Jason Jacana is a general practitioner in all fields in life: Jack of all trades and king of some.
There are many reasons why a parent may find oneself in the single parenting situation, like the death of a spouse, divorce, or pregnancy out of wedlock. Sometimes one parent (whether married or unmarried) is unwilling and his/her responsibility in respect of the children, therefore, give up. This leaves the other parent with full responsibility for raising the children. Whatever the reason may be, single parents need to handle numerous challenges which can often lead to psychological and emotional consequences. These are all situations that need to be dealt with… to the best of the single parent's ability.
Lack of finances
The single-parent household often bears the brunt of the financial burden. There is only a single income and in the case of maintenance, they may receive as little as 10% required per month. The other 90% struggle and have to make all sorts of plans to keep the pot boiling properly. It often involves a second occupation that naturally encroaches on time and family life. Adjustments need to be made to beat the budget. The children may have to give up extra dance classes or sports coaching because there is not enough money available for it. Particularly in households where the is not just one child, it becomes challenging to provide for everyone's needs. It leads to stress and passes on additional pressure on everyone, it also affects the children's emotional well-being.
As a single parent, you are responsible for the requirements of your child every hour of the day. There is no one else to take over or ease your tasks. It's also not necessarily tangible goods - it's often the things one cannot see that take the most out of us. Therefore, it is important to have structures in place to help you with this. Don't overlook the fact that you do not consistently have to do everything alone, you can ask for assistance!
Your child is just another child…
It sounds strange, but what it means is that it often happens that the single parent discusses all of their issues with the child, or relies on the child emotionally. Remember that your child is not an adult and does not have the emotional or mental capacity to assist you with this. This puts unnecessary pressure on the child which can make him feel guilty, lead to overprotection of the parent who is present and can often also cause feelings of anger or hatred towards the parent that is not there. Hence, emotionally very unhealthy!
School performance affected
A single parent is often so overwhelmed that they struggle to get through everything, may miss important school opportunities and are not there to help the children with their homework. This lack of time and guidance can lead to poor performance, which in turn can lead to feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Research also discovered that children who grow up without a father figure in their lives may perform worse sometimes.
Low self-esteem and behavioural traits
Children in single-parent households do not always get the attention and advice they may need and this can hamper their emotional and psychological development. That's why it's important to make time for your child and give recognition to all of their achievements, big or small and not just for achievements at school, but in all areas, even something as small as washing the dishes and other household choirs.
Some children feel lonely and become socially dull and therefore do not mix enough with their peers. They experience feelings of sadness, anxiety and anger. They may also feel that their parents do not love them and that they are not worth the love anyway.
After all, it's not just all negative
Research has shown that children over the age of 12 in single-parent households do not experience any significant adverse effects on educational, psychological or social development. Still, it depends a lot on personality and of course, the way parenting is handled. The children often act more responsibly and independently and often have to step in and take over the household chores. A strong bond also develops between the children and the parent - precisely because they are dependent on each other and need to support each other.
When family, such as grandparents or uncles and aunts are involved, it also leads to stronger family ties.
Tips for the single parent
Raising children alone is not an easy task and puts a lot of pressure on the parent. Therefore, it is advisable to get strategies in place to make things run as smoothly as possible.
- Time is an important factor which there may be little of in a single parent's life. That is why it is important to make time every day. If you use a diary, you can even block out that half-hour or whatever so you can give your child full attention. If you have more than one child, it naturally becomes more complicated, but not impossible - even if you have to alternate the days for personal attention to each child. However, this is not something that should be overlooked, as it is the perfect opportunity to find out what your child is doing, what they may be struggling with or stressed about and what they are proud of. There is no more suitable way to display your care and love.
- Get a support network in place. It is true that many single parents are too proud to ask for help and would rather struggle alone, but believe me, those who get support from others, whether friends, parents or siblings, simply handle single parenting better. Remember, people are not necessarily going to offer to help, but it's not because they do not want to, they just do not necessarily think about it. Therefore, you should never be afraid to ask.
- People can not read minds. Therefore, it is important to communicate with those who are part of your living world about your circumstances. For example, your child's teacher or sports coach needs to know what's going on - it will help a lot to understand the child's behaviour if problems arise. And the teacher will also know how to inform you in advance about the upcoming task so that you do not have to rush to work tonight to get your hands on the necessities for the task to be completed tomorrow. Remember, you do not have to saddle them with the full story, but keep them informed.
- Routine is top-notch. Children love structure, even if they sometimes fight against it. That way, everyone in the household knows what is expected of him/her.
- Discipline. It remains important to maintain discipline within the family. Do not allow things because you are tired or may feel guilty. You are doing your child a disservice. Children need boundaries.
- Make time for yourself. A healthy body houses a healthy mind. Eat healthily, exercise regularly and try to do something fun just for you at least once a week. Even if it's only half an hour in a bubble bath or 10 minutes alone in the garden to recover - breath. Do not be too hard on yourself - you may also think of yourself. It is hard work to raise children alone and one needs baskets full of capacity for that. Children can often test one's patience. So keep your capacity basket as full as possible.
- Depression. Be mindful of your mental health and if you find that you are not recovering on your own, despite trying hard, talk to an expert like your GP, a psychologist or a counsellor.
- Let go of those feelings of guilt. Life happens and it does not always look like the picture you had in your head. Therefore, it is necessary to forgive yourself and approach each day's challenges with a positive attitude.
Role models within the single-parent household
“It takes a village to raise a child…”
Children need role models because whether you want to believe it or not, your child does not always necessarily want to share everything with you - for whatever reason. Therefore, a good support network is once again the answer. In the case of boys, a grandfather, uncle or good house friend can fulfil that role. As long as it is someone you (and your child) fully trust and who can respect the child. Someone he can approach with confidence if he wants to talk about "boys 'things" or "boys' things". So do girls. Grandmother and that beloved aunt or girlfriend is worth gold when it comes to personal or heart matters, or just doing some "girl things". What is important to keep in mind is that it is not a reflection of your ability as a parent. Your child just needs a different perspective - or maybe he/she is trying to protect you. Whatever the reason.
There is no perfect recipe for single parenting. You're not a miracle worker either. Put things in place to the best of your ability and do only what works for you and your family. Take care of yourself and your mental health… sometimes put yourself first… the rest will fall into place. Children need so much less than one might think. A parent present is often enough for them. Every child deserves a parent's undivided attention and love...tons of it!