As a teacher in the classroom, I get a firsthand experience of the ill-effects of single parenting. I have always said that the classroom is the shadow of the real community, and therefore I have gained a greater or deeper insight of the social and cultural dynamics of the larger populous. The notion that single parenting never works is not true; in fact, my experience has been that in many instances, it was the children of single parenting who were better behaved and respectful. On the other hand, some children with both parents in the household can and have been difficult and in some cases impossible to deal with.
Saying that, it is in the majority that I find children of single parenting becoming truants, school drop outs, facing suspensions or expulsions for a series of demeanor. Let us be real and analyze the crunch of matter. I would like to peel off the problematic layers behind most, if not all those children of single-parenting. I was a child of single parenting, and today is no different from the seventies and eighties when I was a child, in the sense that Mothers were always the ones left to bring up the child on their own.
My behaviour was reasonably good at all times and it had to be since I had no choice on the matter, nevertheless, the pain of having a mother and no father was always a painful experience. I am sorry, but no matter how much of a super mother or father you are, he or she will never be able to replace the physical, social or cultural needs of either sex as it relates to the daughter or the son. I am certain that every Mother would rather to see the father around, but I must say that the reality has been that many fathers and mothers have subconsciously created that atmosphere. For instance, I know of too many young couples who have deliberately gotten involved with each other in countries such as the UK so as to have a baby with a planned motive of getting a house amongst other privileges. For some the habit grows into several more convenient children.
Unfortunately for many, some of these women suddenly realized or pre-meditated that the house could be theirs and theirs only. Especially if there was a new love interest, in fact most times there was never a new love interest. In other circumstances the father is unable to deal with the financial stress and so as usual he runs. This behaviour eminently lead to the absenteeism of the father, hence single parenting. Further to this, as the child grows older, that child’s mind might be poisoned against the father and if the father is lucky to see that child, he too might very well poison that child’s mind against his mother.
The girls tend to be the silent victims because they seldom react negatively; perhaps due to the female bond, but when they do react negatively; I guarantee you that they can be worse. Most of the times, the girls will react with teenage pregnancies and this is shown with the statistics in the USA where it shows that the daughters of teen mothers are twenty two percent more likely than their peers to become teen mothers. In most instances pregnant teenagers are linked to single parenting. The situation in the UK becomes dire when on average, 90,000 teenage conception is carried out every year. It follows that many girls will seek a father figure in the absence of their father leading to a barrage of social baggage. It was of no surprise then to learn that in the UK more than 66 percent of single-parent families lived in rented housing compared to 22 percent of couples with dependent children. This has only demonstrated one of the social decay which transpires into greater social difficulties. The boys, on the other hand, you can bet your last dollar that many of them will turn to the gang, again in order to replace the void of the father. Most of these men will inevitably find themselves behind bars. In order to support this, again the statistics from Teenhelp.com shows that sons of teenage mothers have a thirteen percent greater chance of ending up in prison compared to their peers.
Although for many, this might not be plausible; many of the boys also replace the void of their father with other males. The difference in this instance has been that the males will not get pregnant. Whether the child is a male or female, the pain of not having a mother or father is real. In many cases, feeling unwanted is the worse part of this unending drama. Please understand that this pain will never leave them.
For some who have denied the impact of single parenting on them; as they get older or in times of illness, the shocking truth have out rightly faced them. This is when it can become a matter of life or death. Here is a typical example where a child not knowing the mother or father and as he or she grows older, God forbid they might have had symptoms which could have been used to detect an hereditary fatal illness which could have been treated, monitored or even cured; if only they had knowledge of their unknown family’s health history. Many have died because they did not know that an early detected illness would have saved their lives. I knew of three cases, and they were angry, helpless individuals on realizing their unfortunate situations could have been prevented.
Please do not for a minute believe that I am in anyway demonizing single parenting. After all, there are many cases where single parenting was unavoidable. There might have been a divorce or even death of one of the parents and this will certainly; in many cases lead to single parenting. This however does not negate from the reality that the children will ultimately be affected in many cases more than one. It is in this regard that solutions must be glanced at.
• In all cases; you must increase the dosage of your love as a single parent. At no time you should let the child feel responsible or be blamed for the absenteeism of any of the parent.
• If the mother or father died; be realistic, in fact have some monument in the home for them to visit from time to time. Allow the child/children to mourn and, mourn with them; you supporting them makes a great difference. Nevertheless, do not allow the death to overshadow yours or their lives.
• Be firm with discipline just the same and in cases of divorce or death; if you can instill or maintain some of the rules the deceased had implemented and the children had responded well to, then this might very well be the answer, might even be the closure for an individual.
• If the father or mother went AWOL; make sure that you put as good a picture as it gets of that person. Let the child create his or her own judgment as they are not fools and they will put the pieces together in due course, but never be dishonest with them should they ask questions. In the end it was not their fault and they must be made to understand this. Make sure that you do not show any form of evil such as lies or vindictive tales against their father or mother because as they reflect the true reality of life, YOU WILL be their number one enemy for life and you do not want this. They will also think that it was you who caused the absence of their father or mother, and rightly so.
• Try to simultaneously be their parents and FRIENDS at the same time. In the event of being their friends, you are more likely to hear just about anything from them. They will be glad to share their day to day activities with you and this will put you in a protective position as you should be. Do not be shy to ask them how their day was. If they visited a friend, ask them about the events of the day. Take notice of all of their body language since most of our communication is through our body language. Only seven percent of our communication is by the words we use and more than fifty five percent of our communication is from our body language. This speaks volume and since children of single parenting are vulnerable, it is important that we watch out for what they say and how they say. Saying that, make sure that your strict parental roles shine at all times so that the line is never crossed as you try to show the friendship role.
• If they are wearing anything which you or they cannot afford, then alarm bells must be rung or the panic button must be pushed.
• Be strict, but fair and never allow your socio-economic strain decide how you behave towards your children. Remember that the key or solution to the struggle of any parenting, but more so, single parenting, is LOVE and never how much you have in your bank account.
Teacher and Author of A Boy’s Cry.