All parents have experienced uniquely tough conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and daycares have been closed, and many white-collar workers have moved to remote employment. People in essential occupations like healthcare, retail sales, and factories have not been able to stay home and are struggling to find childcare.
Single parents have been dealt a difficult hand. Without school or daycare, they are often left scrambling for someone to watch their children while they work. If they are fortunate enough to work from home remotely, they may have a difficult time giving their undivided attention to their jobs. Essential workers who are also single parents have an even harder time finding someone to care for their children.
Marioli Sterling, a social worker, explains the ways in which single parents are surviving the COVID-19 pandemic and offers some hints and tips for parents who need help navigating these new conditions.
The Pressures of Single Parenthood
Being a single parent was already difficult before the coronavirus pandemic. Single parents are the only providers of meals, comfort, discipline, and educational support for their children. They may have family or friends who visit periodically to lend a hand, but the majority of the responsibility for their children falls squarely on their shoulders. Even before COVID, single parents were overwhelmed and stressed out.
Single parents don’t have anyone to take the pressure off on a daily basis. Every midnight wake-up, every meal, and every school day is a single parent’s responsibility. While many parents would say that they are better off personally than they would during their marriages, they all agree that they could use more help with their children’s daily needs.
Life in Lockdown
When the coronavirus lockdowns began in March 2020, many single parents were certain that they would be short-lived. In a matter of weeks or months, the country would open again, and they would be able to send their children to daycare or to school so they could go to work. As time passed, it became increasingly clear that the end of the pandemic could even be more than a year away. Many single parents began to be discouraged and wonder how they could cope with normal life on a day-to-day basis.
In lockdown, single parents were often responsible for working 8 hours a day remotely while attempting to care for their children. Some employers were less tolerant of their workers’ needs than others, but many were receptive to the idea that single parents needed to be cut some slack.
When schools closed in the late winter of 2020, many school districts moved to remote learning. Remote learning also presented many challenges for parents of all kinds, especially single parents. Each school-aged child required their own Internet-connected device like a laptop. Some single parents were unable to afford these devices and had to rely on loan programs.
Children needed to be taught to use Zoom and other online platforms like Google Classroom. Even helping a young child with remote learning was nearly a full-time job, and single parents were overwhelmed.
When school began again in fall 2020, single parents were relieved. However, many school districts instituted hybrid learning protocols, where students would attend school only a few days a week and would continue remote learning on their off days. This did not take very much pressure from single parents.
How Do Single Parents Do It?
The position of a single parent seems almost impossible when considering all of these circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are some important hints and tips from social worker Marioli Sterling that can help single parents navigate this difficult landscape.
Tips for Success as a Single Parent During COVID
1. Start with Acceptance
Before single parents are able to cope with the stresses of the COVID pandemic, they need to be able to accept the situation. Letting go of control over certain circumstances can take some of the pressure off.
2. Plan Ahead
Single parents should resist pessimism. Planning finances, savings, and childcare options may help. Single parents should carefully consider their budget and see where they can trim their expenses each month. Single parents also need to be sure that they are saving enough money to protect themselves from coronavirus-related job losses.
3. See Life from Your Child’s Perspective
Even though single parents are stressed and overwhelmed, it is crucial to be present in their parenting. Playing with kids and spending as much time with them as possible helps with the parent-child bond and improves their cognitive skills. Playing with children can provide a great distraction and stress reliever.
4. Take Time for Yourself
Self-care is different for everyone. Single parents should take a walk around the block, have a cup of coffee with their headphones on, or read a book. These techniques will help them deal with anxiety.
5. Seek Professional Help
If parents are feeling depressed, anxious, or hopeless, they may need professional help. An unhappy parent can cause emotional problems in children, so it is vital to get this under control as early as possible. Many therapists and psychiatrists are offering telehealth appointments to cut down on the risk of transmitting the pandemic.
Hope for Single Parents
No matter how bad the pandemic has become, it will eventually run its course. Someday, life will go back to normal. Single parents need to understand that their children will only be young once and that they should do all they can to focus on their parenting.
Marioli Sterling reminds single parents that they should reach out for help if it is needed. Suffering in silence will only make life more difficult for themselves and their children.