Sources of Single Parent Family Stress
- Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D.
- 2001 13 Jul
Single parent families are more common today than intact nuclear families. Therefore, we need to be more in tune with the issues single parents face. A father, mother, grandparent, aunt, uncle or other family member can head these families.
No matter who parents, all single parents face similar stress. In order to better support single parents, sources of stress should be identified. Support is a buffer against stress and can be offered by other parents, friends, churches and family members.
So what are the unique challenges of being a single parent?
- Single parents have no other parent to act as a buffersomeone to take the kids for a few hours, share discipline or talk through a difficult situation. One women recently shared her frustration of trying to help her four-year-old daughter deal with a soccer coach. The child felt the coach was mean. After a long day of carting children to sports activities and not being able to attend the daughters complete game, the mom didnt know if her child was overreacting because she missed her dad, or whether the coach really was a problem. When married, the husband handled coaches. Exhausted from the day, unsure of what her daughter needed, she longed for someone to talk to about the coach or just take care of the situation. It was a small thing, but felt big at the end of a full day.
- Single parents are solely responsible for the household. Some single parents carry the entire financial burden, others have to contend with partial or late payments, and still others deal with a lower standard of living because of dual child-rearing households. Single parents do it all--pay the bills, stay home for the cable guy, work on the car, help with homework, baths, whatever it takes to keep the household running. They are responsible for making sure everything works.
- Single parents deal with on-going custody and visitation issues. The amount of stress in this area ranges from virtual none to severe depending on how cooperative parents are about these issues post divorce.
- Parental conflict can continue long after a divorce. Couples are forced to work together for the good of their children. Some do a better job than others.
- Because of work and household demands, there is usually less time for single parents to spend with children.
- Single parents have to deal with the aftermath of divorce as it affects school performance and peer relationships.
- Extended family relationships are disrupted because of divorce, and single parents must figure out how and if these relationships will continue.
- Single parents have to contend with dating and new relationships. This can create problems if children are not ready to embrace new people into the family system.
This list only touches on some of the issues single parents regularly face. It is easy for them to become overwhelmed because of all that is needed and expected. They dont want your pity or judgment. But can use your support. Pray for single parents, that God will give them the grace and strength to handle all that is before them. Then offer your support in a tangible way---give them a few hours break, be available to talk, carpool kids, etc. A little help goes a long way.