Single-parent households are not unusual in the United States. The US ranks highest in the world for children living in homes with only one parent. But just because it’s becoming more common, parenting alone isn’t easy. Learning some helpful single parenting tips can make all the difference as you navigate this role.
At the bökee, we honor every parenting journey that exists. Because no matter how it looks for you, parenthood is tough. We invented the bökee to help bring some ease to this job, and we invite you to get one for yourself or anyone else who could use a helping hand.
A Look at Single Parenting in America
The number of single-parent households is rising in the US and worldwide. America tops the list, with about 30% of all US households having a single parent at the helm. Studies in recent years have examined many factors surrounding sole-parenting to find interesting statistics and trends.
- Most single-parent families have a mom as the head of household. But there are more than three million homes with single dads steering the ship.
- In the US, single-parent homes are about equally likely to be Christian as unaffiliated with a religion.
- Just over half of single-parent mothers have never been married. For single dads, the number is about 36%.
Regardless of how common it is, single parenting still carries an unfair stigma in the US and much of the world. But here at the bökee, there is no shame or blame. We celebrate and support families in every size, shape, or configuration.
Parents have it hard enough without external judgment. So for all the solo parents out there and in honor of National Single Parent Day on March 21, here are five of our top single parenting tips and life hacks.
1. Establish Routines
Children thrive on consistency and predictability for a lot of their care. But keeping that consistency in place when you are the sole caregiver can be overwhelming. As much as possible, set and follow some basic routines that can keep things calm for you and your child.
Having routines doesn’t mean you have a perfectly-tuned schedule that never falters. Instead, it means you have some parameters in place that your child can rely on, and you can fall back on when parenting alone.
Here are a few routines to consider establishing to help streamline your family’s days:
- Meal Preparation - Whether it’s batch cooking or getting lunches packed the night before, find ways to prep some of your family’s food ahead of time. Even just cooking some hard-boiled eggs and washing a bunch of grapes one afternoon will ensure you have a few quick and nutritious snacks to grab for yourself or to use for breakfast when everyone is in a hurry.
- Morning and Bedtime - As much as possible, set routines around sleeping and waking for the whole family. This area is one where consistency is essential and helpful. Proper sleep is crucial for good health and optimal school and work success. Set shut-off times for screens and devices for you and your children. Younger kiddos especially thrive on a bedtime routine, even if it’s short and simple. Whenever possible, include some reading time with your child at bedtime, too.
- Homework - If you have school-age children, you likely deal with homework. Help your child set and follow a consistent routine when they come home from school that allows them some downtime to decompress and helps them finish their homework. And work with them on always putting their school things in the same place each day, gathering what they need the night before, so there are fewer emergencies in the morning.
2. Embrace Free and Low-Cost Activities
Let’s be honest. Raising children is unbelievably expensive and can be financially difficult for two-parent homes. But single-mother households have about half the median income of married households. This fact can place a significant financial strain on many moms and the families they are raising. And it can be challenging to find help alleviating this burden.
One of the best single parenting tips is to take advantage of community events and opportunities that are free or low-cost. Libraries usually have great lineups for kids and families. And many also have free passes you can check out to use at local attractions. For example, the Washington County libraries in Oregon offer no-cost Cultural Passes that patrons can reserve for everything from a water park to botanical gardens.
Local high schools typically have free concerts and low-cost theater productions each fall and spring. Community organizations often present dances and other cultural activities throughout the year.
Any parent can benefit from finding these budget-friendly options. But single moms and dads definitely deserve to enjoy some financial relief.
3. Accept Help
Raising a family is hard under ideal circumstances, whatever those are. And it almost always requires having a village of support around you. When you are solo parenting, seeking and accepting help is even more crucial.
There are many big and small ways to receive support as you parent by yourself:
- Arrange a childcare swap with a friend to have some hours to yourself. Use the time to rest, grocery shop by yourself, or whatever feels supportive.
- Say “yes” when someone offers to bring a meal or groceries. Even if there isn’t a financial need, having a nourishing meal delivered is a huge gift!
- Join local Facebook groups to connect with other single parents. You can develop a network of people who can offer help when needed and who you can support when possible, too.
- Look into programs through the school district. For example, your child may qualify for free or reduced lunch. This one program can remove a significant financial and time burden from your plate. And even if you don’t take advantage of the meals, when a child qualifies, they often are eligible for other benefits like free participation in athletics.
4. Take Care of Your Health
When you’re the sole provider for your household, your health and wellness need to take center stage. It’s easy to put all of the kids’ medical appointments first, but they need you to stay healthy.
As tricky as it is to find the time for all of your checkups, it’s critical that you do. Preventive care can help identify and address potential concerns while they are more easily treated.
And don’t forget about your mental well-being. Self-care can be as simple as going for a walk around the block for a few minutes or splurging on a latte that you wouldn’t usually buy for yourself. It also includes seeking the support of a mental health professional when needed. You don’t have to be in crisis to get counseling. It can be a form of preventive care, too.
Your children need you to be as well and strong as possible, so putting your health first is really an act of love toward them.
5. Give Yourself Grace
This one may be the most crucial single parenting tip. You are one person, not two. As much as you want and try to fill the roles of two parents, you are still one individual.
Give yourself the grace to parent your children the best way you can with the support and systems you have available. If you need to rely on grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner several nights in a row, who cares? If you can’t make it to every parent-teacher conference or soccer game, that’s fine! If you lose your cool and yell at the kids, apologize and move forward. It happens.
Loving your children also means loving yourself, so allow yourself to acknowledge the hard work you’re doing. Be aware of all the things that go well, big or small. You’re doing this parenting thing, day by day, and here at the bökee, we celebrate you!