The key thing that makes parenthood easier is to have a good support system, according to Dr Sarah Rasmi, a psychologist and professor at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain. It’s not just emotional support, but physically helping each other with tasks that cannot be completed by just one parent.
She said: “People in relationships have a built in support system. Single parents can benefit from building their own connections. They can start with their friends, colleagues, and other parents at their children’s school. Establishing a single parent community could also help, as no one can truly understand what it’s like to be a single parent without going through that experience themselves.”
She suggests that in a country like the UAE, which is extremely multicultural, it is easier to do this. Majority of the residents are expatriates and may not even have their families here. It is a unique space where people are willing to broaden their network and include you. Additionally, a lot of support groups are available on social media, which Dr Rasmi believes can be “wonderful resources in a lot of ways”. However, they could cause harm if people start referring each other to unqualified professionals.
She said: “Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone - or even simply writing them down - is a way to get them off your chest. Research shows that it’s very cathartic.”
But, what about the children of single parents? Do they have to face any specific challenges?
Dr Rasmi said: “Many people think that children in single parent families are worse off. That’s not necessarily true. Growing up in a traditional nuclear familiar doesn’t guarantee that you are going to get more, or better, attention. A single parent could put in extra effort and their children could be better off than a nuclear family with neglectful parents.”
In her opinion, growing up in a home where the parents are always fighting or don’t get along is worse than travelling between two homes.
She said: “Many people resist divorce because they are afraid that it will negatively affect their children. Research shows that this isn’t a great idea - children do better in two happy homes than in one unhappy one.”
However, if children of single parents still find it hard to cope, Dr Rasmi recommends reaching out for support from a professional or find people who have been through the same situation.
She said: “It helps if the parents can come together and explain the situation to their children. But this isn’t always possible.”
In the end, the most important message that Dr Rasmi has for single parents and their children is that “their family life can be just as strong”.