Single Parent

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Nowadays, single-parent families have become even more common than the so-called "nuclear family" consisting of a mother, father and children. Many of the problems that single parents have are similar as those for two-parent families. But these problems may seem more difficult to bear or manage when the parent is alone. For example, all children feel some hostility toward their parents as they grow older and try to be independent. But when the anger and rebellion are all directed to one person, it may seem worse if there's only one to bear it, not two to share it.

There are some exceptional problems that single parents have which make it somewhat difficult to raise children. These include bitterness toward the absent parent, loneliness, poverty, and insecurity about raising children without help. For these and other reasons, single parents sometimes cling to their children or overindulge them. The children may not get chances to be with other adults or other children as much as they need to.

Single parent families deal with a wide range of pressures and potential problem areas that the nuclear family does not have to face. Some of these are:

  • visitation and custody problems;
  • the effects of continuing conflict between the parents;
  • less opportunity for parents and children to spend time together;
  • effects of the breakup or loss of a parent on children's school performance and peer relations;
  • disruptions of extended family relationships;
  • problems caused when single parents start dating and enter new relationships.

Following are some characteristics of a successful single parent family:

  • Single parents not getting flustered by the day-to-day challenges and instead is determined to raise the children in the best way possible
  • Single parents arranging their priorities in life in a way that children come first
  • Discipline is consistent and democratic. Parents are neither permissive nor too restrictive.
  • Equal emphasis on open communication and expression of feelings
  • Single parents getting a hold of their own lives and take care of themselves
  • Single parents becoming financially independent and self-sufficient
  • Parents move forward with their lives in a positive manner.
  • A desirable balance between family life, social life as well as career is achieved

In case of divorce, separation or death of a parent, children are at somewhat greater risk for symptoms of poor psychological adjustment, behavioral and social problems, low self-esteem, and poor performance in school. Children need to know that their feelings and concerns are taken seriously. Parents need to let children express their feelings and concerns. Providing routines and consistency for children help them feel more secure. Work on ways to decrease conflict between your ex-spouse and you so that there is no negative influence on the children. Remember, whatever the family structure, children will still need a loving, nurturing, stable, economically secure environment for their optimal growth and development.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,