Being a single parent has many joys but it is also often very difficult
Coping as a Single Parent
Source: Family Life
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Being a single parent has many joys but it is also often very difficult. General difficulties for the single parent are:
- Lack of Time – trying to balance the needs and interests of the children with your own and the demands of work you may feel that you are being torn apart and have little to give anyone. Special time with each child even 5 minutes a day can help as well as time for yourself, enlisting more help from your own family, your in-laws, the other parent or using your friends will help to free you a bit. Setting limits on the children and on the demands of work by being more assertive may rebalance your life.
Organizing more effective routines, effective planning and sharing of the duties at home will ensure a more productive use of your time and help to provide the necessary structures for security and survival. A re-evaluation of your expectations of yourself as a parent may also help. Remember you are a person as well as a parent – you don’t have to be the perfect parent, what can you let-go to relax more, so that the lack of time becomes less stressful.
- Being on your own with the sole responsibility of child rearing may feel very frightening. Who is there to tell you that you are getting it right, to share your worries and concerns with, to bounce your ideas off, to help you make those important decisions about the children. It is difficult to be alone but again are you using your support systems, your family and friends, asking for help, involving the children in an appropriate way and above all do you trust yourself. Recognize your strengths, accept your imperfections – be open and flexible to new ideas, insights, allow yourself to grow and change.
- Loneliness is a common feeling. Being the only adult in your family may mean that your emotional needs are not being met. The children have their own friends and you to meet their emotional needs. They cannot and in fact should not be asked to meet your emotional needs. If you are too reliant on them, they may become angry or sad and depressed.Try to develop your own relationships with adults, pursue some of your own interests and hobbies. Give yourself permission to play and free the children to pursue their own interests and to become independent of you. You may also be isolating yourself. Your attitude and response to your single parent state is important. Do you feel that your family is odd, not as good as two parent families? Are you defensive and attacking, do you feel let down and rejected? If you do you may be withdrawing from your family and friends. Reach out, hold your head high, single parent families are neither better nor worse only different.
- Other feelings experienced by many single parents are worry and anxiety over your financial situation. You may be the sole provider, the bread winner, worried that you won’t come out on the money, that you might get ill or be out of work; frustrated that you can’t give enough to the children or yourself. You may be responding to your anxiety with anger or by withdrawing. Can you ask for help to plan a budget and use the money more effectively? Can you set limits on the children’s demands or can you learn to accept that you can’t change the situation and that you will cope.
- Guilt about your children is another common feeling for the single parent. Are you blaming yourself for your children’s behavior and feelings? Very often the children’s behavior and feelings are normal at that stage of their development. Do you realize that adolescents prefer and need their friends more than their family? Try to understand where your children are at in their development.
- Sexual issues may be a worry for you as a single parent. Many single parents fear that without a role model of the opposite sex their children will become homosexual. Children will identify with other significant adults such as members of your extended family or teachers.Your own sexual needs and dating may be a difficulty for you. You may feel embarrassed, guilty, uncertain how to behave or afraid of an intimate relationship. Your children may be making it difficult for you, they may be critical of your date, resent you going out, feel competitive with you for your date, become moralistic. They may respond with anger, be rude to your date, become unhappy, sad and depressed. Try to communicate with your children, spend special time with them but at the same time – give yourself permission to do what you want, date whoever you want and to enjoy things without your children. You are a person in your own right.
There are many single parent organisations, parenting courses or professional counsellors who will be able to help you if you continue to experience problems in your family.