Single Parenting is on the rise. One fourth of children under 18 living in the US live in a single-parent household.
According to a publication by the US Census Bureau, over 21 million children (approximately 26%) live in a single parent home. Of those, around 84% live with the mother and 16% live with the father.
Single parenthood may at first seem a daunting task, but rest assured that it can be a very liberating experience (especially if stemming from a tumultuous divorce).
Going from a two-parent to a single parent household can be difficult; the child now has two homes and is not with you all day every day. On the days the children are with you, you may find it tiring to care for them twenty-four hours a day without reprieve. Be sure to rely on family and friends to give you a break. Do NOT feel guilty about reaching out to friends, family or sitters if you need a break – everyone should have time to themselves; single parents are no exception.
Another challenge is going from a two-income household to a one-income household. Explain to your children, in an age appropriate way, the new limits of your household.
Benefits (Yes! There are some!)
As a single parent, you are responsible for all decisions regarding your children (divorced households can be an exception). The stress from a failing marriage is alleviated and you can develop a closer connection with your child. Your child can also benefit by learning responsibilities and other skills for later in life. On days your child is not with you, you will be able to explore your own interests and friendships.
Tips For Single Parents:
- Plan ahead for sick days by organizing a couple of back-up babysitters.
- Use extended family and friends for support and help (if possible) when parenting has become overwhelming or if you need a break.
- Make and use a schedule of chores, important events, and (yes!) even fun stuff to stay organized. Managing tasks and staying organized means less time for overload.
- Age appropriate chores are beneficial for both you and your child. He or she can learn responsibility while helping you in the day-to-day household tasks.
- Focus upon the benefits, like autonomy and less tension, of being a single parent, especially when coming out of a tumultuous relationship.
- Take care of yourself. You matter too. For your children's well-being and your own, you need to rest, get proper sleep, and de-stress.
- Do not treat your child as an equal. Do not confide in your children or expect emotional support from them. They are still children and you are still the adult.
- Remember, you are one person and you are doing the best you can. Keep your expectations - and the expectations of your children - realistic.
- Do not feel guilty for needing and taking a break. As a single parent, you may not get much ‘alone’ or ‘me’ time. Reach out to family members or sitters and take yourself on a date. A happy parent makes a happy child.
Your Relationship With The Other Parent (Joint Custody):
After a difficult break-up, it can be very hard to let go of anger, bad feelings and hurt, but in order to heal and do an effective job of parenting, you must let go. If you cannot let go of these feelings alone, please, seek professional help.
It can be hurtful to watch your child enjoy visiting the other parent, especially if you're the parent that's responsible for the day-to-day tasks. Remember that your child shouldn't feel guilty for wanting to see the other parent, so let them enjoy those visits as best as you can.
When they return, remember that the transition back to your house can be difficult for them as emotions run high. Allow your children some time to decompress from their visit.
Be as friendly and amicable at drop-offs and pick-ups as possible. If you find that you cannot, find a third party to do it for you. Meeting in a neutral place can help.
Ask and talk happily about what's been going on since they were gone and ask them about their time.
Don't use your children to spy on your former partner or carry messages between the two of you.
When dealing with shared visitation, keep your word to your children. If you have other arrangements precluding a scheduled visit, let the other parent know as soon as you do.
The better your relationship is with the other parent, the easier it is on the children. Try to be polite and respectful of the other parent.
Leave any disagreements or anything else that needs to be worked out for a time when you're not angry or hurt.
Respect the other parent's right to privacy.
Single Parenting Resources:
WIC (Women, Infants and Children): WIC provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
Modest Needs: offer grant programs designed PRIMARILY to assist individuals and families who generally are able to pay their monthly bills with no help from anyone, who don't qualify for conventional types of social or charitable assistance, and who are facing a financial crisis because they've encountered a single, unexpected expense they just can't afford on their own.
The Nurturing Network (TNN) provides an individually tailored program of support free of charge to mothers whose own support networks have let them down. The comprehensive support offered by TNN’s professional Staff and Volunteer Members includes specialized educational and employment assistance along with the more routine medical, housing and counseling services.
Catholic Charities: Catholic Charities agencies serve people of all faiths. They provide a wide range of services, including services for single moms and children: housing, emergency services, health care, child care, adoption, counseling, financial assistance, food pantries, and other critical services.
Salvation Army: help families and individuals with emergency food, housing, utility assistance and other temporal needs.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs: helps low income households, primarily in meeting their immediate home energy needs.
Ronald McDonald House Charities: The mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children
Medical Resources for Single Parents:
Insure Kids Now: information for each state about qualifying health care programs.
Find a Health Center: locator for federally-funded health centers that will provide care, even if you have no health insurance.
Medicaid is jointly-funded federal-state partnership administered by each state. Medicaid provides health care coverage to certain low-income people and families. Whether you qualify for Medicaid may depend on your age; whether you’re pregnant, disabled, or blind; your income and resources; and whether you’re a U.S. citizen. Each state has a unique set of eligibility rules and benefits covered. Call 1-877-KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669) or visit the website to see if you qualify.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance: helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get the medicines they need through the program that is right for them. Many will get their medications free or nearly free.
Child Care Resources:
Child Care Aware: free, federally-funded service, at 800-424-2246 to find a local CCR&R.
Head Start: administered by the Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Head Start promotes school readiness for children, ages three to five, in low-income families by offering educational, nutritional, health, social and other services.