Single Parenting: Tips For Thriving
Studies show that the number of single-parent households has increased steadily over the past decade. As of 2022, nearly 24 million children in the United States live in single-parent families. Many single parents face challenges that are unique to their parenting situation.
Single parents may easily handle some of these challenges with the help of a support system, and some may be best handled independently. Regardless of any challenges, single parents are often responsible for their child’s mental and physical health and ensuring they feel safe and loved at home.
At times, these responsibilities could feel overwhelming. However, if you’re a single parent, there are resources to help you find ways to cope so you and your child may thrive together.
What Is Single Parenting?
A single parent is often recognized as someone who has children and cares for them primarily on their own, without a spouse or co-parent. People may become single parents for various reasons, including the following:
Separation or divorce
Becoming a single parent by choice by giving birth without a partner or co-parent in the picture
Adopting a child on your own
Losing a co-parent or partner to death or a breakup
Traumatic events outside of one’s control
In any case, being a single parent is not something to feel ashamed of. However, it can be normal to feel that way if you do. Support is often available for those struggling with their single-parent status.
Tips For Single Parents
Childhood development professionals have recognized several parenting styles, each influenced by moral beliefs, cultural influences, a parent’s childhood experiences, and family structure.
Like many parents, single parents may find their parenting styles change over time and within different circumstances. They may seek advice about parenting styles from sources on the internet, written publications, or other more “experienced” single parents.
While this advice may benefit you, every parent can be different. Advice that works for others may not work for you. Establish what works and avoid what doesn’t.
Ask For Support
As a single parent, you might choose to seek advice from social resources, such as:
Support groups for parents or single parents
Online groups or friends
Your spiritual or religious leaders or institution
Mental health professionals
A support system can be vital if you need assistance with domestic chores, rides to and from school, and appointments. Studies show that social connection can even improve your physical health.
Single parents may sometimes focus so much on their children that they neglect their personal and social lives. If this is the case for you, you may ask someone you trust to watch your child while you go to a movie, meet friends for dinner, play sports, or engage in a hobby with friends. You might find that time away allows you to resume your regular activities with renewed focus.
Many single parents also rely on a mental health professional as part of their support system. Speaking to a licensed therapist could help you put difficult situations into perspective and provide strategies for handling some of the overwhelming feelings often associated with being the sole caregiver of a child.
In some cases, co-parenting groups may exist. You might be able to sign up to co-parent with another single parent in a platonic or committed way to take some of the hardship off yourself. Although it may not work for everyone, some single parents by choice opt for this method.
Try To Keep A Routine
Single parents may sometimes feel concerned about providing a sense of safety for their children. Studies suggest that establishing a structured routine may help some children feel safer and more comfortable.
Communicating with your child about what your daily routine should look like could cultivate confidence and encourage them to participate in more household activities when appropriate.
Keep Up With The Latest Research
As the number of single-parent households rises worldwide, studies by professionals in mental health and child development may also. These studies could delve deeper into how a single-parent structure impacts children. Research studies online. You may find free scientific information through sources like Google Scholar.
Some online sources can be more legitimate than others. Look for resources written by experienced professionals with links to credible sources and do some fact-checking if the information doesn’t seem legitimate.
Your child’s pediatrician or mental health professional can also be beneficial resources for up-to-date medical information. Consult them with questions and concerns about your child’s mental and physical health.
Spend Quality Time Together
Spending time engaged with your child in activities you both enjoy may help strengthen the bond between you, cultivate healthy communication, boost their self-esteem, and develop positive behaviors toward others. Spending time with your child may also help you become more confident as a parent.
Single Parents Sometimes Need Support
Try To Be Mindful When Communicating
How you speak to your child may impact their development and sense of behavioral direction. Consider the subjects you bring up, especially for young children and babies who aren’t yet lingual.
Two studies cited in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology suggest that “children use vocal tones, along with other experiences, to guide and interpretation of prohibitions.”
Since many single parents are their child’s primary example of how to process information about rules, boundaries, and societal cues, try to stay as aware as possible of how you communicate.
If Possible, Ask For A More Accommodating Work Schedule
For many, being a single parent can require you to take on financial providing for your child individually. Working a full-time job and caring for a child alone may feel stressful. For some individuals, this could mean emphasizing how much time they spend focusing on work.
However, if you find that your work schedule conflicts with the time and attention you can direct toward your child, or it impacts your stress levels in a way that interferes with your mental and physical well-being, it may be time to consider changing your work habits.
Depending upon your individual needs, change may mean reducing your workload, working shorter hours, or taking more vacation time. Regardless of the solution, reaching a work-life balance that functions for you and your child can be valuable. Studies show that a healthy work-life balance can improve mental health.
Everyone’s work life is different, and you may not feel comfortable asking for such concessions. Try to use your best judgment when communicating with your employer. However, if you feel it won’t impact your work standing negatively, having a conversation about your schedule and workload could yield positive results.
Establish Mutual Respect
As a parent, you may need to assume authority often. For single parents, sometimes that means acting as the only authority in your household. It could feel challenging to stay balanced in that role under stressful situations. However, try to stay as mindful as possible of how you treat your child in those circumstances.
What you say, how you say it, and the type of discipline you enforce may impact the level of respect your child has for you and for themselves.
Find Ways To Grow Together
Children often look to their caregivers for cues on how to navigate the world around them, so many parents feel considerable pressure to avoid making mistakes.
However, pretending to be perfect may not help your child learn. Consider giving yourself room to make minor mistakes and teach by example. Your child may mimic your behavior.
Care For Your Mental Health
Encouraging your child to care for their mental health can be as vital as encouraging them to stay physically healthy. One possible way to do so is to lead by example with your self-care. Many single parents seek support from a licensed counselor to learn healthy self-care strategies for their own lives.
Suppose you find yourself often busy as a parent and sole provider. In that case, you may appreciate the accessibility and affordability of online therapy, which you can attend from anywhere with an internet connection.
A recent publication from the American Psychological Association quotes, “for patients who have never sought care from a therapist due to various barriers —including concern about being seen at a physical clinic—the option to obtain services online can be a port of entry into mental health care.”
If you want to try online counseling, try reaching out to a counselor on a platform such as BetterHelp, which has a growing list of professionals specializing in various areas of mental health, including parenting.
Effective parenting may require patience, a willingness to learn, and the acceptance of help from a support system. Whether you choose to reach out to a friend, family, or therapist, connecting with others can be a valuable way to relieve stress.
Additionally, leading by example in your self-care strategies may benefit your family and home life. If you want to learn more from a professional, consider contacting a counselor to get started.