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Last time I was browsing the internet and I came across an image of a mother pushing a supermarket trolley with her child in its seat. An ordinary image right? However, this parent had to attach a note to her child’s jumper, stating that she didn’t have anyone with whom to leave her toddler, and following careful precautions of sterilising the trolley and ensuring her toddler was wearing gloves and a mask, had to take her child with her into the supermarket during the COVID-19 pandemic. The note asked people not to judge her.

This impacted me a lot and got me thinking about how stressful it is for single parents to cope with young children in isolation. In a family unit where there is another adult present, it is easier to split the time in order to be able to work from home, assist your child or children with accessing the virtual resources or lessons provided by the school, to carry out the housework and keep your children engaged and looked out for. It is also easier to decide who is going to run the errands and who should stay at home with the children. Or else to agree that one of you needs some time alone to unwind, and the other adult watches the kids. However, if one looks not just at how these practical day-to-day engagements are not available for a single parent, but also at the amount of thought that may go into planning the day in addition to the worry experienced upon thinking about what should happen if they were to fall ill. The mental and physical health of single parents; having to cope alone without any of the resources and support they had available prior to a lockdown, may be impacted much more drastically than other parents who are not alone in the household.

What can one do in this case?

  • I always recommend looking for support and caring for oneself as the first step. I like to quote what flight attendants tell us when giving air passengers the safety demonstration. “Parents / Adults are to take care of putting on their own masks first before attending to their children.” This is important in all of our daily activities. If we, as parents, aren’t in the right frame of mind, if we are not psychologically and physically healthy, then we are much more limited in what we can give to our children. Thus, it is always important to ensure that you have someone with whom you can speak and discuss all your anxieties and worries, especially during this time in life.
  • Another aspect is to make practical arrangements and preparations to turn to in the case you should fall ill. Is there someone who you trust enough to take care of your children? This may also be a professional, maybe someone offering support in your community such as the Centru LEAP in Malta or even the Parish Centre.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Your child may not have managed to do all the assigned schoolwork. You may not have played with them too long due to all your work. You might have not prepared the healthiest meal and simply served them plain pasta with cheese. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a parent who is coping alone in a world crisis.  
  • At Willingness we also have childminders who may hold an online session with your children to keep them entertained while you focus on working from home. There are also a number of groups online where parents support each other and share ideas on how to keep your child busy.

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on abigail@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.