If you are a single parent, or if you are considering supporting a single parent family, please know this is one of the most meaningful things you can do. Below are some of the real challenges of life as a single parent in America today.
Resource Management: This can be anything from finances to childcare to food. Stretching the dollar to cover normal daily needs–and dare I say desires/wants-of self & family. If finances are not the challenge, single parents must make the most of time to pay the attention required to meet children's needs (like school, activities, quality communication, and care) the demands of employer(s), and expectations of extended family, while still making room for recreation and rest. There is often more month than money or time in a single parent household. When a single parent comes home from work and starts their "second job" of cooking, cleaning, homework, bill paying, project making, and grocery shopping – they have completed a solid 12-14 hour day. Normally, social connectedness, and self-care suffer tremendously. Self Care – if you do not take care of yourself with proper nutrition, rest, exercise and spiritual food – you cannot possibly be balanced enough to take care of others and make sound and healthy decisions alongside having sound and healthy reactions to life's more challenging moments. A single parent must remember to ASK FOR HELP. There is no replacement for investigating and learning the community resources and unapologetically putting them in place as an active part of their home. This can be like recreation centers, libraries, coupon groups, babysitting exchanges, the church, and so on. maintain a work life balance.
Social Networking: Because time and money is stretched, it is difficult to build a support network, but it is a MUST. Many single parents have mentioned that they struggle with loneliness and isolation. Often, the dynamics of dating are so challenging that people choose to stick to themselves. Many adults do not want to date a full time single parent and share attention with the children or bother to try and "blend" a family. This type of rejection is often met with heartache and brings about low self-esteem. I believe a sound solution is to surround oneself with other FAMILIES. You are not a single – you are a FAMILY. Our first priority as a family is to its members. Our activities as "grown ups" like dating, girls/guys night out, trips to the salon, etc can be supported by the circle of families to which we belong. In turn, we can offer the same.
Making up for the missing Parts: Many single parents try to play both parent roles. If there are any moms like me, the lack of interest in baiting a fishhook or tying knots with the boy scouts must be met a neutral role model of the opposite parent that is trustworthy and consistent who will commit to this type of relationship on an ongoing and long term basis. Additionally, it is very difficult to balance the demands of work fully when your child needs you at school or at home. Overtime crushes more than the clock for a single parent– it crushes our ability to give our hearts in full connection with our child–and then crushes them. A single parent needs a network – this can be with neighbors, school, church, family – whatever circle is safe, consistent, and reflective of good & sound ethics that support the parent and the children and is at the ready for life's unexpected moments.
Guilt /Shame/Self Worth: Many single parents feel guilty and some even ashamed of having to ask more of their children than in terms of sacrifice and household operations. Often, "letting a kid be a kid" is a rare privilege. Single parents carry guilt about this at times, or overcompensate with tough love, which can be good–or build walls, depending on how it is approached and presented. Making choices about what we can do and cannot do as it relates to time and money adds to the guilt that parents carry regarding their situation. However, single parents MUST build each other up. They MUST commit to a positive and productive perspective for their kid's sakes.
Anxiety/Fear: Single parents are often faced with making the quality of interactions make up for the lack of quantity interactions. Most single parents, however, find themselves in what I call "survival mode" emotionally, financially, or physically. They are in a stance of fight or flight rather than in a place where decisions can be made based on patient, thoughtful, well strategized, and intentional efforts. Hearts that filled with grief, guilt, shame, anxiety and fear are however leading homes and families all across America. It is VERY IMPORTANT that we recognize this and develop healthy alternative habits. AWARENESS is step one – ACKNOWLEGEMENT of this reality and a plan to replace unhealthy perspectives with positive and productive perspectives and reactions is a commitment we must make and apply starting today.
Single Parent Children Struggle Also
Many children in single parent families face their own challenges:
Countless studies show that children in single parent households are under a lot more stress. When the stress accumulates it can lead to problems in school and behavioral issues. So what are single parenting's effects on a child's mentality overall?
Effects on Your Child's Emotional Health - When a single parent argues with the other parent in front of the child, this can lead to stress in the child. It is especially problematic when the parents try to get the child to take sides or deliver critical messages to the other parent through the child. The conflicts between parents and single parenting's effects on a child's mentality can lead to the child's inability to grow an attachment with either parent. This lack of an emotional attachment can lead to feelings of insecurity in the child.
The Effects of Abandonment on a Child's Mentality - When discussing single parenting's effects on a child's mentality, it is important to note the effect abandonment can have. Abandonment refers to when a parent leaves the household and cuts of all contact. Feelings of abandonment can lead a child to question his or her own self-worth. The remaining parent must help the child cope with the other parent's absence so the child doesn't develop low self-esteem. Abandoned children also tend to have trust issues and bottle up their emotions rather than express them freely.
The Effects of Constant Moving on Children - Single parents move around more often usually because they face more economic hardship and must move around frequently in order to find more affordable places to live. This frequent moving is another one of single parenting's negative effects on a child's mentality. Each time children move they have to leave behind their neighborhood friends and the transition is even more difficult when they change schools. The possible effects of frequent moving are a sense of isolation, depression, and anxiety.
A toxic combination of unstable schedules and unstable access to childcare leads to a pattern of serial quitting. Single parenting's effects on a child's mentality vary but due to its inherent challenges, single parenting can cause stress for both parent and child and it is the parent's responsibility to make it as least traumatic as possible. It is possible for the negative effects to be balanced out if the parents make an extra effort to provide their child with all the emotional support they need.
If you are a single parent, don't be hard on yourself. It is a fight to move forward so, keep up the pace, ask for help and use your resources! If you are a supporter of single parent families, THANK YOU!!
If you are considering supporting a single parent family, please know this is one of the most meaningful things you can do.
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