Being a single parent is indeed very challenging since one has to fill in for both parents while providing for the child’s emotional, developmental and financial needs. Every responsibility that was meant to be shared among two has to be taken solely by one. On the brighter side, it gives a consistent message to the child and the disconnection that may result from difference in opinions of the two parents is absent. In fact, in some cases, being a single parent could also be a choice.
Challenges for the Parent:
A single parent goes through a variety of emotions. They may experience stress stemming from the change in their lifestyle post separation. It is a very natural way of reacting to changes like reduced financial resources, absence of a helping hand, not having time for oneself etc. Since they want to give their child the very best, fear of falling short of anything he/she needs may give birth to anxiety.
- Coping with the loss of a partner– In cases where single parenting is not by choice and is caused by an undesirable event, living with the loss of a partner is indeed a difficult experience. Coping with loneliness is a huge challenge any single parent faces amongst others.
- Explaining the absence of a parent to the child-A nother big task for a single parent is to explain why the child has a single parent and where the other parent is.
- Guilt– It is not always possible to give everything a child need. Single parents tend to develop a feeling of guilt for not being able to cater to every need of the child.
- Playing two roles at a time– Each parent has a certain role in a child’s life. A single parent has to play the role of the partner too which becomes very stressful and confusing at the same time and doesn’t always come naturally. It’s indeed very difficult for a mother to fill in for a father and vice versa.
- Financial Stress– A single parent might feel stressed after becoming the solo financial supporter for her child and herself.
- Decreased self-care– Between taking care of a lot of things alone, one thing that every single parent forgets to focus on is ‘self’. All of their efforts are going into mending other things and meanwhile they lose their sense of self.
How to cope?
- Address your child’s questions about a missing parent- Being truthful to the child while explaining the absence of one parent is essential. However, being as honest as is appropriate for the child’s age is very important. Presenting a positive picture of the situation would give the child reassurance that they are going to be OK with one parent. Be open to questions as they are going to be there for a while.
- Form a routine- Forming a routing of activities like meals, bed-time, school, recreational activities etc. can help in staying away from thoughts that bring them down or make them feel overwhelmed. Similarly being organised gives them a sense of having things under control.
- Build a support group- Build a community of people who are there to cater to your emotional needs when required. Knowing other single parents and exchanging thoughts and experiences makes you feel you’re not alone and can get through this.
- Budget your expenses- Being the solo financial supporter, maintaining a budget to keep a track of the expenses and savings can help to a great extent.
- Balance the time with the kid and work- While work may not allow a lot of time, try to spend quality time with your kid. Plan activities that both of you look forward to. This would help in avoiding feeling of guilt and also build a strong bond between the two.
- While You’re Away- Having a proper plan for child care while you’re busy working is very important. Be it family, Nanny or day-care, the child has to be under proper care so he/she doesn’t feel unsafe, doesn’t develop anxiety or undesirable habits.
- Take care of yourself- Just like an airline safety video tells parents to put on their oxygen mask before offering to a child, it’s true in most aspects of life. Self-sufficient and happy individuals make great parents. Keep some time for your physical and emotional well-being through activities and social support network.
- Accept and Believe in yourself- In most cases your parental status may remain the same and hence accepting it and planning life accordingly is imperative. Believe in yourself and you’ll soon see yourself and your child doing well. Children sense more than we think they do.