Co-Parent vs. Single Parent: There Is a Big Difference!

There are various ways to establish a compassionate home in the United States, as a range of factors are impacting the shifting dynamics of families.

According to the Pew Research Center, the share of children living with single parents in the US has been rising for decades accompanied by rises in births outside of marriage, divorces, and declining marriage rates.

As a result, co-parent and single-parent families are now more common than ever and often feature unique challenges and rewards. 

Sometimes a co-parent may feel like a single parent based on the dynamics of their relationship with the other parent, but are they one and the same?

Is co-parenting the same as single-parenting? No, co-parenting is different than single parenting. Co-parenting involves sharing the responsibility of bringing up a child after separation or divorce jointly with your partner. Single-parenting involves raising a child alone without the help or support of a partner or co-parent. 

Read on to learn more about what it means to be a single parent or co-parent, their benefits and disadvantages, and how you can be the best parent possible, regardless of circumstances. 

What It Means To Be a Single Parent

Being a single parent means raising a child or children alone without a partner.

The reasons for being a single parent can vary, ranging from separation or divorce to the death of the other parent or choosing to start a family on your own.

Children can thrive in any family structure, and many single parents provide loving and stable environments and relationships for their children. 

Being a single parent means combining the roles of two people with raising the children and running the house.

It can come with its share of fun and challenges, but difficulties can sometimes plague an individual as they deal with pressures that other families may not face.

However, single parenthood can also have positive effects and result in happy and healthy children. 

Benefits of Being a Single Parent

Raising children is very rewarding regardless of circumstances, but being a single parent comes with unique benefits.

Full Authority To Make Decisions

As a single parent, you’ll be free to make all the parenting decisions.

Although having someone to discuss day-to-day affairs with can be nice, it can also be stressful when every decision becomes an argument or compromise.

One benefit of doing it all alone is that you’re your own boss and can decide on matters affecting your children.

You can determine the school your child will attend, the friends they go out with, the food they eat, and other freedoms and restrictions your child will have. 

Powerful Bond With Your Kids

Being a single parent allows you to spend more quality one-on-one time with your kids, creating a unique and long-lasting bond.

You can give your children undivided attention since you don’t need to worry about focusing on the needs of your spouse or partner. 

Increased Independence

Doing everything on your own forces you to be self-reliant.

As a single parent, everything is on you from organizing childcare and paying the bills to taking the garbage out, cooking, and managing your child’s homework.

Instead of trying to balance out responsibilities with a partner, you must take care of all the duties of managing a home and parenting, which instills great independence. 

Peace at Home

Despite having its stresses, being a single parent can provide instant relief from daily arguments and make your home feel safer and more peaceful.

A harmonious home is necessary to raise happy and confident kids, but it may sometimes be elusive when dealing with a problematic partner. 

Your Kids Become More Responsible

Being a single parent means you handle almost everything by yourself, which soon rubs off on your kids, and they learn to be responsible for their actions at a young age.

The children take on more responsibility at home and become your little helpers and partners in crime, increasing their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. 

Disadvantages of Being a Single Parent

Being a single parent can be very hard at times as you struggle to fulfill two roles simultaneously.

Financial Burden

Being a single parent means you’re the sole earner in the household, and you can find yourself in a tight spot more times than you may like.

Statistics show that close to 30% of single parents live in poverty, compared to only 6% of married couples, with single mothers being more likely to be poor than single fathers. 

Stress

You’ll have many things to take care of as a single parent. Most single parents are forced to work long hours to cover basic family needs.

Navigating responsibilities alone with limited resources can lead to high-stress levels, negatively impacting your health and relationship with the kids. 

Loneliness

As a single parent, there’s no spouse to share your worries, challenges, or joys with.

You may crave adult conversation at the end of the day, and since you’re the only caregiver, you’ll rarely have time to go out and socialize. 

Problems Instilling Discipline

Children can sometimes be rebellious, and setting boundaries and disciplining your child can be challenging as a single parent.

Kids can manipulate you, test your limits, and even blame you for their situation, and you may have trouble disciplining them or setting clear rules due to feelings of guilt. 

Negative Effects of Single Parenting on a Child

Single parenting can be hard on the sole parent and the children involved.

Socioeconomic Disadvantages

Children of single parents are more likely to experience the consequences of growing up poor, including mental, physical, and behavioral health problems; contact with child welfare and justice systems; and employment challenges in adulthood. 

