Single Parent: 18 Potential Problems / Challenges (with Solutions)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

single mother suffers from headache

As a single parent, you probably have your hands full. There’s a lot to do and think about on a continuous basis. If you are new to single parenthood, you might not know what you’re in for. I recently took the time to consider the various challenges and problems faced by single parents. I was pleasantly surprised by the simple solutions to many of them.

As a single mom or dad, you can never be too prepared for the task of parenting. The good news is that while single-parent problems and challenges exist, there are simple things you can do to alleviate some of the pressure on you. If you are a single parent and want to strategize for a happier, healthier life for both you and the children, read on. Below we go through many of the challenges and provide some simple solutions that might help you.

18 problems and challenges faced by single parents:

1. Finding work-life balance. 

Single parents undoubtedly have a lot on their plate. A full-time job is the only way to afford the type of lifestyle you are used to, but this often means that extra hours need to be put in. At the end of the day, there’s barely time to do anything leisure-related. Balancing personal and work life can become a challenge. More work is needed to afford to live, and then there is barely any time left for leisure activities. Many single parents feel close to burnout a lot of the time. 

What to do: set boundaries and clear goals and work. Also, don’t be afraid to ask about flexible working hours or work-from-home opportunities. 

2. Financial struggles.

Single parents have a lot of expenses to cover. With just one salary paying for everything, it can be tough, and if the other parent has to pay child support, it can be a struggle collecting it. Sometimes child support might not even be enough. As a single parent, you are going to have to be frugal with your money. 

What to do: make sure that your ex-partner realizes their financial responsibility to the kids. Also, look for extra money earning opportunities. Perhaps offer to babysit, dog walk, or do admin for small companies on the weekends.

3. Decision pressure.

When parents are living in the same house and working on a family together, the responsibility of decision making is shared. This reduces the stress involved in making decisions that will impact on the lives of the children. 

What to do: don’t make spur-of-the-moment decisions. Get into the habit of making a list of pros and cons when decisions need to be made and try to consult with other parents on the right approach.

4. Working parent guilt.

There’s a common theme of working parent guilt among single parent groups. Single parents realize the security in working hard and long hours to support their family, but the long hours mean less time spent with the kids. This leads to feelings of frustration and guilt. 

What to do: try to set specific family quality time days aside. Even if it is just 2 Sundays a month that you go to the park for a picnic, make that a set plan. Make sure that you organize your schedule around set quality-time days, so that your guilt is less and your time spent with the children is secure and looked-forward-to.

5. Emotional overload.

Parenting is an emotional task, and doing it alone can amplify the emotions that you feel along the way. As a single parent, you will have to wade through the emotional ups and downs of parenting and trying to have a personal life at the same time. You can expect to feel overwhelmed on occasion and will need to learn to control your emotions, especially in front of the children. 

What to do: practice mindfulness meditation and try to emotionally prepare for the ups and downs that life will through at you. Talk to a close friend or family about your feelings and struggles. Talking can really help.

6. Limited “me time”.

Even parents that are still together struggle to find time for their own personal lives. As a single parent, that struggle can be twice as hectic. Running to and from school, entertaining the kids, ensuring homework and projects are done, ferrying children to extramural activities and back…. There’s a lot on the schedule. When is there time for you?

What to do: if you don’t make time for self-care and “me time”, you will not be able to give of your best to your children. While it is hard, you need to make time for yourself. Get a babysitter so that you can go out with a friend at least once a month. Ask the grandparents to care for the kids while you go to the salon or nail bar. You don’t have to check out for days or many hours from the family, but you do need to have some time that is just for you.

7. Overwhelming fatigue.

Parenting is like running a marathon. It’s rewarding, but it’s exhausting. As a single parent, you won’t have a co-parent to help with the cleaning, mentoring, running around, and helping the kids live their best possible life. Instead, you will have to find ways to handle all of the tasks, chores, and responsibilities yourself. Overwhelming fatigue is something that most first-time single parents experience. 

tired woman sitting on the bed near children's cot

What to do: make sure that you get enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition. A vitamin B shot every now and then will take care of your energy levels, and if you manage to go for a run or do some yoga a few times a week, your body will thank you for it. 

8. Opposing parenting strategies and techniques.

People become single parents for different reasons. If you are separated from your ex-partner, you might find that you suddenly have opposing parenting strategies and techniques. It’s important to have a united front with children when it comes to rules, lifestyle options, and discipline, but chances are that you will not always see eye to eye with your ex-partner on this. This can be frustrating and cause the children to disrespect one or both parents. 

What to do: make arrangements to discuss parenting roles with your ex-partner. Come to a consensus about how to discipline the children and handle certain situations. You should also both agree not to down talk each other in front of the children. 

9. Difficult holidays/vacations.

Going on holiday with the kids without a co-parent to help manage the chaos with you is going to be difficult. Of course, you cannot cancel family vacations going forward just because it is a mission getting it right. Prepare for the chaos and embrace it.

