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Struggles with Single Parent Families and Shared Custody

struggles with single parent familiesThere are many struggles with single parent families which are unique, especially if the estranged mom or dad is still in the picture!

Having two parents in a family gives them the opportunity to share the load and the burden together, and when things get too much you have the opportunity to sit and talk with someone who understands your situation. For single moms or dads this is not the case.

Key Struggles with Single Parent Families and Shared Custody


One of the key problems has to do with shared custody, because sometimes your ex-partner is not going to share the same values and concerns that you have. In many cases, the kids are used as a pawn in an elaborate family game where parents try to use each child to attack their former partner.

This is common behavior but it is very unfair on the kids and also on the adults. If you are parenting your family and want to do a great job despite the separation, here are some key struggles with single parent families and shared custody that you need to consider…

Different values
It is common in shared custody that each of the parents have different values when it comes to bringing up the family. One might be stronger on discipline while the other is very lax, or one might prefer junk food where the other insists on eating healthy.  Financial differences can also be a source of friction. These differences can take a happy family and cause them to turn on each other, and the pressure is greater if you are estranged.  The best advice is to sit with your ex-partner, decide to help one another in the family and talk each family problem through, so that even if you don’t get on well with your ex-partner you can at least present a united front on key ethical and behavioral situations within in the family.

Fun Parents and Boring Parents
Very often in shared custody situations the adult who does not have the children (often the father) has the opportunity to make each moment count and have fun with the kids, whereas the primary care giver (often the mother) has to indulge in more mundane day to day activities with the children. Whichever category you are, it is important that you do not paint yourself as the fun one and your ex-partner as the boring or strict one! Your goal may be to earn a few brownie points by doing this in the short term, but in the long term your behavior will be exposed for what it is and the children will lose respect for.

Manipulating Behavior in your Child
Your children are born with an innate, genetic  ability to become master manipulators, and this is especially one of the key struggles with single parent families. A child is an expert at playing one of the parents off against the other in any family situation, and this is especially true when the parents are against one another. The only way to combat this behavior is to talk it out with your ex-partner and make sure that neither of the parents are manipulated by any child. Be wary of comments like, “Dad always lets me do this,” because if you have a difficult relationship your child knows that you will have difficulty testing the validity of this statement.

It is possible to have a stable, productive and successful family, even if is custody related stress involved. The key point is that, no matter what you think of your former partner, you need to open channels of the dialogue between you, for the sake of the children and especially for the sake of their character development.

You will face unique behavioral struggles with single parent families, but if you work together you will be able to overcome them, always put the child and their social or emotional development first, and bring up fantastic children, even if the parents are not together.

About Julie

Julie is a single mother who understands how hard it is to make it as a single parent. Single parent families can be challenging, but then they also can be incredibly rewarding and satisfying. Julie hopes to use her understanding of the special needs of singles to help them become wonderful, supportive and ultimately successful for both the parents and the children.

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