A single parent is a parent who raises a child without another parent in the same household. Single parenthood may be a result of divorce, prison, the death of a spouse, adoption, or artificial insemination.
Being a single parent is not easy. The following suggestions may help your family:
- Provide a stable home and steady child care. Check out child care options carefully before you choose one. Try to avoid changing caregivers and making too many other major changes close together.
- Create a daily routine and try to stick to it 7 days a week. It helps to wake up and go to bed at about the same time every day and to eat meals together on a regular schedule. It also helps to pick your child up from child care at an expected time. At the same time, avoid being too rigid with rules and routines. Children need to learn that sometimes things do change. Find a healthy balance
- Plan regular visits with the other parent if possible. Staying in contact with the other parent, both by phone and by visiting in person, is usually in your child's best interest. Your child will do better if he knows that both parents love him.
- Discipline consistently. Be specific about what is OK behavior and what you will not tolerate. Notice good behavior and praise your child. Use methods such as time outs or job grounding when children misbehave. Do not bribe your child or try to buy the child's affection.
- Don't put your child in the middle. If you are raising your child in 2 different homes, don't ask your child to carry messages between parents. Don't ask the child to give you information about the other parent, or to choose sides in adult battles.
- Answer questions about the other parent briefly. Answer only the questions that are asked. If you have negative feelings about the other parent, talk them over with another adult, not your child.
- Spend time with your child each day. Try to spend some quality time with each child daily. Spending hours with your children watching TV is not quality time. Take at least 15 minutes a day to spend time with your child without any distractions. Sit down on the floor and play with younger children. With older children, take the time to sit down with each of them and talk about the day or their problems. This can be calming and reassuring for both parent and child.
- Start and keep family traditions. For example, make a holiday ornament every year with the year's events on it, have game night every Friday night, or make chili every Halloween.
- Set up a good support system. This is important for both the parent and child. It may include extended family, a consistent play group, neighbors, friends, or parenting groups. Organizations such as Big Brothers or Big Sisters can help provide another adult in your child's life. Raising children is not easy, and you need a support when you are frustrated or exhausted.
- Be active in your child's school. This helps you to meet other parents and have something to talk about with your child. Also talk with your child's teachers or school counselors about your situation. They can help watch for problems and support your child.
- Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself physically by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. Also, take care of yourself emotionally. Develop a social life separate from your child. This could include an exercise group, book club, or church group. These are also good sources for support.
- Be aware of your child’s feelings when you start dating. Dating can present different challenges, depending on the age of your child. At first, it may be easier on your child for you to meet your date away from home. Young children tend to attach easily to adults who spend time with them. Older children can feel jealous or threatened by someone with whom they must share their parent's time and space.
- Seek professional help if serious problems develop. Feelings of grief or loss are common after divorce or death of one parent. Individual or family counseling can provide support for both the children and adults.
- Explain your money problems. If the status of the family changes from a two-parent home to a single-parent home, finances are often affected. You may have to explain to your children that you need to cut back on expenses. However, your child should not be worried about money. It might be a good idea to talk to a financial planner or accountant for help.
Where can I get help?
Organizations and books are good resources.
Parents Without Partners International, Inc.
1650 South Dixie Hwy., Suite 510
Boca Raton, FL 33432
P.O. Box 68
Midland, NC 28107
In Praise of Single Parents: Mothers and Fathers Embracing the Challenge by Shoshana Alexander Houghton Mifflin, 1994
Mom's House, Dads House: A Complete Guide for Parents Who Are Separated, Divorced, or Remarried by Isolina Ricci Simon and Schuster, 1997
The Single Parent Family: Living Happily in a Changing World by Marge Kennedy and Janet Spencer King Crown Publishers, 1994
Single Parents by Choice: A Growing Trend in Family Life by Naomi Miller, Insight Books, 1992
The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father (e-book) by Thomas Herner Harbinger Press, 2002
Written by Patty Purvis, PhD.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-02-03
Last reviewed: 2009-04-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes
available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical
evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.