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How to Survive as a Single Parent


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Statistics show that about 40% of marriages end up in divorce and about 20 to 25% of children live in single parent households. Most single parents are mothers. Being a single parent can be a difficult task. Single parents experience hardship that is uncommon in a nuclear family situation.

These include:

Decline in socioeconomic status. Usually, this is the result of splitting of financial resources after the divorce. Sometimes, this is due to inadequate or the lack of financial support from the non-custodial parent and payment of a large legal bill if the divorce process is long drawn and arduous. Having left the workforce and stayed home to look after the children, many single mothers tend to lose their skills and confidence. They cannot find suitable employment or end up in low paying jobs from which they get little remuneration.

Restricted social network. Single parents usually have to move from their neighbourhood because they can no longer afford the accommodation. They tend to lose contact with their married friends because they no longer fit in the social scenes that involve couples. Sometimes, single parents are actively alienated by their friends because of the misunderstandings that have arisen as a consequence of the divorce. Besides, they usually do not have enough time to make new social contacts because of their commitment to child rearing.

Poor self-esteem. Separation and divorce often result in the erosion of one’s self-esteem. Single parents often feel that they have failed in a relationship and have limited confidence to try again. They do not quite trust that any relationship will work out for them. Child rearing difficulties and unemployment can further impair their self-esteem when they feel like a failure as though they are not good at anything.

Increased vulnerability to develop a psychiatric illness such as a depression or anxiety disorder. The chronic stress of child rearing, social isolation, lack of social support and the feeling of an inability to control one’s future can quickly escalate to a full blown depression or anxiety disorder.

Increased risk of physical ill health. Self-neglect, poor diet, lack of exercise and leisure activities, chronic stress and inability to access proper healthcare can contribute to the development of physical illnesses.

If you are a single parent, you might be experience one or more of the above difficulties. However, taking the following actions can lessen some of the above difficulties:

Seek professional help to work through your emotional difficulties. Separation and divorce is a traumatic experience. The earlier and quicker you work through your difficulties, the better is your adjustment to your life as single parent.

Seek professional help to deal with your children’s problems. Separation and divorce has as much an adverse impact on your children as it has on you. Your children will benefit greatly from the involvement from a professional person. Seeking professional help is not a reflection of your weakness or inadequacy.

Enlist the help of your extended family. You should not bear the entire burden of child rearing by yourself. Research shows that grandparents play a vital role in the development of children. So, do not be ashamed to call on your parents.

Do not overcompensate for your children. Whilst your children also have major adjustments to make, your tendency to overcompensate does not make their adjustment any easier. Your guilt feeling will not help them cope better.

Make time for yourself. Your health and psychological well-being is vital for the survival of your family. So, indulge yourself in your usual pursuit of social activities and leisure.

Do not criticize your ex-partner in front of your children. Research shows that children make better adjustment if the relationship between their parents is free of conflict after the separation. Your criticism of your ex-partner will only increase their stress that can backfire on you.

In conclusion, being a single parent is difficult. So, be kind to yourself and seek as much help and support as you can.

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