By: Nina Malanay
Raising a child as a single parent is not only physically-demanding; it can also be emotionally-exhausting. Aside from the obvious problems involving finances, lack of resources and simply not having enough time to do everything, there is always that constant fear that you are completely messing up as a parent and failing your kids. As a single parent, you need to navigate through the parenting journey – a task that is not easy even for two-parent families – alone. There is the constant pressure (usually self-imposed) that you are not doing enough, that you are not giving enough, that YOU are not enough.
In a research done by Sara Mc Lanahan at Princeton University, children from single-parent homes are at a stark disadvantage compared to children from dual-parent homes. Her study suggests that boys raised by single mothers are more likely to end up in jail and engage in delinquent behavior, while girls from single-parent families are more likely to get pregnant early. This is because single mothers have less time to monitor their kids; most work long hours or have dual jobs to make ends meet. Children reared in single-parent households often turn to their peers for a sense of belonging and acceptance, most of whom may not be positive influences on the child.
As a single-parent, hearing and reading about the negative effects of single parenting on kids, from economic hardships to being at a higher risk for delinquent behavior and abandonment-related trust issues can be disheartening, guilt-inducing and depressing. But what about the positive effects of being raised by a single parent? In an age when single motherhood (and fatherhood) is becoming more common, more and more single parents are challenging this view. In fact, in this era of overindulgent or helicopter parenting, being a child of a single parent may have distinct advantages.
1. They form stronger bonds with their parent.
Since both parent and child are closely dependent on each other, they form strong emotional bonds with each other. Having gone through hardships and challenges together, the parent and child draw emotional strength from each other, further strengthening their attachment to each other.
2. They develop a strong sense of community.
There is an old adage that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” Especially in the Philippines, where the extended family culture is still very much present and alive, grandparents, aunts, uncles and close family friends step in to help raise and nurture the child. As such, children from single-parent families may also form closer connections with extended family members, relatives, friends, and members of the community as these people often help raise them.
3. They learn to assume responsibility.
In a traditional family, chores are given to children to teach them to be become responsible. In single-parent households, however, helping out in chores is essential to the day-to-day operations of running the home. With only one set of adult hands to do everything, kids of single parents have more opportunities to step up and take on more responsibilities around the house. They realize the value of their work and take pride in their contribution to the family.
4. They become independent and self-reliant.
Because they have greater responsibilities at home, children from single-parent families are more self-reliant. Seeing their parents perform “adult” tasks such as paying bills, planning meals and managing the budget, children from single-parent homes are more capable of navigating through the real world as adults because they know how the world works and what they need to do to get through it. By seeing the day-to-day challenges a single parent has to overcome, children learn that it is possible to not only survive, but to thrive on one’s own.
5. They develop good money sense.
Living on a single income usually puts a strain on the family budget. Children from single-parent homes learn early on how money is a limited resource. They learn the dynamics of how money works — work hard to earn it, save it, choose carefully what to spend it on. They know the difference between needs and wants. They learn how to assess the value of each option and learn to make cost-effective decisions.
6. They develop resourcefulness.
When resources are limited, children learn to be creative and find ways to solve problems even without the time, money and support needed. They learn to improvise and work around challenges. They learn to focus on what they have instead of what they don’t and use it to accomplish their goals.
7. They learn how to balance priorities.
With so much on a single parent’s plate, children get to observe how to determine what’s important and what is not. They learn what needs to be prioritized and what can be pushed back for a later time. They learn how to balance their priorities, such as weighing in their own needs, versus the needs of the family. Children gain “real life” experiences that will prove valuable to them, particularly when they venture out into the real world.
8. They learn how to handle adversity.
When children see their parent working hard to solve the problems, children gain first-hand knowledge about how to handle challenges and uncertainties in life. In addition, the kids are compelled to deal with their own disappointments early in life. They learn that life is not always fair and they learn to how to deal with the curveballs life throws at them.
9. They develop resilience and grit.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from stress, tragedy, trauma or adversity. Resilient people are able to see the redeeming potential or value in the challenges they face; they always see the silver lining in every situation. Seeing their parent’s sadness, disappointment, and frustration, children realize that these are all very normal human experiences. Seeing how their parents are able to bounce back from negative experiences and successfully rise above each hurdle develops their resilience and grit. They learn that while we can’t change the situation, we can change the way we look at and respond to each difficulty. They learn, by example, that giving up is not an option.
Single parents often worry that their children will be somehow emotionally-damaged and scarred for life from growing up in a single-parent family. While being raised single-handedly may not be the ideal situation for children, there are advantages that kids can gain from it. Single-parent families can be just as successful as dual-parent families; it may just require a little more work, a little more love and a little more heart.
Nina Malanay is a mother to two rambunctious, affectionate boys, aged 7 and 4. Her husband-slash-best friend died in a tragic bombing incident in 2013. As she tries to navigate through life with her boys as a solo parent, she hopes to rediscover herself beyond the many hats she wears – mother, teacher, writer, baking enthusiast, student of life – and move boldly into her future.