LIVING WITH A SINGLE PARENT (a child’s perspective)

Researchers have several theories to explain why children growing up with single parents have an elevated risk of experiencing cognitive, social, and emotional problems. However growing up with a single parent is not enough reason to hold on to these problems, if single parents do the right things at an early age.

Single parenting is a parent bringing up a child or children alone without a partner. The reasons for this can vary: a partner moving to another country, passed away or just leaving. It can also be the result of a child being born out of wedlock.

A single-parent home, like any other home, has its ups and downs. However, the fact that the burden of the home is being handled by one parent makes the down sides more obvious.The effects of a single-parent home on a child’s well-being can be far-reaching and impact several areas of life, including academic achievement, social behaviours and emotions.

This is because children growing up in single-parent home sometimes feel or experience things that they cannot communicate to their parents for various reasons. They may feel that the parents are unwilling to talk about such things or that talking about them may burden their parents or hurt their feelings. Whatever it is, these unexpressed feelings can have negative effects on the children, if not checked, and can go with them into adulthood.

Here are some things to note:

• It is sometimes inevitable for a present parent to be absent. This can be because of work demands needed to fill some financial gaps. However, it is important to remember that children from such homes wish the parent was home more often. This does not belittle the efforts of the single parent but by nature children need to spend time with their parents. If your work schedule is tight, then be deliberate about creating time for your children no matter how little; be available for PTA meetings; and take them out to eat or to the movies once in a while. Most importantly, be planted in a church where they can be exposed to responsible people. I found this true whilst growing up because the church I grew up in had some male elders I could communicate with as father figures.

• Transparency is very important in any home, but much more in a single parent home. The parent needs to be transparent and honest with their children but not in a way that will be overbearing to the child. Don’t tell your child just the negative things about your partner that left (in the case of divorce). Also, don’t transfer your hurts to your children, it gives them more stress than they can handle. Give your children age-appropriate information.

At home, try to create a happy environment for your children to grow in. You therefore need to watch your countenance around the house. If you are always unhappy, they might think that they are the cause of your unhappiness and this can also make them emotionally distanced from you.

Sometimes, it can be hard not to take out your unhappiness on them. But remember, it is not their fault your partner left. In fact, you need to reassure them about this truth from time to time.

• Sometimes your children may or may not want you to re-marry. So the lines of communication to discuss such issues should always be open. The fact that you are a single parent does not take away your need for companion; you may desire to remarry to have someone to share your life with. However, depending on the age of your children, any decision regarding such relationships should be openly discussed with them. Their approval is crucial. But in a situation where they refuse to support you, be gentle, understanding and seek counsel. They may better understand you when they hear your perspective from someone else.

• The absence of financial support from the other parent can make the financial burden on one person enormous. So children need to be involved in the finances of the homes. Involve them in the budget as this will help manage their expectations, and they will grow up to be financially responsible adults.

The fact that children are growing up in a single-parent home does not mean that they are doomed. They can still grow and develop positive life skills if the parent makes conscious efforts to create the right environment for them to grow and thrive. Some have done it successfully; you too can!
– Pastor Nomthi Odukoya