Being a single parent is becoming more and more common, with the US Census Bureau estimating that there are around 12 million single parent families. As relationships change and dissolve, many children are left with a lone parent.
If you’re a single parent yourself, you might be wondering if your single parent status will affect your child’s development. There’s no doubt that coming from a single parent home does have some impact on children, but there’s no reason children of single parents can’t grow up happy and well adjusted.
Let’s take a look at the impact of single parenting on your child’s development, and how you can best support them as they grow.
Poverty and its effects
Single parent households are more likely to struggle with poverty. Being the sole wage earner can cause a noticeable gap between your income and that of your two-income peers.
Poverty can be frightening and stressful for children, causing them to feel frustrated and angry at the difference between them and their classmates or friends.
If you’re struggling with financial issues, there are some things you can do to help. The first is learning to budget effectively, and adopting an attitude of looking for the most cost effective way to do things. The second is to focus on what you can give your child. Perhaps you can’t buy them the latest gadget, but you can foster a good relationship with them, and find fun things you can enjoy together for free. It’s not easy, but with the right attitude, you and your child can get through this.
Impact on academic achievement
Being from a single parent family can have an impact on your child’s academic development. The stress of the separation between you and your partner and the resulting change to their life and routine can cause issues. You might also find yourself working longer hours, with less time to dedicate to helping with homework.
Try to be as hands on as possible when it comes to your child’s academic life. Keep in regular touch with their school and work with their teachers to tackle issues.
Get involved with helping with homework, and if you don’t know about a subject, make it your business to learn – you and your child can learn and explore together. Find free resources for them online or at your local library to make learning easier, and fun.
Self esteem and confidence
Your child’s self esteem and confidence might take a knock when you become a single parent family. Children are quick to pick up on negativity and may blame themselves for the situation, or for your break up.
Be vigilant about your child’s emotional well being and self esteem. Make time every day to talk with them about their day, and listen to what they say. Always validate their feelings, and work on communicating with them in a way that builds confidence and encourages them to confide in you.
Always encourage your child, and be quick to acknowledge their achievements, no matter how small. A simple “well done” or even a card or note reminding them that they’re doing great can make a big difference.
Relationship with their other parent
Your child’s relationship with their other parent might well suffer as the result of a separation. In some cases, the non-custodial parent can become rather distant, and your child may be left feeling abandoned or worried that they’ve done something wrong.
Do everything you can to foster a good relationship between your child and their other parent. You can help this along by sitting down with your ex and making decisions about how to handle school work, vacations, visitation time, birthday and Christmas, and even little things like allowance or TV time.
The more you work together as a team, the more stable a parenting environment you’ll be able to create for your kids. Seeing you both still working together to look after and support them will help them feel less adrift. The more security you can create, the better it will be for your child’s development.
Stress and anxiety
The stress and anxiety of a separation can impact everything from your child’s school achievements to how well they relate to their peers. That’s why taking steps to reduce their stress and anxiety is vital.
If your separation was particularly acrimonious, your child will be exposed to a lot of negativity. Witnessing fights is upsetting for children, and so is hearing their parents speak badly about each other. Never criticize their other parent in front of them, and make sure any heated discussions take place out of earshot.
Don’t lean on your child emotionally – this will cause them a lot of stress and can impact their emotional development. Build up a strong support network of family and friends you can talk to about financial, work or other stresses, and leave your child out of it.
If your child is old enough to understand, explain to them that none of the stress you’re suffering is their fault, and be reassure them that you love them and will always be there for them.
Becoming the child of a single parent is a difficult transition that can impact many areas of your child’s life. However, with love and commitment you can get them through this difficult time and help them to bloom.