What to do: commit yourself to having a lighthearted and fun approach to the holiday. Ask for help from a family member or friend to go on family holidays with you. Consider going to resorts that offer all-inclusive family fun in one place. These resorts often include child care and security. 

10. Dating or meeting new people.

Dating as a single parent might seem like an impossibility. It will be hard, but it’s certainly not impossible. It’s not just the lack of time that will make dating difficult, but also the fact that you are out of practice and the fact that the children might act out if they feel you are trying to replace their mother/father with a new partner. This can be quite a difficult and emotional time. 

What to do: make sure that you don’t surprise the children with the idea of you dating someone else. Take the time to discuss with them the fact that you may have someone new in your life in the future and that it doesn’t detract from their other parent. Set date nights where you go and meet your date in a safe location (perhaps a restaurant). Take things slow and don’t just launch into new relationships. You have limited personal time – use it wisely. 

11. Handling of psychological and emotional issues of the children.

Children that have divorced parents often experienced psychological and emotional issues. They might think that they are the underlying cause of the break-up or miss the other parent and don’t know how to handle the new living situation. 

What to do: make sure that you talk to your children about the new living situation and reassure them that the issues you and your ex-partner have are unrelated to them. Don’t be afraid to see a family therapist or counselor, just to make sure that the kids are handling the new lifestyle correctly and that their emotional and psychological needs are met. 

12. Unsettled living arrangements.

As a single parent, you might have to share custody with your ex-partner. This could mean that the kids have to spend a certain amount of time at your home and at your ex’s home. The unsettled living arrangement can be quite distressing for children. They may become frustrated, upset, or start to act out. 

What to do: try to come to an agreement with your ex about the best possible living arrangement. Children in school should at least stay at one home for the duration of the school week. Try to work around the wants and feelings of the children as much as possible too. After all, you want them to feel comfortable and happy. 

13. Stress management. 

Managing stress as a single parent can be tough. There’s a lot on your plate, and it’s probably going to be very stressful until the kids leave the home. Prepare to be stressed – it’s unavoidable.

What to do: make sure that you take the time to practice some de-stressing techniques. Practice some meditation, yoga, exercise, and eat right. Stress is a killer – make sure that you take care of yourself so that you can give of your best to your children

14. Parental guilt.

As a single parent, you can rest assured that you will feel a big bout of parental guilt. Single parents work hard to keep juggling everything that needs to be done, and then on top of always having no time, you might feel guilty that your children don’t have both parents. Parental guilt is a real whopper for the emotions, so prepare for this one. 

What to do: be realistic with yourself about just how much guilt you should be feeling. Could you really provide a healthy and happy life to your children if you remained with your ex-partner? Probably not! It is important to ensure that you don’t overload yourself with unrealistic and unnecessary guilt. Speak to someone about the guilt you are feeling and get some reassurance about all that you are doing right. 

15. Heartbreak and a sense of loss.

When you embark on your journey as a single parent, prepare to feel a sense of loss. You won’t have a co-parent to share the heartbreaks and celebrations with, and that can lead to you feeling lonely or alone. A general sense of loss is something that a lot of single parents tend to feel, especially in the beginning stages. 

What to do: surround yourself with loving and caring people…whether it is family or friends. You don’t specifically need a ‘significant other’ to share these things with. A loving family is just as good. 

16. Social isolation.

As a single parent, your life is going to be very busy with the kid’s stuff. Your days will be planned minute to minute, and your plate is going to be overloaded with chores, tasks, and responsibilities. With everything going on in your life, there will be very limited time for a social life. The days and weeks will melt into each other, and before you know it, you won’t remember what adult company is like. This can be a real risk. 

What to do: try to make time to see a friend regularly. Also, make friends with the parents of your kid’s friends. This will make socializing a lot easier. 

17. Difficulties maintaining discipline in the home.

Disciplining kids as they grow older is a full-time job. Discipline can be particularly difficult, especially if your ex-partner has a different idea or concept of it. 

kids running around tired dad

What to do: be clear and firm with the children regarding discipline, rules, and way of life in the home. If the kids start to test the boundaries, be kind but firm. Make sure that you have a frank discussion with your ex-partner about how discipline will be handled in the home. 

18. Tendency to “helicopter” parent.

When you’re a single parent, you can spend a lot of time focusing on the children. The risk of becoming a helicopter parent is high. What is a helicopter parent? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a helicopter parent is: 

“a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children”. 

Lexico – Powered by Oxford.

Obsessing about doing everything just right could lead to you becoming overly interested and invested in your child’s life

What to do: take a step back and allow the children to take a certain amount of ownership of their own lives. Resist the urge to micromanage the children…allow them to make their own mistakes. This could take a bit of practice, but if you get it right, it will alleviate a lot of stress and pressure on both you and the children. 

Last Word

Life as a single parent is not going to be easy, but you can really make it a lot easier by implementing a few strategies and techniques to minimize the stress on you. Use the above 18 points to simplify your life as a single parent.

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.