The Challenges of Single Parenthood

2010-06-22
THISDAY Newspaper- Chiemelie Ezeobi

Parenthood is challenging enough even under the best of conditions. So, being a single-parent in our society is tasking, to say the least. This is because, with one parent, the challenges are multiplied. Single parenting in our society has been the focus of much interest and research in recent years, no doubt due to divorce, death and the increase in the incident of birth outside of marriage.
A single-parent (also known as lone parent, solo parent or sole parent) is a parent who cares for one or more children without the physical assistance of the other parent in the home. Single parenthood may occur for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are by choice, as in divorce or adoption; or as a result of unforeseeable circumstances such as a death, child abuse, child neglect, or abandonment by biological parents.

While any of the parents may be involved, majority of single-parents are women, who by nature, are "primary carers." So, when the subject of single parenthood is being discussed, it would almost certainly involve women. And, as a single parent, the situation of a woman is rather complicated. Apart from being the primary care giver, she becomes the bread winner and head of the family.
According to Funmilayo Oriyomi, a communicator, “The effects of single parenting are far reaching because it does not only affect the parents, it also affects the children. In fact, the effects are more devastating on the part of the children because single parenthood leaves them with deep scars. There are a number of questions to be asked when deciding on the effects of single parenting on adults; being a single parent is a very tough and challenging task.”

For single parents, coping with child rearing becomes more difficult because of responsibility overload. This is apparent when one parent makes all the decisions and provides for all of the family needs. The combination of the demands of work, housework and parenting proves to be overwhelming for that person; when the single parent must always be available to meet their own and their children's emotional needs. Alone or in combination, these result in problems for the single parent,
According to Patience Umukoro, a divorcee with kids, "people are so used to the family structure that they tend to discriminate against us. It is difficult to ask for help in a society that has already defined the family as an autonomous unit responsible for its own circumstances and well-being and so endangering our kind."

The society tends to frown on single parenthood and one of the main effects of this would be that if the parent is suffering financially, people are not always willing to help. A single parent can only solve her problems by finding a job that is able to support her and her children. It is also important for single parents to learn how to manage their money so as to cut the expenses on everyday items such as transport, food and also the cost of looking after a child. Being able to save energy and time is vital as bringing up a child alone will require playing two roles; that of the parent and the sole provider.
Another effect of single parenting is isolation. Here, Oriyomi advises that this can be remedied by establishing a connection and communication with other people. She says communication is important for every single-parent to make others understand their situation and gain support from them. The problem of isolation boils down to lack of support, which is another negative effect of single parenting. This is easily overcome by relating with people, including neighbours, family, friends and relatives and it can go a long way in offsetting the effects of pressure; with this relationship offering a buffer against loneliness and frustration.

Oriyomi also said that emotional distress can as well be the effect of single parenting. This, she opines, can easily be conquered, "by letting yourself go on an emotional process aided by a professional. This emotional process is management of emotion from denial, anger, depression, bargaining and until you reach acceptance. It is not only adults that suffer the negative effects of single parenting. In fact, children are the most affected by it. Children being raised with this type of parenting are at high risk of experiencing behavioural and emotional distress; they may also have a hard time adjusting to the divorce or death of one of their parents."

And there must be proper healing for the children too. "Healing the children can begin by engaging them in different activities which they love. Sporting activities are good examples of activities that can help single parents and their children forget the hardship or traumatic experiences they go through. Parents, as much as possible, must settle their differences amicably so that their children can adapt easily to the situation In case of divorce. It would also lessen the tension between the parents", she concluded.

Another negative effect of single parenting is lower educational attainment. It is often said that children raised by single-parents do less well at school. This may be because the single parents do not have the resources to fully support their children in school or to provide educational opportunities out of school. This may well be true, but it will also be true for two-parent families living in poverty.
Mrs. Dauda, a single parent, thinks support from friends and family take care of this and many other problems. "My parents became much more involved in my children’s lives when I left my husband. And I believe that was hugely beneficial for them. It also gave me valuable support, which I needed. Therefore, it would be my opinion that with support from other people, there is no reason why children raised by single-parents can’t reach their full potentials. I think it comes down to needing to building a more supportive, cohesive, all-embracing and loving society where there is mutual support and care", She said.

“I find it really hard reading through some reports on single-parent families. Thinking of my own sons and what they’ve been through, of course, it’s impossible for me to wind back the clock but I can certainly work to the best of my ability on doing everything I can do to make them feel loved and secure, even from a distance”. She further advised that to deal with negative psychological effects of single parenting, the key is to behave as mothers, "as we would like our kids to behave as they learn by example."

Kunle, a university graduate who grew up in a single-parent family, explained that anti-social behaviour is also one of the major effects of single parenting. He said children of single parents are likely to display risky behaviour such as smoking, drinking, delinquency, truancy, violence, stealing and unsafe sexual activities. “When I was in the university, I never knew my parents were planning to divorce. I was in my hostel when my mother called me on the phone that I should not bother to call her again, because my daddy had jilted her and that was why she had to leave. My dad and I went through difficulties to the extent that nothing was left for my dad. I had to fend for my self, pay my school fees through stealing, writing exams for ladies and having intercourse with those who could not afford the huge amount of money charged. I later graduated into smoking and other atrocities that endangered my health. But for my interaction with a Pastor who is my father’s friend, I would probably have been lost."

It is obvious that the social problems mentioned above are more likely to occur if a child is unhappy and insecure. Against that backdrop, Oriyomi said, "Children need to feel secure and that may be difficult following a divorce, especially if that divorce was acrimonious. The family unit is fundamental to a child’s sense of self and so, the fracturing of that unit has profound effects on them. They may lose their belief that the world is a safe and loving place." She further advised that parents should give their children as much love, support, patience and firm boundaries as they can. "When they are happy, social problems will be less of an issue."

However, it is not all bad news for the single-parents as there are some positive effects of single parenting that single-parents need to note as they raise their children. First, developing strong bonds, spending one on one time with the children allows single-parents to develop unique bond that may actually be stronger than it would have been if they were not a single-parents. Certainly, this is true for many custodial parents but it is also true for a number of non-custodial parents who have the opportunity to play a unique role in their children’s lives.
Speaking on the Importance of bonding, Mrs. Dauda advised single-parents that "they should not diminish the importance of their role and that they should also realise that if their bond isn’t where they want it to be today, they can work to strengthen it." She further advised that connection with children won’t end when they turn eighteen; the bond will continue to evolve into the children’s adult years.

Also, shared responsibilities play a vital role because the contribution of the children to the entire family system is necessary. The authentic need for their assistance helps the children recognise the value of their contribution and this helps them develop pride in their own work. Parents should therefore praise their children for helping out around the home to let them know that their efforts are recognized.
The ability to handle conflict and disappointment is a plus as they are cultivated by children in single-parent families. These children witness conflict mediation skills in action; so, they are forced to deal with their own disappointments early in life.

In conclusion, Oriyomi had this to say, "no matter what type of family you have, being a single-parent does not mean that your children will struggle through life. By being a good single-parent, your children will grow up to be strong men or women and if you are able to raise your children to become loving and respectful persons, your ability to look after their needs will only have positive effects of being raised in a single-parent family." Above all, she said " pray to God to crown your efforts because for every challenge faced in the course of training the children He is the solution."


 

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