Ethnically Speaking: The Trends In Single Parenting

Studies show that 90% of all single parents are women. In 1995, almost one-third of all black families lived in single-parent homes with children. At the same time, only 8% of white families and 7% of South Asian families were single-parent households.

About half of black women of 30 and over are the main source of income for their single-parent families, while only a tenth of South Asian mothers are the main bread winners.

These statistics underscore the challenges facing single black mothers today. Further, other studies show that, for both black and white women from 15 to 44, decisions about marriage and having children are largely driven by concerns about family disruption.

Bumpass and McLanahan conducted an ethnic study about daughters of single mothers. Their findings may surprise you. Daughters of single mothers have a:

– 53% chance of marrying while teenagers
– 111% chance having babies while they are teens
– 164% chance of having babies out of wedlock
– 92% chance of having marital problems

In families where the father died early, the study came to these conclusions about daughters of single mothers:

– Early loss of the father does not significantly affect black children.
– Growing up in a single-parent family has little effect on whether daughters would remarry after divorce whether they were black or white.

The Bumpass and McLanahan study supports the conclusion that women who grew up in a single-parent family with their mothers as head are more likely to marry and have children while they’re young, to have illegitimate children, and to have failed marriages ending in divorce.

Being a single parent is difficult for anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. Everyone goes through the same grief process after the loss of a serious relationship, whether through divorce or death. Single parents share the same or similar emotions about their change in status: sadness, confusion, guilt, abandonment, anxiety, and fear of being alone.

Here are some suggestions that, while sometimes difficult to perform, may make your new life as a single parent easier.

1. Let go. In order to get past the feelings, it’s important to forgive and forget. Holding on to anger only creates health problems, difficulty in social relationships, and delayed emotional healing. While you may not really be able to forget the hurts of the past, it’s important to forgive and move on. Especially for the kids, you need to resolve feelings about your spouse so you can provide a healthy loving home for your children.

2. Keep up with and make friends. Looking to your neighbors and community as a source of emotional support can make all the difference when you’re trying to adjust to a new and strange lifestyle. Neighbors can provide social interaction, support for childcare, and help with home repairs and yard work. Making new close-to-home friends will also help you get past feelings of abandonment and isolation and give you some critically-important relaxation and fun. Neighbors can also be very important in helping your children adjust to their new situation.

3. Give the kids some responsibility. When you give a task to your child, it makes them feel important and needed. It also gives them a wonderful sense of accomplishment to complete the task successfully. Giving your children household responsibilities will help strengthen family bonds, build self-confidence, and let your children know you need and trust them.

4. Accept your responsibilities. Before you were a single parent, responsibility for earning a living and taking care of the family and household was shared. Now, you’re the only adult, and you have to do it all. Don’t get hung up in feeling cheated or punished. You may not realize it, but your children will interpret your feelings as their fault. Unless you’re willing to step up to the plate physically and emotionally, you’re likely to drive a wedge between you and your kids that will be very difficult to overcome.

5. Ask for help. You have to accept responsibility and do the best you can with it. But recognize that you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Relying more on your children for household chores and family decision-making will build a stronger family and take some of the weight off your shoulders. Relying on friends and neighbors who offer to help will reduce your stress and build your own feelings of gratitude for the good things in your life. Taking the initiative and seeking out assistance from state and local governments will get you much-needed help that you’re entitled to as a citizen. Never think you’re alone because you aren’t.

6. Honor old routines. Both you and your children need stability at this difficult time. If you used to go out for dinner every Wednesday or have pizza every Monday, continue to do it now. If you used to go to the park every Saturday afternoon as a two-parent family, do it now as a single-parent family. The more habits and routines you can preserve from your old way of life, the more stable and secure you’re family will be in their new life.

7. Encourage your kids to grow. If their time is split between parents now, your children are having their own set of challenges and issues to resolve. The more you can do to help them broaden their perspective and learn to deal with life’s challenges, the better prepared they will be for the future. Just as you have to work through emotions after the loss of your spouse, your children have to work through their emotions. You can help them do that by open and honest conversation. You can also help them expand their awareness of the world by offering them new experiences.