The Challenge of Single Parenting 

Single parents are required to work very hard to balance their lives and provide a nurturing environment for their children. In the case of divorce, death, or separation, these parents must cope with a change in responsibilities. Some methods for coping with being a single parent are described in the following sections.


  • Don’t expect too much from yourself: Following a divorce, many people experience a drastic change in lifestyle. For many single parents, housework loses its priority due to pressures from other areas. If you expect perfection from yourself in every area, you will be headed for disappointment and considerable stress. Evaluate your priorities, and decide what you can let slide. 

  • Don’t overburden your children: Because of your family situation, you cannot share many of your daily responsibilities with a spouse. This requires you to depend on your children to help out in many ways they might not otherwise. Communicate with them, discuss what you want, and learn from them what they want. 

  • Don’t underestimate your personal needs: Single parents often think they can’t take time for themselves. This is the wrong approach. Neglecting your needs for personal time, individual pursuits, and fulfillment can lead you down a path of resentment that your children sense and take responsibility for. 


  • Work on building a social network: This may seem like a difficult task when your time and energy are already so divided, but its benefits are great. Different people with different skills can help you in various emergencies. You can exchange babysitting favors with other single parents. You will have people you can look to for advice and comfort. Those parents who form social networks generally have a much more positive experience in every area of life than those who try to do everything on their own.

  • Be the leader in your family, giving clear expectations and rules to your children: Some single parents find themselves giving a great deal of control to their children, which is dangerous. While children can be involved in decision making and should be treated with respect and warmth, treating children as equals or peers can begin a cycle of problems that can get out of control. The best thing to do is to work toward high levels of communication where children are free to express their opinions and are encouraged to share their needs and wants. 

  • Create stability in your family: Establish certain routines your children can depend on. Do what you must to provide an adequate income, and live within your means. Find a good day care. Spend one-on-one time with your children, and communicate your love for them. Be consistent in your discipline. Create family rituals. Whatever you can do to assure stability in your children’s lives will help them feel secure and confident.


Clapp, G., Ph.D. Divorce and New Beginnings