Weathering the corona pandemic as a single dad

Monday, June 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Djibril and Darell enjoy their meal. Photo/PD/Jasmine Atieno

Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine

The corona virus pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working remote, physical distancing: it’s a lot to navigate for anyone, especially for parents.

Parents and caregivers are attempting to work remotely or unable to work, while caring for children, with no clarity on how long the situation will last. 

For many people, just keeping children busy and safe at home is a daunting prospect.

This has serious implications as evidence shows that violence and vulnerability increase for children during periods of school closures associated with health emergencies.

Rates of reported child abuse rise during school closures. Parents and children are living with increased stress, media hype, and fear, all challenging our capacity for tolerance and long-term thinking.

For many, the economic impact of the crisis increases parenting stress, abuse, and violence against children.

Journey of grace

And single fathers,  who have relied on boarding school and day cares and other support systems  are no different from single mums as all could have relied on most of these services, which relieve parents most of the duties as well as teaching our children. 

Family counsellor, Raymond Mwaura shares that it could be more challenging for single dads who could be parenting alone. 

As 36-year-old-Daniel Kinyanjui, who is a professional  actor and single father of two boys shares, this lockdown has not been easy for him and his children.

But on the upper hand, it has provided a learning opportunity for all of them while the focus being to survive through it. 

“My journey as a single dad can only be described as “grace”. The far that I have come is no mean feat for man alone.

I am a creative— I ply my trade through my talent. When the pandemic hit, my job description was: actor… it still is.

Life was still tough then because as an actor in Kenya, earnings are low, but keep us afloat.

With the pandemic, we began to panic because it is now people realise that there is never really “enough” savings to weather a storm.

I have to say though, that this pandemic has had a positive effect on me.  I have always had a focus, but attention was diverted. This pandemic has given me time to focus.

My focus is on my industry and moreso, on a sustainable angle. My entry point is food.

I am learning life skills and cannot wait to share them with anyone and everyone; it is not all in vain,” shares the actor, also popularly known as Dan Sonko. 

According to Dan’s life skills guide and not just during this pandemic, one thing that is top of the chain has always been “change”.

Change that starts from within and permeates through simple things such as thoughts and actions. These too have to be deliberate.

“Start with two things; peace of mind and heart. Identify that which gives you utmost peace and draw your energies from there. In short, I have no work, but as a parent I still need to put food on the table.

My fan base has directly supported me by ensuring I don’t go hungry.

So through getting surplus food support and dishing it all out, I begin to get something to do.

As it is growing, parenting comes in - allowing children at an early age to observe engage and learn important life skills that may not be available on textbooks,” shares Dan.

Making children understand

Dan’s wife died in May 2017, leaving him to parent their two boys alone.

Counselor Raymond Mwaura says the challenge during this pandemic is for the parent to be innovative, creative and emotionally available for every child in that home and explain the COVID-19 uncertainty as well as anxiety that come with this season.

It is, according to him, a crime for children to hate their home because of the suffocation that comes with strict rules, no fun or playfulness.

Children need safe friendly spaces to play and as well live with child-friendly actors who can help in their developmental progress especially now that their food intake is very high.

Dan says he has tried to make this transition as seamless as possible. As much as he might not know how to engage them the way their teachers do at school, he chose to interest them in his own way. And they enjoy it. 

“They know they should always have a mask on when going outside and never touch anyone.

I find it easier when we I try to bring things to their level of understanding than our own. So, my boys know there is corona and we even have a song!

Only last week, my hero Djibril Sonko cracked me up when we imitated a neighbour’s walking style! I still giggle to myself every time I remember it. He’s such a character!” he shares lightly. 

Still on life skill, the lockdown has called for innovation of home activities, which help in keeping all of them occupied.

For the young dad, these include; planning the house activities together, from cleaning to laundry to cooking. They learn respect, courtesy, obedience, patience, tolerance and acceptance. 

As it continues to be a stressful time and the uncertainty and changes may cause more frustration than usual, the family counsellor advices that all single dad’s should do best not to argue in front of their children or to speak negatively about the child’s other parent if they parent them separately.

The communication should be kept open, but limited to relevant information, such as custody arrangements, childcare, schoolwork, and exposure risks.

“My advice for them also is to be kind to one: This is a tough situation. Do not strive to be a perfect parent. Set realistic goals for your family.

Trust that you are doing your best to parent your child through a difficult time. Remember to take care of yourself by taking walks and connecting with your family and friends, keep cooking.

Keep cleaning. Keep learning. Keep living. I’ll leave you with this quote from Wayne Dyer, “Your children will see what you’re all about by what you live rather than what you say,” he says. 

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