Children Who Grow Up Without a Father or Mother

Single-parent families are becoming more and more common. As much as the present parent tries to fulfill the role of both parents, children who grow up without both parents will have emotional gaps that should be addressed.
Children Who Grow Up Without a Father or Mother

Written by Thady Carabaño

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Families are changing. In the western world, the number of single-parent families is increasing  and, consequently, so is the percentage of children who grow up without a father or mother.

Whatever the reason that leads a family to be single-parent may be (divorce or separation from a partner, death of a partner or an absent parent), raising kids on your own  presents a lot of challenges and difficulties that need to be addressed.

Growing up without Dad …or Mom

More and more children are growing up without one of their parents in their lives. Divorce rates are increasing. Women and men are deciding to have children alone and must assume the role of raising them.

While, it’s more common for the father to be the absent parent, it can also happen with the mother.

There are many explanations for this situation, but the truth is that there are more and more single-parent families in general. This has an emotional impact both on the children who are growing up without a mother or father, and on the environment around them.

The single parent may take on the weight of raising the child, their education and helping them through life. However, the absent parent will also cause a great emotional vacuum.

Also, there are cases in which, although one parent is present, the other has no emotional connection with the children. In both cases (physical absence or emotional absence), the effects on the development and the emotional balance of children are devastating.

The consequences of having an absent parent

Except in the cases of extended families, in which a relative assumes the role of the absent parent, children who grow up without a father can develop various behavioral disorders. This has been widely recognized and accepted by all types of specialists.

To hide their feelings of unhappiness, anger, abandonment and overwhelming fear, children who grow up without one of their parents can have problems such as:

  • Difficulty relating to other children.
  • Attention deficit and poor performance at school.
  • Emotional emptiness and low self-esteem.
  • Emotional problems such as anxiety, depression or aggression.
  • Fear of abandonment, which may cause rebellious behavior or social isolation.
  • Substance abuse or drugs.
  • They can be less supportive and empathetic.
  • Less self control
  • Little sense of guilt.
  • They may suffer sexual identity problems.

Recommendations for raising children who grow up in a single-parent family

Since raising and educating a child is a very difficult task for newlyweds, it’s even more demanding if everything falls on a single parent. A child needs positive reinforcement to grow up healthy and happy and to mature as a self-confident adult with good self-esteem.

The following recommendations can help you with the challenging process of raising your children alone.

1. Look for family support

First, if there’s someone in the family who can actively support you in raising your child, accept the health. A grandparent, an uncle, or an aunt can fill part of the emotional vacuum caused by the absence of a parent.

Mother and children.

2. Seek psychological help

Next, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from a psychologist. This can help you understand the consequences of the absence of the parent, as well any problems that may arise in your relationship with your child.

They can also help you to forgive both yourself and the other person who has left you to raise your child on your own. 

3. Avoid discrediting or blaming

When your kid is stressing you out, avoid putting the blame on the absent parent or your child. Nothing positive will come from speaking poorly of the absent parent.

Children often  feel guilty  for their parent’s absence, even though it is not their fault.

4. Avoid comparisons

Avoid comparing your family with another one that has both parents. Your child will probably do it, so avoid doing it yourself.

These comparisons hurt, cause even more frustrations and deepen the wounds.

5. Create clear and flexible rules

When a parent is left alone as head of the household, s/he can either be very strict with the rules or very lax. Neither is a good idea for children who grow up without two parental figures.

There must be clear rules. However, at the same time, there should be flexibility so that can they can be adapted to the circumstances. That will guarantee the happiness and well-being of your children, and your own.

6. Spend time with your children

If there’s no one to share your responsibilities with, there are often a lot of tasks and activities that you have to take care of. However, make time (however short) to share with your children. Study with them, read a story, or go for a walk.

7. Practice tolerance and patience

Be tolerant and patient, both with your children and with yourself.  Accept the difficult times. Avoid the want to fulfill both parenting roles, since it’s impossible.

You can fulfill a single role and, from there, give your child your best.

Always remember yourself

Since you’re alone raising your children, it is important that you don’t disregard the possibility of adding someone new to your family. It won’t be an easy decision, because whoever comes into your life has to understand and accept that your children are also included. Also, that new person should understand that, by getting involved with you, s/he will have to assume a role in the family.

Let yourself be happy with  your new partner. Being bitter and closed off won’t do you any good. Rebuilding your family gives your child the chance to build new bonds and feelings with the second parental figure they need.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.