The term “single parent family” means the family in which children under the age of 18 have only one parent, either because the other parent died divorce or because the parent never married.
— VP (@viincentP) May 11, 2018
Since 1950, the number of single parent families has increased internationally. In 1970, about 11% of children in the world lived in single parent families. In 1996, the figure had reached 31%. It also appears that with the passage of time, changing social conditions also modify the prevailing reasons why single-parent families are created.
In the middle of the 20th century, most single parent families were due to the death of a spouse, while in the 1970s and 1980s, most single parent families were the result of divorce. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the number of parents who are not getting married is rising.
The most common type of single parent family is that of the mother and her biological children. The number of families, made up of fathers and children, has increased since 1980, and usually these families are the result of a parent’s divorce.
The most common problems of single parent families
The most common problems faced by single parent families can be classified into two broad categories:
- Economic. It goes without saying that when only one parent is called upon to cover the practical, financial and educational needs of the children, the weight is greater.
- Social – Psychological. Several sociological studies have shown that children who grow up in single parent families have some “disadvantages” compared to children who grow up with both parents (eg twice as likely to leave school, more conflicts with parents, less parental supervision, more frequent alcohol and substance involvement, delinquency, increased suicide, and four times more likely to need psychological help).
Of course, we must separate the difficulties that arise in the different types of single parent families.
Single parent family due to parental loss
In single parent families that have arisen after the death of a parent, both children and their guardians are in the first place called upon to face the challenge of mourning and the process of compromise with loss. The younger children (up to about 7 years of age) are not able to fully understand the irreverent nature of death and are overwhelmed by various fantasies of resurrection of the lost parent, guilt, etc.
The whole process is very painful, as the parent tries to mobilize forces, in the midst of his own mourning, to support and cover the needs of his children (material and psychological).
Single-parent family due to divorce
In single parent families that have emerged after a divorce, the upgrades and processes that accompany the separation of parents are once again painful and difficult for both parents and children. There may be tensions and disagreements between parents, anger, ambivalence and anguish, emotions that cannot leave children unaffected, who may also experience feelings of anger and anguish. Can children have questions about the reasons for divorce or have difficulty in changing home, school, caregivers, routine, etc.
However, there is a significant difference from the previous category. Here, both parents are alive, present and can maintain a close and meaningful relationship with their children, even if they do not live together under the same roof.
Single-parent family with a single parent
Most commonly these are mothers who decide to grow up their own children. In this category, most problems arise when the child sees the “diversity” of his own family (eg when he starts going to school). The mother is then asked to explain in a meaningful way the reasons for her need or choice to grow up this child alone, without carrying painful rejection messages from her biological father, and stressing that diversity is not necessarily a bad thing.
Besides, even the single-parent children families often face more economic and psychological problems, they can grow in a much healthier way and gain good socialization and behavior patterns in relation to those children who grow up with both parents but there is no structure, organization and balance in the family, parents are absent, indifferent or even abusive.
Parents who grow up their own children are good at remembering the following:
- Apply rules in a clear and stable way, in an environment characterized by organization.
- They must allow the child to be a child rather than take up an adult job, in the absence of a second adult in the family.
- Responding to the child’s questions, in relation to the other parent, with absolute sincerity and in a sensitive and understandable way by the child.
- Avoid behaviors that can cause pressure on the child, such as having to “choose” with whom parent will be left after a divorce. Potential conflicts between parents must remain with one another and an atmosphere of stability and love is transferred to the child, where both parents, regardless of differences, care for the good of their child and do not use it in any way differences between them.
- The children are not usually sad for long periods and may seem to be “forgotten” at intervals, without this implying no difficulty.
Children often hide their tears or anger in order not to distress and protect their parents from extra grief. Allowing parents to see them crying in some way gives them “permission” to do the same and share their painful feelings with them. As adults know well, life continues despite the tragedies that arise. Children may not understand that life plans are being readjusted or changed, and this is part of the mourning, which may take a long time and a lot of processing.
Children sometimes worry that they are responsible for the death of a parent or divorce. They have to be told that they DO NOT REMEMBER them.
Children need their parents to be honest with them, however difficult it is for the parent.
Smaller children, as they still learn how to manage their feelings, may break out with manifestations of rage. They have to be told that it is acceptable to be angry and help to channel some of that anger.
Do not ask their children what they think “what they think”. Children are not always able to express themselves verbally, but may be expressed in “extra-terrestrial ways” (behaviors, painting, play).
Children need to be able to keep memories from the late parent. They need their guardian to facilitate them in this process.