Single Parent Syndrome: How To Cope With The Challenges Of Going Solo

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Single Parent Syndrome

It takes a village to raise a child. But you have been doing the challenging job of raising another human being all by yourself. Whether you are single by choice or not, bringing up a child singlehandedly is a demanding task. Please don’t let Single Parent Syndrome dampen your spirit.

According to a study, 30 percent of children in the USA, live with only one parent. While life situations, gender, and socioeconomic status of single parents vary, there is no denying that solo parenting is often a stressful and taxing job.

A parent can be single due to divorce, the death of a spouse, or by their choice. But the fact remains that a single mom or dad has to wear many hats and be responsible for providing care, security, and ensuring the overall wellbeing of their children. Single parents have to meet the basic needs of their kids, make sure they are fed on time, go to school, remain in school, stay off the streets, and the list goes on and on.

On top of that many single parents, especially single moms, struggle to make ends meet as they are dependent on either a single source of income or their ex-spouse. Many single working parents find it difficult to make time for their children and care for their emotional needs.

Naturally, many single parents go through severe emotional distress, which is often labeled as Single Parent Syndrome.

Read: How To Discipline Sensitive Children? 5 Science-Backed Strategies

What Is Single Parent Syndrome?

single parent syndrome

Although “Single Parent Syndrome” is not a recognized mental health disorder, it is a widely accepted term. Single parent syndrome can be best described as a distressful life situation, brought on by the challenges of caring for one or more children by a single parent. The task of single parenting is so hard, that often, instead of focusing on how to do single parenting better, struggling parents find themselves wondering how to overcome single parenting; as if solo parenting is a dreadful curse.

So, What Are The Stressors Associated With Single Parent Syndrome?

A caregiver with single parent syndrome and a single parent family typically goes through the following problems:

  • A single parent cannot pull resources with a partner and share their financial obligations.
  • Similarly, single working parents cannot spend much time with their kids.
  • The ongoing conflicts between two divorcing or divorced partners affect their child’s emotional health.
  • Legal complications like visitation rights, child support, custody battles, etc. might take a toll on a single parent more, than a parent with a live-in partner.
  • Whether it’s a death of a parent or a separation between two, it causes an upheaval in the child’s life.

Some Common Psychological Phenomena Linked With Single Parent Syndrome :

Single parent syndrome manifests itself through the following emotional and behavioral issues: 

Single Mom Syndrome info

1. Single Mom Syndrome / Obsessive Single Parenting Syndrome

When single parents, especially mothers, get overly obsessed with their children, they start exhibiting the following behavioral traits of obsessive single parenting syndrome aka single mom syndrome:

single mom syndrome
  • They think no one can parent or take care of their kids as well as they do, not even their own mother.
  • They get judgmental of their children’s peers and fear they will be a negative influence on their “golden child”.
  • Their kids are all they can talk about, nothing else interests or matters to them.
  • They get intrusive and enmeshed with their child’s life.
  • They always worry about their kid’s academic performance and career prospects.
  • They impose their opinion and views on their offspring.
  • They control whom their kids choose to partner with.
  • They chastise their children for engaging in age-appropriate activities like high-performance sports.
  • They want their kids to be their spitting image and never develop an individual identity.
  • They assume that only they know what is best for their kid.

2. Empty Nest Syndrome

When an adult child moves out of the house, parents most likely take it hard and go through the painful experience of empty nest syndrome. But single parents find it even more challenging to adjust to the loneliness caused by their kids leaving. Empty nest syndrome for single moms and dads with an only child is particularly difficult.

Empty nesters with Single Parent Syndrome often struggle with:

  • Processing their opposing emotions of hope for their kid’s future and grief for the separation.
  • Anxiety and depressive symptoms triggered by the sudden change from a two-person household to a single-person household.
  • Battling with loneliness and feeling abandoned.

3. Single Parent Only Child Syndrome

The only child syndrome is a theory that children who grew up without a sibling are less likely to have well-developed social skills and adjustment capabilities, with a higher likelihood of antisocial behavior, that has been present since their childhood. Though this idea has not gained much support, it can be used as an umbrella term to highlight the signs of a maladjusted only child of a single parent.

  • Always tries to get their way
  • Doesn’t like to adjust or share
  • Self-involved
  • Intimidating and domineering
  • Has trouble socializing
  • Loner
  • Hypersensitive to criticism
  • Independent and self-sufficient
  • More mature than their peers

Read: How To Respond To Your Children’s Disappointment: 7 Tips

Single Mother Parenting: Why Being A Single Mom Is So Stressful?

