Despite the false claims that the dramatic increase in single-parent households is mainly responsible for the decline in academic results in the United States, it’s important to understand the significant impact it has on a child’s social, behavioral, and emotional development. And how this affects academic and other spheres of life. For further reading, please see this article.
Why Single Parenting Affects Children
There are many reasons why single parenting affects a child. Just as there are many different situations that lead to being a single parent, such as divorce, death of a partner, or an absent parent.
Which is why we’ll briefly discuss the most common reasons, and the negative and positive impact these have on children.
Children thrive on stability.
Events such as divorce, death of a parent, and even a single parent dating new partners are significant changes that a child must deal with. These changes bring about massive instability and insecurity in a child’s life.
Children love both their parents. So in cases of a messy divorce, it is common to find parents bad-mouthing each other to their child and even manipulating them into picking sides.
This has a severe emotional impact on a child.
It’s not uncommon to find that single-parent households bring in less income than two-parent families. Meaning there’s often difficulty covering necessary expenses, as well as having less disposable income available.
This has short and long term effects on a child. Ranging from the disappointment in not being able to afford material items, to not being able to afford tertiary academic institutions. Severely limiting a child’s future career prospects.
Single parents are often the sole breadwinner in the household. On top of that, they need to buy groceries and ensure the house is maintained, clean, and running smoothly.
With all these responsibilities, single parents end up with considerably less time to spend with their children.
It can be much more difficult trying to maintain control as a single parent. With the lack of another parent to back them up and a severe lack of time to watch and ‘enforce,’ it’s not uncommon to find children in single-parent households having to keep order themselves.
Having a close bond with your child is encouraged. However, in both single and two-parent homes, there are cases where the parent relies too much on their child for emotional support. Pouring out their hearts to their children on adult topics, a child should not yet have to deal with.
It can be challenging for a child from a single-parent home to see their friends and classmates interacting and enjoying the company of both parents.
These are just some of the factors of single parenting that have a significant impact on a child’s development and behavior.
Now let’s take a look at some of the adverse effects.
In single-parent homes with financial struggles, kids are affected by what they see in the house, as well as what they see around their peers.
This is especially true with older children coming from previously financially stable 2 parent homes. The change can lead to them not having as much, not just in regards to their personal possessions but also less food, holidays, and activities. This reduction brings out strong feelings of frustration and anxiety.
Outside the home, when a child is with his peers who are not facing the same financial difficulties, it’s easy for him to feel left out and suffer from low self-esteem when they all have access to the latest fashions, phones, toys, and trends.
Single parents tend to work more than an individual parent in a two-parent home. It’s not uncommon to see single parents working 2 or even 3 different jobs just to make ends meet.
This is in addition to having to take care of all the other household responsibilities.
As a result, single parents are left with almost no time to dedicate themselves to helping their child with homework, projects, and other educational activities.
This lack of dedicated attention can severely hamper a child’s performance at school and their academic development.
Furthermore, if a child is struggling with a school subject, and the parent is not there to pick up on it, or help them through it, the child will fall further behind his classmates. Leading to enhanced learning difficulties.
Spending less time with a child doesn’t just affect their academic development. It affects their emotional wellbeing too.
Loneliness, frustration, depression, anger, abandonment.
These are common feelings a child goes through when they don’t get enough attention from a parent.
Which can lead to it becoming extremely difficult for them in how they interact with others socially. Ranging from being completely introverted and withdrawn on one end of the spectrum to having unpredictable violent outbursts on the other.
In addition to the negative consequences above, children in the middle of a messy divorce and continued conflict between parents can lead the child to believe that they are the cause of the divorce and their parent’s anger. Causing the child to have deep-rooted feelings of guilt.
It’s important to point out that it’s not all bad.
Depending on how a single parent raises their child, it can have an overall positive effect on their development. Even better than that of regular two-parent households.
Let’s take a look at some of the positive effects of single parenting.
More Responsible and Mature
Children in single-parent homes can often end up being more responsible at an earlier age than children living with both parents.
The reason for this is that they can be assigned age-appropriate chores and responsibilities that are important for maintaining the home. They’re also aware of the importance of these tasks, as there’s nobody else around to do them.
As opposed to children in two-parent homes who are given meaningless chores in the sense that they aren’t essential for the running of the house.
A child in a single-parent home can develop a far stronger bond with their parent.
This is dependent on how much quality time the parent can dedicate to their child.
This close bond doesn’t weaken over time and continues to last throughout adulthood.
Stronger Sense of Community
Single parents can and should make use of their support networks.
This can include:
Friends, extended family, other single parents
This can lead to a lot of time being spent and bonds being formed with the support network and their families. Meaning children won’t feel as lonely as they’re part of a big ‘family’ that they see frequently.
Here are some tips you can follow to really bring out these positive qualities and minimize the negative effects.
What You Can Do
Look After Yourself
Kids are incredibly perceptive.
If you allow yourself to fall into a slump and stay there, indulging in unhealthy eating, being lazy, not maintaining your health, etc.
Your child will pick up on it, and there is a good chance they will mimic the bad behavior.
If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of your child?
Mealtimes, bedtimes, playtimes, bath times.
Consistency is comforting for kids and gives them a great sense of security.
This is why it’s essential to establish a schedule for as many daily tasks as possible for your child.
This will also make it easier to get them to listen to you.
No matter how bad, busy, or chaotic your day is, you must make one-on-one time for your child. With no distractions.
Your child is craving your attention.
Play with them
Talk and listen attentively to everything they want to talk about
Take an interest in their hobbies and passions
Give them positive reinforcement (hugs, praise, etc.)
Wild, uncontrollable kids are actually just crying out for a parent to take charge and establish clear boundaries and discipline in their lives.
You must set clear rules for your child, as well as consequences for breaking them. And ensure consistency in maintaining discipline.
Organize Your Finances
You must budget adequately. Failure to do so can lead to your child not getting the basic necessities needed for education and development.
No matter what, it’s crucial to maintain a positive outlook.
No matter how bad things are, you must trust that things will get better. Positivity is contagious, so too negativity.
If you want your child to be calm, pleasant, and good-natured, it’s vital for you to demonstrate the qualities yourself.
Despite all the negative effects of single parenting, there are a lot of positives too.
And yes, there are serious challenges every single parent must deal with. But, armed with a positive attitude and commitment to raising your child with some of the methods mentioned above, means there’s no reason why you can’t raise a happy, responsible, caring, successful child.