Single parents often need to help a child to cope with an absent parent. This can occur as the result of divorce, separation, unwed pregnancies, or due to the death of one parent. There are many issues that arise because of the absence and these issues vary with the age of the child. If you are struggling with how to help your child cope with an absent parent you can find resources to assist you in implementing coping mechanisms that work for you and your child in your community and online.
The problem is widespread and the number of children affected is rising. Sadly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of three children (approximately 24 million in the U.S. alone) are living in a home where the biological father is absent. Statistics also show that one million children each year experience the divorce of their parents. While it is true that not all non-custodial parents are classified as “absent”, a good many of them are absent from their child’s life.
The list of problems that are reported to be related to absent parents include higher rates of acts of rape, adult prison times, alcohol abuse, attempted suicides, behavioral problems, crime resulting in juvenile jail terms, drug abuse, a higher rate of high school dropouts, poor grades, psychological disorders, a higher incidence of runaways, and early sexual activity that also results in a high rate of teen pregnancies.
The absence can have a profound effect upon the child at any age and problems that are often associated with an absent parent, especially an absent father include an increased risk of living in poverty which can add to the stress level in the household.
The best thing to do for your child is to educate yourself about resources in your community specifically geared toward single parents and to participate in these organizations. Networking with other single parents allows for sharing of experiences, gathering tips for what works and can also be a source of where to find other resources in your community.
Even the youngest child can experience emotional wounds that happen as a result of not seeing a parent for long periods of time. The child may not even be aware of the emotional pain or be unable to put into words how they are feeling, but the results of not having a parent around will manifest in many ways. There has been much research done that illustrates that an absent parent leaves a void that cannot be replaced. The void leaves feelings such as abandonment, loss of a sense of well being and loss of financial and physical security.
Your child’s doctor is an excellent resource concerning how to help your child cope with issues that arise from missing a parent. Children’s Physician Network has some excellent tips for helping you to help your children, especially regarding preventing emotional harm.
It is critical that you pay close attention to how your child is coping. Watch for signs that they are having trouble functioning at school, are behaving in ways that are not normal for that child, are withdrawn, depressed or having physical symptoms of illnesses more frequently than before the absent parent situation started. If you notice any changes that may indicate that your child is struggling to cope with the absent parent, seek medical advice.
Check at your local library for books on how to help your child cope with an absent parent such as Coping with Absent Parents by Mary Colson, or Losing a Parent: A Personal Guide to Coping With That Special Grief That Comes With Losing a Parent by Fiona Marshall.