‘Help! I’m a single parent’

Whether you become a single parent or start off that way, there are sure to be times when you feel a little daunted by the responsibility.

Emotional baggage

Challenging tasks become far more difficult when we are weighed down by heavy emotional baggage.  Some "baggage items" that might be weighing you down are: self-pity, depression, guilt, fear, economic devastation, anger, envy, exhaustion, loneliness and frustration.  

Most single parents are afflicted with many, or most, of these problems. There are unfortunately no shortcuts in overcoming such painful obstacles. Each area must be encountered, explored and left behind.

You want to raise healthy, well-adjusted children but this can only be done when you are able to focus on them and not yourself. Seek help in the areas where you are struggling, spend time with a counsellor you trust. Deal with your emotional pain so that you can be there for your children when they need you.

Getting the job done

Trying to fill the role that your ex-partner used to fill is one of the most difficult aspects of single parenting. Things such as mowing the lawn or simple DIY tasks around the home, cooking and cleaning.  There are also issues around discipline, especially if your spouse used to take the lead.

The first thing you need to remember is that you simply cannot do everything well.  If you try, you will spread yourself so thin that even the things you're best at will have mediocre results. Do the best you can and don't worry about not being perfect.

Secondly, look for substitutes who will handle tasks that your partner used to perform - employ a gardener or a domestic worker for instance.  Don't try to do everything yourself.  Time and task management will be one of your greatest challenges as a single parent.  

Ensure that each child knows the new boundaries.  Be careful to keep discipline in order so that your children don't use this as an opportunity to get their own way. 

Never enough by the end of the month

As a single-parent family you cannot maintain the same standard of living you once enjoyed. You need to remember this from the outset. Although it will take some adjustment, you must fight the urge to make more debt to simply keep up your past lifestyle.

Don’t be manipulated by your children or feel guilty if they can't have everything that they used to. Buying them "stuff" is not going to make them feel any better about the loss of their parent.

Hurt and angry children

Your children are going to be hurt by the loss of their other parent; this is unavoidable.  But they can rise above their pain if given the right environment to do so.  In the end, if dealt with correctly, their wounds can become their greatest source of strength.

Children in a divorce situation (and this is also true for children coping with the death of a parent) experience fear, confusion and anger. These emotions are expressed predominantly at specific ages:  
  • Children from birth to age 5 are dominated by fear.  
  • Children ages 6 through 12 feel confused and chaotic.  
  • Children and young adults ages 13 to 25 or older are dominated by anger.
This is helpful to know because then you can care for your children according to their specific needs.

All is not lost

Good parenting makes all the difference in the world.  The adjusted children of responsible single parents are proving to do very well, and don't let anyone tell you differently.  Just take it one day and one step at a time. 

Do you think that single parents have more difficulties, or just different ones?

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