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Single parenting: The challenges and the joys!

April 3, 2017

Parent Source April

Single parent. The phrase may conjure up many images in our minds, perhaps of a young mother with children who may be struggling to balance the demands of solo parenting. While that can be the reality in many cases, the face of single parenting has changed in recent years.

There are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 22 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21). Data indicate that the “average” single parent is a mother with one child who is divorced or separated, employed, and over the age of 40. While the majority of single parents are mothers (82%), the number of single fathers are on the rise (18%, as of the last U.S. census).

Parenting can be a challenging job no matter the circumstances, but for single parents the challenge can be compounded by doing everything alone. The biggest struggles identified by single parents include balancing multiple roles and responsibilities, bearing the financial cost of raising children and maintaining effective discipline—all the things that are necessary to nurture young children. Parents often feel overwhelmed and guilty about the sacrifices they must make along the way.

Despite the hurdles that must be overcome, there are joys that are unique to single parenting. Many parents report that solo parenting has led them to have very close relationships with their children. Single parents also find that they must develop new skills, such as cooking or home and auto repair, which leads to creating a sense of pride and competence. This can provide valuable role modeling to children, especially around gender roles. Children learn that daddies can braid hair and mommies can fix cars. Children of single parents are also more likely to further develop valuable skills like how to overcome adversity and gain a deeper sense of independence.

Here are some tips for happy, successful single parenting:

  • Make time for yourself a priority. Time alone or with other adults is critical to recharge your energy and fill your bucket.
  • Maintain consistent routines. Give your children a sense of stability and predictability by developing and maintaining routines and traditions that your family can rely on.
  • Create a “village” to help. Whether you rely on your child’s other parent, extended family members or friends and neighbors, have a support system in place to help you. There can never be too many loving, supportive adults in a child’s life!
  • Prioritize your time and activities. It’s OK to say no, both to helping with the PTO fundraiser and your child’s request to participate in a third extracurricular activity. Be conservative with the use of your energy and resources so that everything you do gets the best version of you.
  • Enjoy your children. Celebrate your family and your children and the love that you share!

This article was written for the April 2017 edition of Parent Source.