Updated: Aug 29
Author: Katie Conroy is the creator of Advice Mine.
It’s not enough to simply support our students. If we want to have a real impact on their lives, we must also find ways to support their families, especially when their mother or father may have no support of their own.
It’s tough to see beyond the surface of many students. We see their performance at school, talk with them about future plans, and help guide them beyond problems. But we don’t always have the time or resources to dig deeper and many of our schools’ brightest stars never get a chance to shine.
Single parents have a tough time raising their children. Between work, paying bills, and managing all aspects of parenting, it can be overwhelming. And those are the challenges we must work to understand and help our schools find solutions that empower and support students of single parents.
Single parents may have limited transportation/time to shuffle students to extra activities.
A typical two-parent household has both a mother and a father available to transport their children to activities outside of school hours. Many students in a single-parent household must forgo extracurricular activities due to logistics. You might suggest that the school or PTO organize a group of parents to offer ride-sharing to help ease the burden of transportation.
Single parents may have insufficient funds to invest in their child’s current education.
For most single parents, the money they make each week is earmarked for expenses relevant to day-to-day life. These families may not have extra money available to purchase books or computers or to invest in activities that supplement their children’s education. Put together a list of resources for your students and their families on ways they can access supplemental materials without a substantial investment. For example, the National Park Foundation offers free one-year passes to all national lands for fourth-graders in the United States. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is another resource available for children and offers a free book each month from birth until the age of five. Your local community will have other resources including Samaritan centers and charitable organizations that parents may not be aware of.
Single parents may not understand options available to help with college tuition.
Many families struggle with the thought of paying for college after high school graduation. Work with single parents to discuss their options. Many states in the US now provide free two-year or four-year college programs for all students, although many families remain unaware and assume college is an unattainable goal. Grants and scholarships are also available based on either need or academic merit. Parents may be directed to StudentAid.ed.gov for more information.
If affordability is an issue, single parents can consider enrolling their children in online colleges. Online programs are typically less expensive than in-person learning, and students can earn many types of degrees in subjects like information technology, nursing, and business.
Single parents may suffer from depression, which can affect the child’s home life and therefore their performance at school.
While depression doesn’t discriminate, studies suggest that single parents may struggle with mental illness at a rate higher than the rest of the population. And it makes sense when you consider how much weight they carry on their shoulders. Parental depression can have a devastating effect on children. Parents note that school-age kids may be forced to grow up quickly and may not be as motivated to perform academically or socially as their two-parent peers. Beating mental illness is a difficult task made even more so by a lack of time for single parents to practice self-care. You can support these families by helping them connect with services to ease their burden.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers immediate referrals to mental health treatment centers across the US. Parents in need of mental health treatment may call 877-SAMHSA7 (877-726-4727) for assistance. The National Alliance on Mental Health also offers no-cost support by calling 800-950-6246.
It takes work but we can offer more support to our most vulnerable students. As the number of single-parents homes continues to rise, we must do more to ensure we are prepared to help these students and their parents handle the social, emotional, and financial ramifications that inevitably come with the added burden of a single-parent household.
Author: Katie Conroy is the creator of Advice Mine. She enjoys writing about lifestyle topics and created the website to share advice she has learned through experience, education and research.