Being a single parent is never easy. Parents find themselves raising a child alone due to various circumstances including divorce, abandonment, death, and by choice – whether through a single mother birth or by adoption. Each situation has its own special set of issues and concerns that bear no similarity to the others except for the fact that the parent must faces the issues alone. This series of articles, Raising a Child Alone, takes a look at each set of circumstances and their uniqueness in an attempt to assist single parents in recognizing the pitfalls of their situation and to show single parents some of the options available to them when it comes to problem-solving.
Divorce is probably the most common cause of single parent families, and probably the one most written about; however, a few things bear repeating simply because while they are such good advice, they are also the hardest issues to deal with effectively when it comes to divorce.
The ideal situation is an amicable divorce with established visitation and support. However, it seems that an amicable divorce, especially when children are involved, is a rarity. Established visitation and support are necessary regardless of the situation and should be handled by the judge when the divorce is granted. If you do not feel that it is being adequately covered by the attorneys, then be certain to bring it up and ask for it to be dealt with directly. Should your attorneys seem to avoid the issue, then you have every right to change attorneys or to bring it up to the judge yourself. Do not let this important aspect of your future be passed over – it is critical to the future happiness of your child and yourself.
Unfortunately, it seems that most divorces are mired in problems and issues from the marriage often lead to problems with visitation and/or child support. The most important person in these circumstances is the child. Parents are (hopefully!) adults and should be able to tend to their own hurt feelings. But children need to be protected and should be considered in all dealings between the parents.
• Never speak negatively about the other parent to or in front of the child.
• Do not ask the child to spy or pry when they are with the other parent.
• Do not use child visitation or support as vengeance, punishment, or leverage against the other parent.
• Even in the worse situations, maintain a neutral environment when both parents are in the presence of the child.
• In cases where only one parent (or neither) is working toward civility, use a neutral party (mutual friend or relative) as needed to arrange for the pick-up or drop-off of children.
• Be sure that your child(ren) KNOW that the divorce is not their fault! Children are quick to blame themselves for the break up of their family. Stress to them that not only are they not the cause, but there is nothing they could have done to keep the divorce from happening.
This will be a difficult time for everyone; however, parents need to be sure that they are not only taking care of their own needs, but also are taking care of those of the children. Counseling – both individual and family – is strongly advised.