Challenges for single parents abroad

April Metts plays with her two-year old son Jamar at her apartment in Providence, Rhode Island November 18, 2009. Metts was homeless for several years before getting into her subsidized apartment as part of the Housing First RI initiative. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES BUSINESS) - RTXQWPJ

BEING a single parent in a foreign country has its own challenges.
Most couples left Zimbabwe with the hope of making their lives and those of their children better, but little did they know the challenges ahead.
It is said a third of Zimbabweans who went to the Diaspora as couples divorced.
It’s a pity that in these situations, children suffer the most.
The divorcing parents drag their children through nasty ordeals.
Without looking for an elephant in the room, parents who raise children as ‘single parents’ plunge children in horrible situations. These challenges normally relate to time and relationship roles shifting after an overseas relocation.
Families can face further difficulties associated with balancing their own relationships, while effectively supporting their children in the divorce process.
There is no guide out there on becoming a single parent in the Diaspora.
If it could be avoided, parents should do without breaking up.
It is a great challenge to help your child reach his/her potential and prosper in adversity.
The works of our hands do affect our children.
In most cases, single parents want to protect their children from all the ‘bad stuff’ associated with the Diaspora lifestyle – making new friends and adjusting to a new, non-local environment, among other things.
A single parent goes out of his/her way to prove to the absent parent that he/she is, after all, a better parent.
Divorce also brings additional challenges for children.
In the process of divorcing, some parents get stressed and offload their frustrations on children.
Because of the behaviour of single parents, children may risk feeling less supported in comparison to their peers who may have both parents.
Children may have mixed emotions about their other — perhaps absent – parent; and if the other parent is living in another city or country, this can be challenging when the child wants to have the father/mother in his/her life, but doesn’t know how.
However, if a child’s basic needs are attended to — he/she grows up in a loving, safe environment with quality care — he/she can still develop normally and happily.
While having one parent may not represent the ideal scenario that you had intended for your child, if you are the best caregiver, your child will not only learn by your example but also that he/she is worthy of your efforts, time and love, even though it may be difficult.
In most cases, children need to be assured they are getting all they need.
Making them feel like the absence of the other parent is working against them makes them less confident.
Diaspora single parents always remind their children that they are sacrificing for them.
If a child makes a mistake, the child is threatened with being dumped in the hands of the other ‘bad’ parent.
This makes it difficult for the children and affects their confidence.
The children grow up dejected.
Most single parents are not honest and do not share information.
They want to appear the ‘angel’, creating a barrier between them and the absent parent.
One of the reasons divorce can be so traumatic for children is because children do not understand it.
It’s important to be honest and clear about the circumstances leading to the separation (however, age-appropriate explanations are necessary), and re-assure children they are not responsible for what has occurred.
Single parents need to re-assure children their future will be safe.
The greatest challenge is lack of communication.
It’s also important to remain respectful when discussing with your former partner, especially when the children are around.
Yes, there are always valid reasons for being angry and hurt in a divorce (infidelity, lies or changes in interests and attitudes), however, children are innocent and must not be damaged emotionally.
Also, most divorced parents suddenly forget how to dress smart and take care of themselves.
Some of them actually become ‘junkies’, and in the process, destroy their children’s future.
Some single parents neglect their own emotional and social needs. They feel isolated and take long to mourn the break-up of their marriages.
Sometimes, single parents try to find comfort quickly and end up being miserable.
And in the Diaspora, there is no community support and sometimes no relatives to deal with marital issues.
For single parents, the problem of looking after children, feeding them, caring for them and doing school runs, among other things, is a very big challenge.
Therefore safeguarding your marriage is the answer to this scourge in the Diaspora.
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