Lack of Community Resources

Limited resources often force single parents to move to neighborhoods with fewer community services and poorer schools.

With fewer resources for support, it becomes harder for single-parent kids to overcome their challenges. 

Loss of Supervision and Support

Supervision and support enhance a child’s well-being. Single parents often monitor their children less closely and know less about where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. 

What It Means To Be a Co-Parent

Being a co-parent means sharing the joint responsibility of bringing up a child after separation or divorce from your partner.

It involves putting aside your differences for the child’s best interests to ensure they have an environment where they can thrive emotionally, physically, and mentally.

Being a co-parent means working cooperatively with your ex and making important decisions about your child’s well-being together instead of alone.

Types of Co-Parenting

Every co-parenting situation is unique, but the following outlines the major co-parenting categories.

Conflicted Co-Parenting

Conflicted co-parenting is usually highly emotional and characterized by frequent conflicts and poor communication.

It’s the most harmful type of co-parenting to children and can contribute to more negative outcomes. 

Cooperative Co-Parenting

Cooperative co-parenting is conflict free and involves coordination, joint planning, mutual respect, good communication, sharing parental decisions, and collaboration.

It’s often difficult to attain but is the most beneficial for children.

Parallel Co-Parenting

Parallel co-parenting involves each parent operating in their own domain and ignoring the other.

They don’t interfere with each other’s parenting or make coordinated parenting strategies. 

Benefits of Being a Co-Parent

While it is certainly not always easy, being a co-parent does have its upsides.

Sharing Responsibilities

Parenting alone can be overwhelming, but as a co-parent, you can share the responsibilities of raising your child.

Reduced Stress Levels

Healthy co-parenting involves putting aside differences for the benefit of the children, helping reduce stress caused by conflict and contentions. 

Consistency

Co-parenting promotes consistency between your home and your ex’s and helps avoid confusion in parenting styles, rules, and schedules. 

Disadvantages of Being a Co-Parent

Even though you are not solely responsible for raising the children, life as a co-parent is far from perfect.

Disputes

You must make major decisions about your kids with your ex, which can lead to disagreements and conflict if they have different views. 

Lifestyle Changes

Being a co-parent can mean you must compromise and adjust your life to meet the other parent’s schedule and allow healthy co-parenting. 

Negative Effects of Co-Parenting on a Child

While co-parenting is often unavoidable, the negative effects on the children involved are real. 

Stress

Frequent conflict in co-parenting can be a source of chronic stress for children and can lead to issues like depression or anxiety.

Lack of Stability

Kids will need to move between homes frequently, and it can be challenging for them to adjust, especially if the rules and parenting styles are different. 

Is Parallel Parenting the Same as Single Parenting?

No. Parallel parenting involves separated or divorced parents co-parenting by disengaging from each other if they cannot cooperate to raise their children in a healthy environment.

On the other hand, single parenting involves raising your child alone without the help of a partner or co-parent. 

Single Parent vs. Two Parent Statistics

According to estimates by the US Census Bureau:

  • 19 million children below 18 live with a single parent in the US while 15 million live with two parents.
  • Close to 30% of single parents live in poverty, compared to only 6% of married couples.
  • Mothers head 80% of single-parent families.
  • Kids in single-parent homes are more likely to drop out of school than their peers in two-parent homes. 

How To Be the Best Parent Possible (Regardless of Circumstances)

You can be the best parent possible by always keeping the needs of your kids first, regardless of your circumstances.

Your children should recognize that they’re more important than the issues you face as a single parent or co-parent and understand that your love will prevail no matter what.

As long as you focus on the best interests of your children, you can manage much more than you realize.

Are Children With Single Parents Happy?

Yes. Studies show that children’s happiness is not related to family structure.

Children with single parents can be as happy as children raised in other family structures with the most significant impact being the quality of the relationship in the family. 

Can a Single Parent Raise a Successful Child?

Yes. Children do well when they have responsive, sensitive, nurturing, warm, and flexible parenting, regardless of the number of parents they have in their lives. 

Final Thoughts

Co-parenting differs from single parenting since it involves raising children with a former partner.

With single parenting, no co-parent or spouse is involved in raising the child.

Putting the child’s interests first ensures you can be the best parent possible regardless of the situation or circumstance.