It is not a secret that parents are struggling right now with the recent pandemic.
It has been tough and challenging on so many families especially those single parenting.
Single parents are found in a particularly tough spot as they struggle to manage their own health and the health of their children while navigating the pandemic.
Just getting through the daily grind of life under quarantine (right from balancing work from home to grieving the loss of a loved one to the virus or even dealing with fall out from sudden unemployment) can be really bearing on the emotional and mental health of anyone single parenting.
Added to that the super challenging task of parenting (entertaining and engaging) highly energised preschoolers can feel burdensome.
Now, what explains the difficulty that single-parent families with young children are facing during the pandemic? The isolation of single parents during the pandemic show that their households are more likely than other households to be experiencing financial difficulties and to have become unemployed during the pandemic.
They are also at more risk to be experiencing material hardships (difficulties paying for basic needs, food and rent).
In addition, the emotional distress that single parents are experiencing as a result of difficulties paying for basic needs is cascading down to children, which is having additional negative effects on the child’s emotional and mental well-being.
Supporting this is a vast majority of psychological studies that highlight family challenges during the pandemic and hyperactivity and conduct problems in preschoolers as compared to older ones.
Furthermore, psychological research shows how preschoolers have especially been challenged by adapting to a less structured life at home and could rely less on online teaching than schools. Preschoolers with a single parent background exhibited more fearfulness, changes in behaviour and overall fussiness which added more feelings of being overburdened and undersupported in these difficult times.
In fact, through therapy, I have come across a client who has mentioned that she had to leave their eight-year-old son at home and had to run errands during the pandemic.
Six months later, her child is used to managing himself in the playroom till she finishes her errands with a sense of independence.
She mentioned that her situation is the same as a two-parent household except that she does not have anyone else to share the load of parenting. She mentions she lives in solitary condiment with a preschooler. She has not interacted with another adult for so long, there are no breaks and escape from being a parent 24*7.
As her counsellor, I keep checking on her. “As single parents, it is difficult since they need to strike a balance between work and home, and being mentally and physically engaged all the time leaves them feeling exhausted”, she says.
As a parent, many are left alone not only in taking care of homeschooling their children but also in general in the management of their children and of the home environment.
Single-parent families (individuals who are either widowed, unmarried, divorced and not remarried and have children) over the years have become more common than ever.
Many reasons and causes follow as to why someone chooses to become a single parent, one of the oldest being the death of a spouse. But, with changing times we find an increasing number of individuals who choose to single parent due to choice or other reasons. Now, truth to be told there is no magic wand that can make living through this crisis easy. Focussing on tips for seeking help from a mental health professional, balancing work and time with kids (which can feel impossible) and handling difficult behaviour which is expected during these times can help single parents.
Some key tips that can help single parents deal and cope with parenting preschoolers during these tough times are :
- Acceptance: Acceptance might sound absurd in the face of a pandemic, but think of it this way: Accepting the situation you are in does not mean you have to like it. It just means that you are ready to accept what is happening at the moment without judgement, rather than fighting and questioning what you are experiencing and feeling. It is a way of feeling mindful of things around you and accepting the feelings you have including anger and frustration. When you are in a bad situation, check-in with yourself. What is and is not out of your control? Once you realise you cannot control it you will be able to move forward to improve what you can control.
- Setting the parenting bar low: Accepting that there are going to be good days and bad is vital. There might be good days where you are fed, classes attended and a little activity to wind up but consciously telling yourself that you can move the bar up a little every week will give you the confidence of single parenting.
- Back to basics: Setting your priorities for the day in the morning can be extremely helpful. What has to get done? Then, maybe add what you would like to get done. Kids and you need good sleep, good nutrition and ideally a bit of exercise every day. If are able to meet only two of those right now don’t be hard on yourself. These are challenging times and with local parks and playgrounds closed, we all have to make do with what we have at hand and make the best of the situation.
- Self Care – Finding a few minutes a day for yourself. These days, the old safety instruction of “putting your mask on first” has taken on a new meaning. If you cannot help yourself you cannot help your child. So taking a few minutes of self-care is vital. It does not mean you go to the spa but it does mean taking a break and going for a small walk or 2-3 minutes of meditation in a day.
- Relax screen time: Relax screen time rules, that does not mean allow your child to watch TV all day long but allowing a little extra time watching so that it will help you out and try to carve out a little time for yourself. You must remember that these changes are not forever and as a single parent you cannot run the show single-handedly at times and it is okay to adapt to the unusual changes around you.
- Routines: Having a routine for your child’s day does not mean you have to micromanage every single detail of the day. Making a routine is more about having a predictable schedule that your child can count on and feel comforted by. When they can know and expect what is next in their day, they feel safe.
- Remove and Delegate whatever you can: Chances are, as a single parent you already had a lot on your plate before the pandemic arrived on the scene. If you feel like you are running around trying to keep a million plates spinning, it might be time to let a few drop – even if that means that they shatter. Take that list you made from the above step and see if there is anything you can delegate to someone else or remove altogether.
Lastly, remember these are extraordinary times no matter how hard you try, there will still be things that fall through the cracks. There will be days where you feel you can’t keep going during this time it is important that you remember this is a major event and it is okay and totally normal even if you find yourself struggling. As long as your children are healthy and reasonably happy you are doing a great job and that is something that needs to be recognised and celebrated.