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This is not a book on marriage nor will we spend any
time sermonizing on this issue. However while there is need to state that it is
best for both parties to raise their children, I do recognize that the ideal is
often not the case. Therefore mention must be made of cases where parents are
raising kids alone rather than together.
Marriages in most African countries, including Nigeria are
concluded between not only between the boy and girl but between families. They
are usually therefore quite difficult to terminate as the families often
intervene to help resolve the differences between the couple. The downside
of this is that by the time the marriage is actually over, there would have
been so much acrimony, blame placing and name calling between both families,
that there is now substantial bitterness between both the families, and the
husband and wife. Consequently, it is most unlikely that the children would be
unscathed or unscarred by the battles.
It is important that the war wounds be carefully
tended so that they elicit positive reactions in the lives of the children. I
have met male children of divorced homes who have said, ‘I will never have a
divorced home’. In this instance, his parent’s divorce has resulted in a
situation where the man is fully committed to making his marriage work, and it
has indeed worked. On the other hand several boys have come out of bad
marriages with the conclusion that marriage does not work, and have gone into
their own marriages with no desire for commitment and have therefore exited
quickly and casually. As unreasonable as the other party may be, it should be
emphasized that the children should be carefully managed both during the
conflicts preceding the marriage break-up and after the divorce.
There is often a tendency to run down the other party
in the marriage. Neither party should be made a villain by the opposite side.
Lifelong damage could be wrought by this tactic that may affect the
child’s own home in future. There is time enough for the children to make their
own judgments when they are adults, but as children all they need to understand
in response to the proverbial ‘why’ question is that even best friends’ sometime
quarrel and part. 
Children should be shielded as much as possible from
marital violence. The effects could be that boys would tend to grow up
believing that it is okay to beat their wives, whilst girls may be waiting to
be beaten up!
Rules and discipline
You would need to explain special parenting circumstances
to a child. For instance, if you are a single parent, you need to explain that
this may make you stricter than other mothers or fathers, as you have to
combine both roles.
The remaining parent must be firmer than ever with
rules and discipline, Mother and father roles have to be played by the same
person and this must be done lovingly and firmly.
More than ever before, communication is imperative in
these circumstances. The reasons why things are done in any particular way need
to be explained to the child even more, to avoid the child growing up
rebellious and resentful.
Involvement of the
extended family
Where the father cannot be contacted or refuses to be
involved in the life of the estranged family, as is often the case, the wife
should make attempts to maintain good relations with at least one member of the
husband’s family, who may be consulted where major decisions are to be made. This
‘father figure’ may or may not be a man. In Africa
all the members of the husband’s family are seen as ‘fathers’.
Involvement of Step
Where parents remarry, discipline should as much as
possible continue to be handled by the biological parent, to avoid rebellion
and resentment of someone who may already have been seen as an outsider.
Rules and
Rules and discipline should be effected in a manner
similar to that of the divorced parents. One party to the marriage is now very
clearly alone and has to play the dual role of mother and father.
Involvement of the
extended family
As aforesaid, in Nigeria the family has a large part
to play in marriages. It continues to play this part in the raising of
children, especially where the father’s side has a prominent role to play.
I would like to suggest that as much as possible, the widow
or widower maintains a cordial relationship with the dead spouse’s family so
that the children remain exposed to both their mother and father’s influences
(albeit indirectly for one of the parents) in the course of their upbringing. A
widow or widower may need to explain to his or her children that uncles, aunts
or grand parents could have a greater influence over them than they would have
had if their mother or father were alive and that, whilst other people have
just one father or mother they have an entire family as father or mother and,
therefore, a lot more people to obey.

Where for some reason a parent, usually a mother in
this case, is bringing up children completely alone and there has never been an
evident father, or father’s family side, it is imperative that she informally
adopts a father figure for her children. This may be an uncle or cousin, or
someone that can regularly talk with the child and give a man’s perspective to
issues. If the mother’s love life is unstable, it is important that the child
is shielded from her mother’s different boyfriends as different father figures could
further destabilize the child. 
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