Child rearing is a difficult task regardless of your views on this process, and if you are a single parent your task is twice complicated. You have no partner, who can help you on harsh days. Now it all depends on you. You can never get a real vacation. If you are also the breadwinner, your also have to cope with financial problems. Sometimes it seems that you have no more physical strength.
Being a single parent is difficult, but this position has its advantages. You can become very close to your children. You will find the strength and talents in yourself, and become a stronger person. You can take comfort from the fact that, according to scientific data, children raised in single-parent families, usually become very successful despite all the difficulties and obstacles on the way of their development.
The difficulties of parenting in a single-parent family
I would like to stress that single parents usually raise children perfectly, but they have their own misconceptions. The most common misconception is to treat children as best friends and equals. For example, it is easy to tell the elder child: «You are now the eldest in the family, and I totally rely on you». This is generally understandable. In the absence of a reliable partner you really want and need to share your feelings, hopes and dreams, difficulties and problems with your children and make them best friends. It can meet your demands, but what about you children’s needs? Treating children as equals blurs the lines between the parent and child. Now if you get upset, your child will feel a responsibility to protect you and to meet your needs. But he is still a child! For some children such a situation can become a crucial point and a very heavy psychological burden.
Children should follow the path of their own emotional development. This process will be violated if they are forced to act like adults. Any child can take on additional responsibilities around the house and provide some emotional support to the distressed parent, but no child can play the role of an adult without serious negative consequences for his emotional growth and development.
Children need clearly defined boundaries between them and their parents, especially in everything connected with personal affairs. Your child is to find his own road in life. So you should allow him or her to build their own relationships and have their own secrets. Therefore, I strongly encourage you to resist the temptation to make the child your best friend. A child should remain a child.
Another challenge for single parents is their reluctance to set limits. This happens because of best intentions. Many single parents feel guilty that their children don’t grow up in an intact family. They worry that children lack something for normal and healthy development. They also worry about not being able to spend enough time with their offsprings. As a result they have a strong temptation to fulfill all the child’s whims.
A single parent shouldn’t spoil the child with gifts. It is unwise to pay excessive attention to the child as he will suspect that something is wrong with you, that you are either unhappy or don’t believe in yourself. This feeling can ruin your relationships. This does not mean that you should not maintain contact with your child. You must! But act as a parent, don’t be weak!
It is foolish to assert that a child is not upset due to the absence of the father and no mother is able to fully substitute for a male in the family. However, if you cope with this problem well, the child will be happy even without a father.
Sometimes, single mothers feel loneliness, fatigue or frustration and vent their anger on the child. This is natural. Don’t feel very guilty, because all mothers — even married — do this. To prevent such situations a single mother should remain a normal person — maintain relationships with her friends, continue her career, have another social roles -and not to focus her whole life on the child. It’s hard, if she has a difficult child and no one to help. For the child the mother’s good mood and her ability to communicate is even more important than overprotection. The child won’t feel better, if all the mother’s thoughts are about him.
If a baby is raised without a father, you need to form his friendly attitude towards other men in early childhood. It’s important to make babies from one to two years understand that men are the same beings, as women, they simply have lower voices, other apparel and other manners and interests. If you have no close male friends, ‘use’ the friendly grocer, who smiles and says ‘Hello’ to explain your baby who men are. Children grow, and after the age of three it is very important for them to be in a male company. Not only boys, but also girls need this for normal psychological development. It is important for children to learn to socialize with men and older boys. Grandfathers, uncles, cousins, male teachers at school and your male friends can serve as a substitute for the father, if your children like their company.
All the children, aged from three, form the image of a father, which will be their source of inspiration in their own families. All the friendly minded men, with whom they meet and play, fill this image with content and influence their concept of a father. You can help your child by showing hospitality to male relatives, by sending your son or daughter in a summer camp with men-instructors, by choosing the school, which has men-teachers, or by encouraging your child to join clubs and other organizations with men-leaders.
Baby-boys need to play with other boys and to be involved in their own games. A single mother usually has a temptation to make her son her closest friend. She often tries to impose her own interests and hobbies upon her son. However, it is better if you allow the son to choose his own range of interests.
As a rule, single fathers are very responsible people. ‘Family’, ‘father’s duty’, ‘love for children’ are not empty phrases for them. Single fathers face the same problems as single mothers plus one — they often have to learn how to give their children enough love and care.
To give your baby enough care, try to spend with him more time in close contact. Take him in your arms, listen to his stories, ask him what happened during the day, watch how he learns new things and grows. You need to devote a lot of effort and attention to your child, but no child requires supernatural efforts, so do not try to become a ‘superdad’.
The fact that women are the greatest parents and educators is a stereotype. Women also have no knowledge in raising children and need to gain experience. So any single father has all chances to become a great parent if he’s not afraid of the challenges of raising children on his own. Try not to be too strict, as for the child living without a mother is a huge stress.
If a single father is raising a daughter, sometimes he is afraid that he won’t succeed. It’s good to let the grandmother or other female relatives take part in her upbringing. When the girl is older, don’t forget to give her special literature on gender, approved by educators and psychologists.
Oddly enough, but a single father’s life a little bit easier than a single mom’s one, as usually all relatives and neighbors are eager to help single fathers. Let them help you, even if you are able to cope on your own, as your child should learn to socialize with other people, especially women.
Like single mothers, single dads need to have their own lives. There is no need to devote all your free time to your children. You need to remain a personality for your children to be proud of you.