Adjusting to the Challenges of Single Parenthood March 07 2018, 0 Comments
Daniel is a single dad raising two children, a 9 year old daughter and 6 year old son, in Portland, Oregon, USA. Daniel writes from a dads’ perspective about his experiences as a single parent and hopes to be an inspiration to other single parents.
A New Reality: Adjusting to the Challenges of Single Parenthood
Parents today face challenges that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. Drugs, the cost of education, debt, and gun violence are enough to dissuade anyone from having children. Imagine those same problems multiplied times two for single parents who have to adjust to life without a helpmate or someone with whom to share difficult decisions about child rearing. Single parents have to help their children adjust to a new life without having mom or dad around. It’s no picnic for parents either. The adjustment is made harder for them because divorce or separation can be emotionally devastating and financially crippling. It’s no wonder that single parents suffer from inordinately high levels of depression and the looming fear that they’ll fail their kids.
The day-to-day family problems remain much the same, but the cost of providing for children can quickly overwhelm a single parent who’s struggling to make ends meet. In many cases, a single mom or dad needs to take on a second job just to keep food on the table and the lights on. Helping kids with homework, getting them to and from sports and other activities, and providing emotional support is a lot to deal with even for parents who can get by on one income.
Raising a child today costs an estimated quarter of a million dollars through age 18. Often, parents who think they have a good handle on the financial aspect of child rearing find themselves at an absolute loss in the wake of a divorce. Even if you’re a wizard at saving money and making do with less, there’s not much you can do when it’s just you, especially if the cost of your divorce has left you strapped. For people who just aren’t good at managing money, or whose ex-spouse handled the financial side of things, figuring out how to stretch a dollar can really ratchet up their stress level. And yet having to do it all yourself can force you to learn how to make it work (the Internet is an excellent source of information on how to be a better budgeter).
The legal factor
The ideal divorce scenario is for both parties to reach an amicable settlement and to cooperate in a friendly manner in the best interest of their kids. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t happen that way. If, as is often the case, child custody court doesn’t bring things to a swift conclusion, the relationship between parents, and between parents and children, can become very difficult. If there are extenuating circumstances involved, such as drug or alcohol abuse or charges of domestic violence to consider, the case may drag on for months with no resolution. The most lasting scar is the residual anger and ongoing emotional retribution that can go on for years and cause permanent psychological damage to the children. Family counseling can help make things better, but only if both parties are willing to try.
The new family dynamic that results from divorce or separation makes for a tough transitional period for everyone. If the kids are in the custody of a parent unaccustomed to being the disciplinarian, they may challenge mom or dad because this new role is inconsistent with the way things were before the divorce. As difficult as the situation might get, it’s important to maintain your authority. Consistency is the key; work to set a consistent, healthy routine for your child; keep your home as welcoming as possible and free from clutter; and, as much as possible, stay on top of things like homework and household chores.
Meeting the challenge of single parenthood takes a lot of courage and patience. It’s a new role for you, one you’ll have to grow into, just as your kids have to adapt to their new circumstances. Fortunately, children are resilient and usually adjust quickly even to the most difficult situations. Remember try to remain calm and try to understand that things will be difficult for a while.