On Your Own: Being a Good Single Parent

Many parents are single. This may be by choice, a partner's death, divorce, or being left. Raising a child alone is no easy task. Even so, you can provide a happy, healthy life for your children.

Being a single parent can feel lonely at times. You may feel grief, anger, hurt, guilt, depression, or fear. There may be added stress from money problems and hectic schedules.

Your children may have many of the same feelings. They also face the normal issues of growing up. They need time and support from family and friends. This is especially true for children who lost a parent through death or divorce.

How you handle the challenges will impact your child. Here are some tips:

Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is good for you and your children. Be sure to:

  • Eat well and get plenty of rest. Try to squeeze in some exercise every day—even a short walk.
  • Ask for help from family and friends. Do not try to do everything yourself.
  • Build a support system. Reach out to other single parents. Arrange play dates for the kids. Join a church or support group
  • See a counselor if you have problems coping.

Try to Be Hopeful

It is important to feel your grief, anger, and other painful emotions. However, try not to get stuck in them. Children usually follow their parent's lead. If the parent feels like a victim, the children may too. Even though it is hard, work on being positive. It will likely help your child feel more hopeful.

Help Your Child Cope With Changes

Parents' divorce or the loss of a parent changes children's lives. They often need help coping with these changes. However, parents are dealing with their own feelings and changes. They may have little left to support their children.

Changes may involve moving or staying with a different parent. The child may need to adjust to a new area, friends, and school. Children often worry about the other parent. Younger children may regress to earlier behaviors. Examples are thumb sucking, temper tantrums, or clinging to blankets. Older children may feel fearful and angry.

Change is difficult. Give children time, patience, and attention. They need help adjusting. Let them speak openly about how they feel.

Here are some other ways you can help your children:

  • Make a routine for your children, especially if they are young. This includes chores, bedtimes, mealtimes, and other activities. Routines help make life feel more stable.
  • Create family fun. Play music, dance, and be silly. Share laughs with the kids.
  • If your child has problems coping, consider seeing a family therapist.

Take Time to Talk

A parent often tries to shield children from more hurt or worry. This often leads to poor communication.

To model good communication:

  • Let the children know that your pain or problems are not their fault.
  • Listen and ask questions.
  • Look for opportunities to talk.
  • Be honest with your feelings.

Single parents can raise strong, respectful, confident children. Be open and willing to learn. Feel the joy of raising happy, healthy children.

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
http://www.aacap.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Mental Health Association
http://www.cmha.ca
Canadian Psychological Association
http://www.cpa.ca

References:

Being a single parent. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/being-a-single-parent/. Accessed October 22, 2021.
Children and divorce. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-and-Divorce-001.aspx. Accessed October 22,2021.
Surviving your new role as a single parent. Single Parent Center website. Available at: https://www.singleparentcenter.net/newly-single-parent/. Accessed October 22, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/22/2021

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