Any parent of a single parent family probably knows the unique challenges of raising kids alone. There are, however, a whole host of other issues that you need to know about as you chart the course of raising kids on your own.
So what are the unique challenges of a single-parent family? Let’s start by defining what we are talking about:
A single-parent family is one that is headed by a parent that is widowed or divorced and has not re-married or has never been married.
Want an interesting fact about this:
One out of every two children will be part of a single-parent family before they turn 18!!
Over time, the number of single-parent families has substantially increased. When divorce became much more prevalent over time, the number of single-parent families grew exponentially.
While the number has started to get lower over the last few years, the number is still quite large. Large enough in fact that single-parent families are not just an anomaly anymore, they are a substantial part of our society.
In times gone by, single-parent families resulted mostly from the death of a parent. Now it is much more about divorce or parents that are having children but have never been married.
So know that we know what it is, let’s discuss the unique parts of a single-parent family.
The single-parent family described
The most common type of single-parent family is still a mother and her biological children. In general, about 1 in 4 children live with their single mother. What is new is the number of children that are living with their biological father (including my two sons).
Unlike single mothers, single fathers are much more likely to have been divorced rather than having never been married. The reasons for this are varied, yet the reason is most likely not all that relevant when it comes to examining a single-parent family.
One area where the number of single-parent families is continually increasing is those that are the result of the adoption of children by a single parent.
Challenges you face
There is no magic rule that says kids in a two-parent home will automatically live healthy, happy, prosperous lives any more than it is a given that kids of single-parent families will not.
There are however some disturbing trends and challenges of a single–parent family to be on the lookout for.
1. Financial constraints
It stands to reason that if a household has only one income instead of two, things are going to tend to be financially tighter for the single-parent family. This can have an effect on the kid’s education, their health care, their housing, their nutrition, and their overall well-being.
2. Educational concerns
Kids that are part of single-parent families, in general, have lower levels of educational achievement. This can be due to the financial constraints mentioned above but it can also come from a single parent that simply does not have the time to dedicate to their child’s education.
In addition to this issue, kids that are part of a single-parent family are twice as likely to drop out of school. This problem is then compounded by the fact that these same kids are more likely to become teen parents thus perpetuating this cycle of kids having less advantage than those in two-parent homes or with parents that are older and have higher income and education levels.
3. The negative consequences of items 1 and 2
You can probably begin to infer where this is all heading for these kids. Kids of single-parent families are also:
- More likely to have a conflict with their parent
- More likely to have less adult supervision
- More likely to be truant from school
- More likely to engage in high-risk behavior like drug and alcohol abuse, committing crimes, and joining gangs
4. What that means for their adulthood
So when these same kids reach adulthood they are more likely to potentially be suicidal, spend time in jail, be a single parent themselves, and if they do get married, they are twice as likely to get divorced.
Steps you can take as a single parent to minimize these issues
There is no question that being a single parent can be a lonely and trying endeavor. When all of the parenting, financial, educational, and health care issues fall to just one parent the results can seem overwhelming.
As a single parent, there are steps that you can take to help lessen this impact on you and make sure your children grow up leading safe, healthy, and productive lives.
Some things to consider include:
- Finding safe, stable, and healthy child care
- Find good routines and stick with them diligently
- Make sure that there are sensible rules in place for your kids and stick with them
- Let your children be children. Do not put them in the position of having to “grow up too fast”
- Really strive to know the important people in your kids lives like their teachers and friends
- Do not put your child in a position of having to choose between you and the other parent
- Be honest about any financial constraints. Not only does this let your child see why there may be a limitation but it is also a good teaching lesson of responsibility for their lives
- Never be afraid to get help. If you feel that your kids are going down the wrong path seek out the social, financial, emotional, and legal support to help you be the best parent you can be
In short, while the job of parenting can be more difficult when you are going it alone, there are still plenty of ways to make sure you are raising happy and healthy kids one day at a time.