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Lauren Graham's Healthy Approach to Parenthood

The childless actress is once again playing a single mom in a hit TV show. How does she do it?

Mother-Daughter Drama continued...

So, why, exactly, is this feminine connection so often a fiery one? "Girls are socialized to be intensely relational and confiding … so the mother-daughter dynamic is both more passionate and at times more negative than is the father-son or mother-son relationship," explains Doherty. 

"For example, mom wants to know what's going on with her daughter's friends and feels betrayed if her questions are met with silence. But with sons, as one of my patients aptly put it: 'The deeper my son's voice gets, the less he has to say.' Generally, we accept a certain degree of withdrawal from boys, but with our daughters we take it personally -- that's what leads to fireworks.

Secrets for Single Parenthood Success

Figuring out how to raise either a girl or boy alone  is a challenge for anyone. Doherty offers these tips for avoiding solo parents' top mistakes. 

Be the leader.You're exhausted after a long day at work. The kids are antsy for attention. It's so much easier to cave and let them eat pizza in front of the TV while you retire to your room and recoup, or to trade sarcastic quips when they resist your authority -- but you mustn't. "Don't give up that position, or things will quickly degenerate," Doherty says. 

Pick your battles -- and your policies. Be willing to give on small things -- "how tidy their rooms are, or the crazy haircut," suggests Doherty. "Tell your kids: 'I'll do my best to work around your schedules, too, but these are my rules and they will not be bent.'" 

Maintain rituals.Whatever you did together before as a family -- dining out every Tuesday night, following special holiday traditions, or reading stories before bed -- be sure to continue after a separation. "You will be doubly exhausted now, but it's doubly important," says Doherty. "And most studies on the subject indicate the family dinner is the most important family ritual to maintain." 

Monitor your teens. "A big mistake single-parent families make is losing track of their teenagers," Doherty says. "Know who your child's friends are. Know where she's going. Insist she check in whenever you ask her to."

Graham on Broadway

Before Graham wanted to become an actress, she was a girl who loved horses. "I didn't have dolls," she jokes, "just a million little horse figures." She adored the stables, the one-on-one connection with the animal, the competitive sport of jumping at equestrian centers. "I was trying to figure out what I could do [for an occupation] to be near them -- jockey, maybe? Mounted policeman? Veterinarian? But then I landed a part in a high school production and everything shifted." At once hooked on theater life, Graham finally found her true calling, which led her first to New York and then to Hollywood. Now, she rarely goes riding but claims she's planning a return to the saddle, "when I retire. It'll be an old-age kind of thing." 

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