According to a study, children raised by single mothers are at a greater risk of developing psychological and behavioral disorders. The study states that the reason behind this grim picture is not that single mothers are inferior to other parents, but “their parenting practices are often compromised by a myriad of demands and stressors.” Financial troubles, lack of social support, a malicious co-parent, emotional duress, and other adversities can lead to the single mom stress syndrome.

Does Single Parenting Affect Children?

The above topic brings us to a very relevant question of our modern western society; single parent syndrome and children’s development. Let’s explore how single parenting can influence a child’s wellbeing in various ways.

Single Mom Syndrome single parent info

1. Developmental

Research shows that children growing up in a single-parent household fare worse than their counterparts with two biological parents. Kids with a single parent generally struggle to keep their grades up, tend to drop out of school, face hardships with school engagement, and exhibit adolescent delinquency.

The reasons can be attributed to the fact that apart from emotional fatigue and other effects of the single parent syndrome, solo parents have to devote their time to put food on the table. Their children miss out on the opportunity to spend time with their parents and endure a lack of guidance and comfort. Sometimes, their children too have to take up a job or take care of the household. As a result, their performance at school takes a back seat.

2. Economical

The connection between financial hardships and emotional distress on single parents has been well established. However, the economical strains are also detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health. Children whose parents are the lone earner of the family, sometimes cannot provide enough for them. In such cases, kids can be malnourished and lag behind their peers in terms of physical health, cognitive skills, and emotional security.

3. Psychological

Children flourish in a controlled, stable, and healthy family atmosphere. A single-parent household often goes through chaos, hardships, and disruptions. Children get roped into the conflicts of their separated parents, bear the brunts of money trouble, put up with a step-mom or dad, and even sometimes have to move with a parent to a new location. All these can cause emotional turmoil in their young minds and push them towards various psychological disorders and unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse.

Read: Oppositional Defiant Disorder: 7 Ways To Safely Parent A Defiant Child

Some Helpful Tips To Cope With Single Parent Syndrome:

single parent

If you too have Single Parent Syndrome, you must follow these tips to bring down the stress of your daily life and rediscover the joys of parenthood:

  • Do efficient budgeting and financial planning
  • Build a support group constituting other single parents, your family, and relatives
  • Maintain a proper schedule and daily routine at home
  • Be consistent while implementing disciplinary actions with your kids
  • Answer your children’s queries in an honest yet age-appropriate manner
  • Treat your child as a child, and don’t seek emotional support from them
  • Spend quality time with your children and build a strong connection with them
  • Eat and sleep well
  • Practice mindfulness and deep breathing exercises
  • Be gentle with yourself and don’t feel guilty for not being perfect
  • Instead of harboring resentment towards a partner or destiny, be grateful for whatever you have.
  • Invest in yourself, and do something nice for yourself once in a while.
  • Learn, upskill and find a job that will be conducive to your single-parent family

What Are The Benefits Of Being A Single Parent?

If you have got overwhelmed reading the negative effects of solo parenting, don’t lose heart. Your good parenting can also influence your kid’s life in many positive ways and overpower your single parent syndrome.

  • You can develop a strong bond with your child.
  • Your child might get a lot of support and care from other single parents and relatives.
  • Kids with a single parent learn to be responsible and to contribute to household activities.
  • Your child will attain emotional maturity quickly and learn to cope with emotional turbulence.
single parent family

Beat Single Parent Syndrome! You Can Do It!

Don’t get bogged down by the research and numbers. If you are concerned that being raised by a single parent will have ill effects on your child’s personality and growth, identify the potholes of the single parent syndrome and practice the coping strategies for a healthier and even more fulfilling parenting experience.

You might also want to consider getting in touch with a friend, family member, professional mental health expert, support group, or a charitable organization that can help you with your challenges.

We hope you find some valuable insights from our take on Single Parent Syndrome. Don’t forget to let us know and also share your experience of single parenting with others. You never know who might get inspired by your story.


Frequently Asked Questions

How to raise children as a single parent?

You have to accept the responsibilities and the challenges, prioritize your kid, be consistent with discipline, maintain open communication, and allow their individuality to develop.

Can a single parent raise a successful child?

Yes, if a single parent practices self-care, takes care of their kid’s emotional and material needs, and seeks support, it’s possible for them to raise well-rounded children.

How does having one parent affect a child?

Children who grow up with only one parent are most likely to face challenges regarding their financial, social, mental, and even physical health.

How to be a good single mother?

To be a good single mother, you need to identify the external factors that might hinder your parenting style. Take care of yourself, be consistent with discipline, and spend quality time with your kids.

What is single mom syndrome?

Single mom syndrome can be described as an obsessive attachment with one’s child, even at the cost of the child’s individuality and mental health.


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