Saturday, December 12, 2009

Going solo

Life is tough for single parents, but there is help

During my daughter’s first year when I was sleep‑deprived, I remember thinking “how on earth do single parents cope?”
I found a new respect for mums and dads who do it alone, and recognised that it is truly hard work.
But being a single parent doesn’t mean a child is going to suffer. While it is a challenge, you can function as both mum and dad.
Between 1986 and 2001, single‑parent families increased by 53 per cent, and by 2006 there were on average 486,000 one‑parent families with children under 15.
Single-parent families can come about from separation, divorce, death, or sometimes a woman will choose to have a family without a partner, using donor sperm.
The effects of divorce are well documented, and the stress and trauma of a break-up can cause behaviour problems in children.
If parents handle the separation in an amicable way, and always support the best interests of the child, then it will be not as hard for the child to adjust to the new family structure. Single-parent families, no matter how they are formed, all face similar challenges.
Isolation, lack of support, financial stress and emotional problems can all become overwhelming and quite often this is felt by the child as well.
So what should single parents do to create a happy family environment?
First and foremost is to get support.
You need to have relatives, friends or a support group to help you manage stress, have time out from the children and be able to unwind and refresh.
It’s also a good idea for your children to have more than one adult role model.
Single parents need to work twice as hard to forge strong bonds with their children.
Every child needs someone to feel safe with, someone with whom they can let down their guard.
In a two-parent family, one partner may provide support when the other is unavailable, but as a single parent, you are the sole support 24 hours a day.
Engage your child in activities they love and be an active participant in their interests.
Being a single parent can have its disadvantages, but it also has its benefits.
Solo parents make the decisions about their child’s eating, sleeping, discipline and development, without arguing with another adult.
And your attention is never divided, it is always focused on your child.
Parenting is an important job, so it baffles me that a working mother is criticised for not staying at home with her children, but if her marriage breaks down, and she has to take care of her children instead of working, she is tainted as a bludger.
It’s a huge contradiction and one that I’m sure many single mothers have faced.
Christmas can be especially hard for single parents, so if you know someone in this situation, offer to give them a hand, babysit so they can get some shopping done, or give them a chance to see a movie.
It will be the best gift you can give them.
And if you’re a single parent, here are some excellent resources to help you through:


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