Falak Zehra Mohsin |
In recent years, we see an increasing number of children being raised by single parents. Research has shown that children of single parents are often prone to experience greater psychological distress and mental health issues. Children of single parents are generally more likely to experience poor outcomes – for which there are numerous reasons.
For instance, children of two parent families tend of have greater resources available to them – not just in financial or economic terms but also in terms of the time both parents are able to spend with their children. Despite the truth of being under-resourced, single parents often have a network of support to raise their children. In our society, we can see grandparents and aunts and uncles being a part of raising the child.
The mother was a working woman and hence found it tough to come home for lunchtime and hence the daughter would often not eat anything during the day till her mother came home.
Children from broken families sometimes blame themselves for their parents’ divorce, at other times they feel that they have to put on a brave mask for their parents so that they don’t feel guilty for the divorce. Research has shown that children of single parents are twice as more likely to internalize their feelings and emotions which can result in anxiety, depression, and even physiological symptoms such as headaches, backaches, rashes, upset stomach, lowered immune system and so on.
Additionally, single parent children are three times more likely to report externalizing problems compared to children from two-parent families – as a result they may display behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, aggression, etc. Depending on the situation, children of single parents can experience feelings of rejection, abandonment, entitlement, self-blame, guilt, satisfaction, and countless other confusing emotions they may often not understand.
Sometimes, even though a parent is trying to help their child and have good intentions, they can compound the problem by trying to help the child accept the reality or attempting to make them feel better. Unfortunately, this can have an adverse impact and can cause problems in the child’s development. It can lead to fears of forming romantic attachments, distrust and inability to develop close friendships, pent up and bottled up emotions that can have a negative impact on their quality of life – and many such lasting psychological scars.
In recent years, we see an increasing number of children being raised by single parents. Research has shown that children of single parents are often prone to experience greater psychological distress and mental health issues.
One example that I can relate (with permission from the client) is about a mother of a 6-year-old who brought her daughter as she was displaying some behavioral issues. One of the issue was that the child refused to eat herself – i.e. with her hands. She always had to be fed every meal by her mother or she wouldn’t eat. The mother was a working woman and hence found it tough to come home for lunchtime and hence the daughter would often not eat anything during the day till her mother came home.
This girl was for five years, her father’s princess. However, one day he left his wife and daughter and moved away. Since then, the girl displayed many depressive symptoms and behaviors including refusing to eat unless her mother fed her. This is when the mother visited a counselor and sought professional help.
By writing this article, I do not aim to scare or discourage single parents. In fact, it is important for parents to realize that sometimes their child might need an outside person – not a member of the family, to talk to. It takes great strength on the parents’ part to realize that they alone cannot solve all the issues that their child faces. Talking to a counselor, for instance, can help the child deal with many issues that they may face.
The counseling process – even the counseling room provides a safe haven for the child to voice their thoughts without judgment or fear. Here, the child can voice their feelings and thoughts without being afraid of hurting either parent, they can share the issues they may be facing in school as a result of the changed household system, or just talk about a new step-parent joining the family. The idea of counseling to not only help the child come out of the trauma they may be experiencing but also learn to overcome changes and take them positively.
I would like to say that sometimes it is beneficial for a child to be raised in a single parent household as compared to a household where they may witness physical or psychological abuse of one parent. This article is in no means meant to discourage an abused spouse from taking action. However, the idea is to encourage parents to find the strength to help their child without considering it as a failing (that they were unable to help their own child). Recognizing ones’ boundaries as a parent is sometimes the best way we can help our children.
Falak Zehra Mohsin is Founder & Counselor at Holistic Minds (facebook page:@H0listicMinds), Visiting Faculty at IBA (Karachi). Twitter: @Falak_Z_M. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.