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Parenting solo: How single parents deal with stress and mental health
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how single parents deal with stress and mental health

Taking care of children with two parents is hard. However if the job is put on one person then the situation can be fraught with anxiety, financial difficulties and strenuous time management. Many single parents have successfully raised a child without help. If an individual must parent a child alone though, there are specific issues that may appear as a result.

A study in 2013 from the University of Otago Wellington found single mothers experiences higher levels of stress compared to partnered parents. The research was conducted with 4,860 partnered and 905 single parents. Researchers discovered that the single mothers fared much worse than single fathers in terms of mental health terms.

Up to 16 percent of single mothers reported high or very high levels of psychological distress compared to only nine percent of single fathers, six percent of partnered mothers and four percent of partnered fathers. Additionally, the study showed 43 percent of single mothers experienced high socioeconomic deprivation compared to 23 percent for single fathers who were more likely to be in paid employment. Sunny Collings who was a lead researchers of the study and is the UOW Dean Professor pointed out three of the most striking gender differences that were potentially relevant in explaining the poorer mental health of single mothers: being more likely to have a pre-school age child, being unemployed, and socio-economic deprivation.

Whether an individual is male or female, it is clear that single parenthood can present some stressful challenges which can affect their mental health. The list includes:

  • Job pressures – In terms of the cost of raising a child, a two-parent family will spend roughly $12,800 – $14,970 per child per year with the total amount varying based on  factors such as the child’s age, the number of children in the family and the family’s income and location. Single parents must deal with having a one income household. This means there’s increased pressure on the breadwinner to “bring home the bacon.” If the parent loses his or her job or gets injured and is without paid leave, then this could add even more anxiety to the situation
  • Inevitable emergencies – Eventually, a child will get sick or injured and will need supervision. Keeping track of a child while working can prove difficult. While relatives or babysitters can help with the situation, emergencies still happen. The worse the emergency, the worse the expensive and the worse the stress
  • Trying to find personal time – “Single parents tend to be helicopter parents because we feel guilty,” says Stacie Martin, a Dallas-based, single parent advocate. “We tend to take care of everything, to make up for our family structure, rather than finding balance.” Finding a balance can be difficult as parents try to figure out how much personal time is too much or too little for their child. It can be a see-saw between the worry of being a helicopter parent or being neglectful.
  • Child Care – This can be an ongoing problem for single parents on a tight budget. Babysitters or nannies can be a large cost they can’t be afforded. Some parents may be able to enlist relatives and friends to help out on a daily basis, others may not have this opportunity. This can cause stress as single parents try to balance money, personal time and making sure their child is taken care of when they work.
  • Delaying personal pursuits – Pursuing education or betterment in one’s career can end up being put on the back burner for single parents. The same goes for romantic pursuits, time with friends, time for hobbies and even setting aside time for necessary personal care such as therapy.

Looking at the statistics, it’s clear that single parenting is not easy. The mental health of both parents and children are at stake. If it is needed, seeing a mental health professional can help the parent take care of themselves mentally which will benefit both the parent and child. This is why Sovereign Health of Arizona is an important resource for those feeling burdened by the stresses of difficult situations. Those in charge of another human being can feel the pressure on a regular basis, leading to anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. For those dealing with mental health disorders or possible substance abuse, you can find help with Sovereign. To learn more you can call (866) 598-5661 to speak to a member of our team.

Written by Nicholas Ruiz, a Sovereign Health Group writer

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