- Single parenting is a result of many diverse things.
- Single parenting can be overwhelming and hence one needs to know ewhat to do and what not to do as a single mother.
Bringing up a child as a single parent is never a walk in the park. Unfortunately, different circumstances force parents to bring up children on their own. Some widowed parents, for instance choose not to remarry while some people are forced to parent alone after their relationships fail.
Several women, on the other hand, may genuinely not know who the father of the child is, as in the case of rape or women who have multiple sexual partners. Consequently, they find themselves in single parenthood by default.
The question if both parents are really a necessity for the perfect upbringing of a child -finances notwithstanding- is still a debate in different societies.
Dr Manasi Kumar, senior lecturer department of psychiatry at the University of Nairobi says the increasing number of independent single parents could be prompted by, among other reasons, lack of partner support and the unavailability of a dependable parent figure.
In the case of women, Dr Kumar notes that some women who choose to be sole caregivers may not do it as their first preference but as a way of preventing damaging effects on their children and themselves. "Gender violence, abuse of drugs or infidelities are issues a woman would prefer to shield their children from," she says.
The psychiatrist's thoughts are echoed by Geoffrey Kahenga, a 56-year-old school teacher who lost his wife when he was only 30 years old and his two sons five and seven years old. He chose not to remarry arguing that he feared exposing his children to fights after remarrying if his wife wouldn't be kind to them.
"Bringing up my children on my own disciplined me a lot; every day, I had to be home in time to ensure they have eaten, done their homework and be there to read them Bible bed-time stories before they sleep," he says.
Dr Kumar explains that the absence of one parent may impact a child in many ways. This, she says is because fathers are known to provide structure and a self-identity while mothers are known to give tender love, support and care.
"What children need is emotional holding, parental sensitivity and their availability at critical times; so if these components are missing or were withdrawn abruptly in the parental equation, it becomes problematic," she observes.
Advising on sperm-donation - whether from individuals or sperm banks - Dr Kumar says that it may open doors to greater empowerment especially to physically challenged women or those with conditions preventing conception.
"However thinking that a one parent isn't a necessary ingredient for care-giving or parenting is a problematic assumption though in some societies it is acceptable while it is not in others," she sums up.Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical and practice and research group based in Rochester, Minnesota, understands the challenges faced by single parents and has provided positive strategies to reduce stress in single parenting life:
Below are some of the most important.
• Show the child love
Set some time aside each day to spend with the child either reading, playing or even taking a walk with the child. This way, they will never feel alone.
• Create a routine
Let the child know what to expect at what time; play time, homework time
• Set limits
Let the child know when to speak in front of adults, when to go to their room and when to joke or play with the parent.
• Don't feel guilty (of being a single parent)
Don't spoil the child in efforts to make up for being a single parent. Let the child understand it's not a mistake to be a single parent.
• Stay positive
Let the child know when you're going through a rough time but keep assuring them that the situation is just a passing crowd and things will soon get better. When things do get better, let the child celebrate with you.