their safety first.
I know some awesome single moms. My younger sister did an amazing job raising four children on her own. She is one of the people I admire the most in this world. The majority of moms are on the alert all the time for any danger to their children.
If this post can help protect even one child, then it will be worth it.