Parenting is already a full time job. From infancy to early childhood, all the way through the time when a child flees the nest, parents have a duty to keeping that child happy, healthy, and safe. While the ideal situation is for parents to come in pairs, some are left to raise a child solo.
From possible effects on a child to the well being of the parent, there are various thoughts and opinions out there on whether or not single parenting is an acceptable form of raising a child.
Can a Single Parent Raise a Successful Child?
A single parent can most definitely raise a successful child. As with two parents, it’s about giving a child a good environment to grow up in and teaching them the ways of the world in stages. Also, providing love and encouragement in a child’s interests can go a long way. Children need to know that all types of families are good, and just because they only have one parent does not mean that the family is not good or right.
It can be a struggle to raise a successful child. A single parent has to play the part of an initial role model all on their own. Whether it be a single mother or single father, the parent has to show their child that success isn’t determined by the type of family you have, whether it is a single parent home or a traditional two-parent household; they have to show their child that success is determined by the individual and their drive.
How Does Single Parenting Affect a Child?
In general, society has this image of a man and woman raising a child in unison, providing a balance that can help a child reach their full potential. As we know, not all children have this. When children are infant/toddler age, there may not be any effects on the child.
There is not yet the understanding that a part of the “family unit” is missing. While not having both a mother and a father—or at least two parents—might not have any outright effects on a child, stigma built up around single parenting can begin to wear on the child.
For example, when the child inevitably starts school, there will be questions from not only the school administration, but also the child’s peers. Children can be quite blunt as they are still learning social skills involving asking personal questions. It could be something so simple as drawing a family portrait, the child of the single parent not having two appearing in their picture. Another child would likely ask, “Where is your mommy/daddy?” To which the child in question would have no response. This could lead to potential feelings of insecurity, feeling left out or less loved. It’s not that this sort of thing is inevitable, it’s just something single parents have to pay a little closer attention to.
Often, children of single parents have to learn independence at a very young age because the parent cannot always be present. This can have both positive and negative effects on the child. The positive effects include children having the ability to be more self-sufficient. These children often learn to make food, clean up after themselves and provide entertainment for themselves at an early age. When children are very young, they learn to play by themselves which can lead them to become more creative as well.
However, this amount of independence is not always good. Children can feel lonely or resentful because of the lack of attention a single parent is able to provide. Even in the toddler stage, children can feel the lack of attention and feel sorrow. This can cause children to have undesirable behavior ranging from basic tantrums at home to acting out in school.
The loneliness can also lead to depression or a feeling of neglect. Children can also become the parent for themselves, which can lead them to make some pretty bad decisions. When there is no one to help them, they start to think they can be more independent than they really should be. It can also cause the child to try to act like a parent to the parent. This role reversal will definitely negatively impact the child.
When a child has a problem, especially a gender specific problem, and if the parent is the opposite sex, this could limit the child’s ability to have parent to talk to about the problem. This is especially true as children go through puberty.
Because of sensitive issues, like menstruation for girls or nighttime emissions for boys, there is not always a way for the child to feel comfortable talking to the parent about problems that can occur with these types of issues. Even if the parent has kept open communication with the child throughout all of his/her life, the comfort level with sensitive issues can be a problem. The child may try to deal with the problems alone out of embarrassment. Or, the child may reach out to other people which can cause a rift between parent and child.
Why is Single Parenting a Problem?
Single parenting isn’t necessarily a problem in itself. Many single parents can successfully raise a child who grows into a well rounded adult. However, all styles of parenting come with their own unique set of problems.
For instance, if you’re a single parent, it’s all on you. In infancy, all night time feedings and diaper changes are up to you. You are the only one there to deal with the colicky crying. Every parent/teacher conference is up to you to attend. Sports meetings, your job. Kid breaks a bone, you have to take off work to get them to the doctor. Every side of parenting is thrust into your arms whether or not you have time for it. This can become overwhelming and the pressure could cause all sorts of problems within the household. When you need a break to even just go to the bathroom alone, there is no one there to pick up the slack.
Things that would normally be discussed between two parents ends up falling on one. Discipline is one of these ideas. With two parents, a proper way to punish a child who is in trouble can be discussed. It could be difficult for one person to decide what level of punishment a child deserves. Do you just take away the video games? Or are the grounded from everything but school? Do they sit in the corner for five minutes or ten?
Single parents can also feel more guilt for punishing a child because any wrongdoings of their kid can feel like a fault in their own parenting style. Because of this, often times, single parents let their children get away with poor behaviors, or don’t follow through with consequences. There are a lot of empty threats. The parent does not want the child to be angry with him/her, so he/she chooses not to discipline at all.
Another problem with single parenting is that the child only has one gender role model. Unlike a two parent household where both genders are represented, a single parent can truly only show what a mother or a father can be based off of their gender. As much as the parent may try, there is no way that he/she can model the behavior of the opposing gender for the child. This can create gaps in the child’s understanding of what good parents are suppose to be.
There are financial issues with single parenting as well, which can cause great burdens on the parent. Some parents do have a co-parent and receive child support, but many are left completely financially responsible for themselves and their children. Even when the parent works, most jobs do not provide enough income to support a family. When this occurs, the parent can seek government assistance.
Single Parent Emotional Issues
The pressure of single parenting life can cause emotional strain on the parent. Because every responsibility is placed on one person, when things go wrong they can be made to feel guilty. There is the idea of a “good parent” which comes with its own guidelines. As single parenting is done, well… alone, the parent could start to think they have to be extra “good.” This could mean sacrificing their own emotional well being to make sure their child receives everything that every other child has, whether or not it is realistic.
Single parents are also easily made to feel inadequate—sometimes by other parents. If their child gets hurt, it’s all on the one parent to take care of it, so the longer the pain lasts, the more guilt the parent is likely to feel.
When a single parent is the sole provider of all the child’s needs, the parent will often be overcome by exhaustion. This exhaustion can be the seed for numerous emotional problem including depression and anger. Both of these can directly affect the child as well. When exhaustion takes over, the parent could not have the needed patience to deal with even simple day-to-day occurrences — a baby crying, a child whining, a teenager complaining. This creates anger that can be taken out on the child which will then cycle back to the parent in the feelings of guilt and sorrow.
Sometimes single parents are too dependent on their children for emotional support. They have put so much of their life into the child, they have not developed relationships outside of parenting. This creates a whole different set of emotional problems. Single parents need to be sure to find outlets where they can interact with other adults or have support systems in place. This will help with the emotional turmoil that is associated with single parenting.
Single Father Parenting Issues
Single fathers have their own subset of sigma to deal with because society looks to mothers to raise children. On top of being a single parent, they are also seen as being less maternal and maybe not quite right to raise a child alone. Even in situations where there is a mother as well, many people forget the abilities a father also carries as a parent.
Single fathers generally will have to work twice as hard to have the appearance of a good parent. They are expected to show extra amounts of maternal instinct, and people still appear shocked when things run smoothly.
Single Mother Parenting Issues
Single mothers have unique sets of problems, just like single fathers. Single mothers can often be the push-over mom. They don’t feel that they are able to say ‘no’ to their children. Instead, they give in to the child’s wants to just keep peace in their overly busy lives.
Also, single mothers often try to do too much and be the “super parent”. She will try to work more than one job to support the family, and she will also try to still do all the activities that a mother in a traditional family would do. This can only lead to exhaustion and problems in the household.