Global way of living has changed significantly over the last twenty-five years. It has affected different aspects of our lifestyle – from the general way of thinking, education, finances, child and healthcare, even the way we manage our families. This fast-paced change has shaped the way we live our lives, including parenting.
Single parenting is defined as a parent (whether the wife, or the husband) doing the role of maintaining the nuclear family, as a result of death, divorce, separation, or personal choice.
This type of parenting is an additional arm of the traditional nuclear and extended family types that we have learned since childhood. Nuclear families consist of two parents, and children who are living in the same house.
Extended families, on the other hand, consists of two parents, children and aunts, uncles or grandparents living in the same house. Since the 80’s, the number of single parent families in the US have doubled.
The top three causes of single parenting are: death of a spouse, divorce and personal choice (unwed teenage mothers, choice of raising a family without a partner, etc). These causes have a significant effect on the family’s way of life, and require major adjustments to the entire family emotionally. Feelings of resentment, guilt and despair are typical of the spouse who is left behind.
Grief is the most often feeling felt by the individual left behind. This can lead to depression, losing control of one’s own life. More adverse effects of grief leads to drug and alcohol addiction, and even death.
Studies have defined the 5 Steps of Grief:
1) Denial – This stage comprises of feelings of guilt and denial. The feeling of “he is just away, and will come back” are the usual reactions to this stage.
2) Anger – This stage comprises of extreme anger towards the person who left or died.
3) Bargaining – This stage comprises of negotiating with God, if the partner has died, or negotiating with the partner regarding changing what went wrong in the relationship.
4) Depression – This stage comprises of the near-realization that the situation will not change. This is where the acknowledgement of what happened starts.
5) Acceptance – This stage is the acknowledgement and acceptance of the grief, and letting go of the feelings of despair.
The effects of single parenting are usually felt not just by the spouse left behind, but to the entire family as well, particularly children. Studies have shown that children have felt betrayed, taken advantaged of, and felt inadequate as a result of parent separations.
To combat the grief brought about by single parenting, the following tips have been suggested:
1) Accepting responsibilities – Being a single parent means maximizing all resources to take care of the family. This means looking for all possible, even creative solutions to solve a problem. One should not spend time blaming others for what happened, but instead, look for ways in addressing the problem.
An example is looking for alternative ways to find transportation for a child’s first day of school. Instead of screaming and whining, the parent should look for alternatives – looking for relatives who can drop off the child or working around the parent’s schedule to drop off the child to school.
2) Family as the first choice – Successful single parent families have made their family as the top priority. These means determining non-negotiables and balancing commitments. Single parents usually forego career changing decisions for the family.
3) Communication – The parent and the child need to establish open communication between the two of them, to know what the wants and needs of each other, and to fulfill these wants and needs. Communication is the key to an open relationship. Clear communication channels foster an open relationship between the parent and the child.
4) Taking care of yourself – If the parent does not take control of his/her life, he cannot take control of his/her child’s life. One should take care of himself/herself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Taking care of onself ensures a positive environment of hope and love in the family.
5) Establish routine – Routines before the divorce or death should be kept, because this is the child’s only anchor that things have not drastically changed. Walks on the park, reading bed times stories, or the usual Christmas dinner should be continued even after the death or divorce.
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