Gone are the days when being a single parent used to be a societal stigma or frowned upon. What still stays, is the fact that being a single parent is quite a stressful role to play, which has its up and downs.
Having a partner to parent with means there is someone to support you and split tasks and decisions with. However, in today’s age, it does sound a bit old fashioned to say that a family essentially needs a set of parenting figures. Yes, we live in the era of independence, and be it a single mom or a single dad, single parenting presents its own set of challenges that have its positive and negative effects on a child.
There are many causative factors for having to raise a child on your own. One can be a single parent for reasons such as:
The causes may be many, the result, however, is the same, you have to nurture your little one on your own and need to balance between providing for your child and making their life fun and easy at the same time. There has always been a debate regarding the effects of lone parenting on kids. There were times when being raised by one parent only, was synonymous with coming from a broken home, thankfully with time, the outlook has evolved.
The true answer about the positive or negative effects of such an upbringing is only one: It depends! A single parent with adequate resources is more likely to be able to provide a stable, nurturing home in which the child will be able to thrive just as well as a home where there are two parents. On the other hand, a house with a single parent, where the parent is just scraping to get by will probably have little time to spend with the kids, and more often than not (Of course, there are exceptions to this) might not be able to provide the right kind of conducive environment for their child.
So, let us try to understand the potential positive and negative effects of single parenting:
The Positive Effects of Single Parenting
As a single mom or single dad getting to spend one-on-one time with your child, creates a unique little bond, the kind that is stronger than the one you would have with your child in nuclear parenting. It holds true even in the cases of divorces - as the custodial parent (the one who has sole custody of the child) and also the non-custodial parents have a significant contribution in the lives of their child.
There is an old phrase that says “It takes a village to raise a child,” this holds true in cases of families with families with a lone parent too. Children who are raised by one parent alone, too have numerous supporters and in most cases, extended family members go on to play some unique roles in their lives. Parents who do not have extended families in close proximities, can reach out to community groups (nowadays there are plenty) like single parent support groups, or single parents meet etc. that work as a good outlet to build a sense of support and community.
More often than not, children raised by single parents, don’t get by with just token responsibilities as their contribution to the family as a whole is quite necessary. This is important, as children learn to understand the value that their contribution holds, and derive a sense of pleasure and satisfaction from their work. Letting your children recognise the efforts that are put in by them and by praising them for doing work around the house, you inculcate an innate sense of responsibility in them, that definitely goes a long way.
When children see their parent working hard, it builds in them a sense of doing their bit, stepping up to the plate and collaborating with their parent to get work done. Another very important lesson, that they learn is about learning to deal with their expectations and disappointments in life. Not only do these experiences help them in growing up to be empathetic and caring adults, it also strengthens the bond between parent and child. Responding with empathy, support and encouragement are so important in these situations. You might not always be able to prevent them from feeling such emotions, but you can surely help them learn to manage them.
The Negative Effects of Single Parenting
A lot of single parents have to work extra hard and long hours, in order to meet the financial needs of the family. Running the household and raising kids at the same time is a tough job. There will be times when you might have to deny your child their wants and desires or may have to constantly juggle between financial commitments. Many a time a child from a single parenting household is unable to take the opportunities that they always dreamt of owing to financial concerns.
Having extra responsibilities added to your day to day life sometimes takes a toll on the quality of parenting that you can provide to your kids. Sometimes you may have to miss an important school function, due to having to work or may even find yourself to be a little more irritable at minutia. Even if you keep a full disclosure policy around the house, your children may not be mentally capable of helping you out in tough situations. The best way to deal with such situations is to try to take out individual time for your kid whenever you can, this will help maintain a balance.
A lot of times, children from a household which only has one parent, suffer from self-esteem issues. Your child may want attention and affection which you may not be able to cater to fully, due to your busy schedule. This leads to a sense of disillusionment with relationships in them and sometimes he/she may develop a sense of guilt and hold themselves responsible for their living conditions by drawing comparisons. What is essential at such times is to build your child’s sense of self-worth. The world is a tough place as it is and with so many cases of teen-depression, your child needs to stop blaming himself/herself for things that they have no control over.
Loneliness is something that you might feel quite often, because of not having a partner to share the emotional roller-coaster called parenting. Be it a divorce, a death, surrogacy or separation by choice, not having someone to share the responsibilities, joys and sorrows, may take a toll on you too. At such times your child and you are the best support systems for each other. It’s an adjustment period for both of you and you will have to rely on your love for each other to make it through times of despair as well as celebrate the joys!
There are enough parenting books on the topic and also parenting advice floating around with what experts think about the positive and negative effects of single parenting are. Our two cents on the topic is to offer helpful advice on how to deal with the stress that raising a child single-handedly can cause: Yes, it requires a great amount of planning and proactiveness but these simple tips will help you cope up with it all:
Though it may seem like a very basic task, trust us it’s important. Structuring your day in such a way that it makes your child feel comfortable and have a sense of security is important. It could range from maintaining a consistent mealtime, wake-up/bedtime etc. Making sure that certain intervals of the day are spent with your child gaining your sole attention is necessary, without compromising their basic needs or rest and sleep due to your hectic schedule.
Raising a child alone, means you have to make up for dual outlets of love that your child needs. The kind of protection, attention, encouragement that would be available in a house with both parents, is the kind that your child requires. It may be difficult but you need to push through it. Give your child positive attention and one-on-one time with praise for their achievements. If your child feels happy and secure, you know you have won the battle!
With no one else to play an occasional good cop/bad cop routine, means that you have to be the voice of reason and discipline too at times. You will have to be a little firm and serious with your child and set up boundaries. Establishing some ground rules, will make the task not only easier for you but also bring order into your household, with your child never using misbehaviour to draw your attention.
Be honest with your child about everything. They will have a host of questions for you, once they start comparing things to their peers. Even if it may feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but it is the best way to offer emotional support to your child and also strengthening your bond.
One of the hardest aspects of single parenthood is managing the finances. Working harder is of no use if you do not think of investment in the long run. From your child’s education to their marriage, to your retirement, to emergency situations; look at the bigger picture and plan ahead. Also, when it all gets a bit heavy, stay positive (hence, we coupled the two), we know it’s so difficult not to be overwhelmed with all the responsibility so positivity is the only thing that can come to the rescue.
Your mood will always affect your child; though it's not easy to always maintain a brave face and you can discuss some ground realities with your child but for his/her sake you will have to try extra hard to see the glass as half-full. Your children should never get the impression that they are the cause of your sadness and take that guilt upon themselves. So eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly and try to balance your life in all ways possible.
Single parenthood is a difficult task and to be honest the positive or negative impact has to do a lot with your outlook too. Yes, there are pain and hardships, but being with your own flesh and blood and seeing them grow into wholesome adults is worth it all. Patience and persistence are the keywords here and that's the best and only parenting advice that you need.
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