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Single Parenting

The upside and downside of going it alone.

First, let me make it clear that I do not feel that single parenting is aversive. It doesn’t have to be, but it does have its challenges. It has a lot to do with whether single parenting was your first choice. If it was not your choice and you lost a partner, either through death or divorce, there is grieving that needs to be done, both by you and by your children. This is something that is especially difficult for a parent to do when they’re dealing with their own grief. Having a support network of friends or family that can help you with this and can provide support for you and your children can hopefully make the whole process less painful.

And there are certainly rewards to single parenting. Single parents and their children often develop closer relationships because they are forced to depend upon each other more. Children often learn to take more responsibility for themselves and for others through this process.

But parenting is a lot of work. It is certainly good to have someone who can share the burden and the load with you. And, yes, at times it feels like a burden. This doesn’t have to be a spouse or a partner. It can be a close friend or a relative.

I am certainly not suggesting that couples stay together for “the sake of the children.” The research on that one is pretty clear. If a couple is in constant conflict, even the children often support their parents’ separating and divorcing. But I am advocating that if you are married, especially a young couple, and are having difficulty, hang in there and try to work things out if you can. Get some help. If you do divorce, try to keep the channel of communication open between you and your ex regarding your children. In almost all cases, it is a good idea to encourage your ex to have contact with the children. Try not to become involved in endless legal tangles regarding custody and visitation. This will only put more stress on your children as well as you and your ex-partner.

No matter how much anger and hurt you may feel with your ex, it is wise not to talk your ex-partner down with your children. Even if what you’re saying is true, the messenger carrying the bad news is often the one who suffers in the end.

So, good luck, if you’re a parent, single or not, you will need it.