Single Parenting

A single parent is a parent who raises a child without another parent in the same household. Single parenthood may be a result of situations like 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. Visit the child-care center or watch how the babysitter treats your child. Try to avoid changing caregivers at the same time you make other major changes.
  • Create a daily routine and try to stick to it 7 days a week. It helps if your child wakes up and goes to bed at about the same time every day, and if you 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, don’t be 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, by phone or email, or by visiting in person, is usually good for your child. Your child will do better if he knows that both parents love him.
  • Discipline consistently. Be specific about what is OK and what is not OK. Notice good behavior and praise your child. Use methods such as time-outs or job grounding when your child misbehaves. Job grounding means that you ground your child until he completes a job. Setting limits can be hard when you don’t have another adult to back you up. Don’t bribe your child or try to buy his 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 your 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 are angry, scared, or hurt by the other parent, talk it over with another adult, not with your child.
  • Spend time with your child each day. Spend at least 15 minutes a day one-on-one 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, their friends 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 you and your child. It may include extended family, a play group for your child, 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 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. Let your child’s teachers or school counselors know that you are a single parent. 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.
  • Remember that your child is still a child. Even when you are lonely or sad, don’t turn to your child for sympathy or treat him like an adult friend. Talk with your family and friends, or see a counselor.
  • Be aware of your child’s feelings when you start dating. Dating can be a challenge, 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. Your young child may get attached quickly to adults who spend time with them. This means that your child may get upset if you stop dating someone. Your older child may feel jealous or threatened if he has to share you with a stranger.
  • 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 you and your child.
  • Help your child learn about money. Going from a two-parent home to a single-parent home may mean less income. You may have to cut back on expenses. Explain about your finances, but try not to let your child worry. Find ways for your child to help, such as cutting out coupons before going grocery shopping. Give your child a small allowance to help her learn about spending and saving.

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Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-29
Last reviewed: 2014-09-29
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 healthcare professional.
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