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Single Parenting Part I

What you need to know

Single-parent families are more and more common in today’s society. One of every four American children lives in a single-parent home. While most single-parent homes are the result of divorce, many parents are raising children alone for other reasons as well. Some parents may be alone due to the death of a spouse. Others choose to have or adopt a child without a partner. Whatever the circumstances, single parents cope with unique issues and challenges.

A death in the family

Losing a parent is one of the most traumatic events that can happen to a child. A child under 5 years of age cannot understand that death is permanent. Older children may have an understanding, but will have many questions they may be afraid to ask. Children can react to death in many different ways. Some will be quiet and sad. Others may be angry, guilty, or refuse to believe the parent is gone. It’s important to accept your child’s response, whatever it is. If signs of sadness or anger continue, talk to your pediatrician. He or she may recommend professional counseling to help get the healing process back on track.

Unplanned pregnancy

An unplanned pregnancy brings great change. The job of caring for a new baby is not easy, especially for single parents. Be aware that help is available. Family, friends, and religious and community leaders are your best resources for support. If you need to find a job, employment agencies and temporary services can help. You may also qualify for government programs such as Head Start, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Feeding Program (WIC), and Earned Income Credit (EIC).

Single-parent adoption

It is increasingly common for a single person to adopt a child on his or her own. The child may be a baby just a few days old, or she could be school age. The adopted child may be of another country, race, culture, or from an abusive background. As a result, adoptive families can easily feel different from other families. The differences are real, but the rewards of working through these issues can be great. Working with your pediatrician to prevent and solve problems can be very important to your child’s happiness and success.

Divorce and separation

Nearly two-thirds of all single-parent families are the result of a divorce or separation. For a child, divorce can be just as hard as the death of a parent. The age of the child also plays a role. A preschooler may regress in such things as toilet training, and may develop new fears or nightmares. A school-aged child is more likely to show anger and feel guilty or sad. He may also do poorly in school. A teenager may worry about moving away from friends or not having money for college. No matter the age, some children feel responsible of their parents and dream about getting them back together. Use the following tips to avoid problems:

  • Never force your child to take sides.
  • Don’t involve your child in arguments between the two of you.
  • Don’t criticize each other in front of your child.
  • Discuss your concerns and feelings with your child’s other parent when and where your child cannot hear.
  • Don’t fight in front of the children, especially about them.

Child support

Both parents have a continuing financial obligation to the child. If you have custody of your child, seek child support. Many times, the parent with custody simply does not try to get child support. Contact your state child support enforcement agency for guidelines on what parents must pay for child support. If your child’s other parent has disappeared or won’t cooperate, your state or local government may be able to help.

Dating and the single parent

Be choosy about which dates you introduce to your children. Try to form a solid relationship before bringing someone new into your home. Talk to your friend about your child before they meet. When you feel the time is right, let your child meet your new partner. Don’t expect them to be close right away. Give them time to become friends. Observe how your friend gets along with your child. He or she should be patient and understanding. Before you leave your child with a new partner, be sure that he or she can be trusted.

Talking with your child

Talking with your child is a very important way for you to help each other through tough times. The more often you talk, the more comfortable he will feel. Be patient as you listen to his questions. You don’t have to have all the answers. If needed, don’t hesitate to get help from your pediatrician or a family counselor.

  • Be honest with your child.
  • Make sure your child knows he is not the cause.
  • Talk to your child about his fears.

Single parents face unique problems, but children in single-parent homes can grow up just as happy as children in two-parent homes. Providing a loving, supportive home for your children is the most important factor in helping them grow up well-adjusted and happy.

 

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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