How to Cope with Being a Single Parent

How to Cope with Being a Single Parent

Being a single parent is stressful, whether you've been doing it for a while or are newly on your own. It's tough to juggle being a provider while also managing a household and making time to spend with your kids, oversee schoolwork, and shuttle them to various activities and events. You're probably dealing with some difficult emotions too, so don't be too hard on yourself. Take it one day at a time and just do your best. There are bound to be bumps in the road, but you can get through them.

Method 1 of 3:
Handling Your Emotions and Stress

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1
Ask your support system for help. It can feel really overwhelming to try to handle everything on your own. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it. Reach out to friends and family and let them know that you need their help. Be specific in your requests so that you get what you need. [1] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source You might say to your mom, “I’m having a hard time getting dinner on the table each evening. Would you be able to bring over some meals we can reheat during the week?” If you need some emotional support, tell a good friend, “I’m really stressed. Do you have time to come over and talk after I put the kids to bed?” If you don't have friends or family nearby, try to find a support group in your community. There might be parents groups that you could join and maybe learn about other resources. Ask your pediatrician or staff at your kids' school if they know of any groups.
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2
Give yourself time to adjust. Learning to be a single parent is a big life change. Don’t expect it to feel natural right away. Be patient with yourself and understand that adjusting will take time. You don’t have to get everything right the first time. Keep trying different things until you find what works for you. [2] X Research source For example, you might find yourself constantly struggling to get the kids ready on time in the morning. It’s okay! Keep making adjustments until you find a routine that’s right for you. Maybe you’ll discover that packing lunches at night gives you the extra time in the morning that you need. Remind yourself that this adjustment will take time. Try saying, “I am doing the best I can and I’m learning as I go,” or something similar to yourself.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 3
3
Focus on your strengths. You will feel more confident if you remind yourself of what you are good at. Each time you feel a self-criticism creep in, replace it with a positive thought acknowledging your strengths. This will soon become a habit that will help you cope. [3] X Research source Try thinking, “I am really good at making my child laugh.” You could also think, “I’ve done a great job making sure the kids feel connected with their other parent.”
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 4
4
Concentrate on what you can control to avoid feeling overwhelmed. It’s normal to worry about things that are beyond your control. You might spend a lot of time wondering what happens when your kids are with their other parent, for example. That worrying is only using up your energy. Instead, focus on things that you can do to make life better for you and your kids. This will help on those days you feel extra stressed. [4] X Research source Plan to make a special dinner for when your kids return from seeing the other parent. That will let them know that you’re glad they are back and it will give you something productive to focus on while they are gone.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 5
5
Make time to give yourself a break. Being a single parent is really tough. Even when you’re pressed for time, it’s important to take time for yourself. Schedule time to do something just for you. Even if it is just 10 minutes a day, it can really help ease your stress. [5] X Research source If possible, arrange for child care and go do something that you enjoy. You could catch a movie or meet a friend for lunch. If you can’t get out without the kids, do something nice for yourself at home. This might be taking a bubble bath after the kids are in bed or getting up 30 minutes early to do some yoga. You could also make time to follow your favorite sports team or hit the gym.
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6
Schedule time with other adults to combat loneliness. Feeling lonely can be one of the hardest, scariest parts of single-parenting. You might feel isolated or like you don't have anyone to talk to. Those feelings are normal, but it's really important not to let them control you. Make sure to schedule a time to talk to another adult at least a few times a week. If you can meet in person, that's even better! [6] X Research source Try setting a weekly meet-up with one of your friends. You could grab a drink after work, or meet for lunch on your break. If you can't manage this, schedule a weekly time to talk on the phone or Facetime. Try a new activity to meet some people and give yourself some structure. Maybe take an art class or join a recreational sports league. You can do these things when your ex has the kids or you can arrange childcare. If your friend has kids, you can have the kids hang out while the two of you talk.
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Method 2 of 3:
Providing Stability for Yourself and Your Kids

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1
Find reliable child care. You can't always be with your kids, so you are going to need childcare. If you need daily childcare for small children, look for a daycare or nanny that suits your needs. Make sure that their hours fit your schedule and your budget. If you can’t afford those options, ask friends or family if they are able to help you out. [7] X Research source It’s also a good idea to have a reliable baby sitter that you can call when you’re in a pinch. Ask your neighbors if they know of any trustworthy teens in the neighborhood that you can call if you have to run out unexpectedly. If possible, try to work out an arrangement with your ex where you can help each other out when unexpected events pop up. If you can't afford childcare, look into daycare facilities near you that have sliding scales for payments. There might also be before and after school programs that are available at little to no cost at your child's school.
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2
Create a routine to provide stability. Kids thrive when they have structure. It might be tempting to relax the rules while you all adjust to your new normal, but sticking to a routine will actually make you all feel more secure. Set a schedule that works for your family and stick to it whenever possible. [8] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source This might include things like getting up at the same time each day, doing homework right after school, and eating dinner together at the same time each night. It’s okay to be flexible sometimes, too. If you decide to let your kids sleep in on a Saturday, that’s totally fine!
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 9
3
Spend quality time with your kids. When you’re a single parent, it’s easy to get caught up in everything that has to be done. That’s important, but it’s also important that you spend quality time with your kids. This doesn’t mean that you have to find hours in the day to do something special. It just means taking time to be present with your kids and to connect with them. [9] X Research source This could mean taking time at dinner to ask your child about their day. Don’t just say, “How was your day?” Be specific and try to draw your child out. You could say, “I know you were worried about that Spanish quiz. How do you think it went?” You could also find something special to do together. Maybe that means walking the dog together or working on a puzzle for 30 minutes each evening.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 10
4
Avoid giving your child too much responsibility. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and to lean on an older child a little bit. But that can actually lead to a lot of stress for your kid. Try not to add to their responsibilities, even if it would help you out a lot. It’s fine to have them do chores and help around the house, but don’t ask too much of them. [10] X Research source For example, it’s fine to have your teen help out by watching your younger kids. But don’t ask them to give up every weekend to do that. They need time to have fun, too. Don’t vent to your kids. It’s not their responsibility to try to help you emotionally. Lean on a friend or family member when you’re feeling stressed.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 11
5
Set limits for your child and enforce them. Your kids might be going through a tough adjustment period. It’s natural to want to indulge them. However, it’s best to give them boundaries to make them feel more secure. If they begin to throw tantrums, be gentle but firm. Remind them of the rules that you have and ask them to respect those rules. Don't be afraid to discipline your kids, even if it's hard for you. [11] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source Older kids might react by breaking rules. If they rebel by breaking curfew, for instance, give the same punishment that you would have given them in the past. That might mean taking away their phone or grounding them for a week. If your younger kids act out, you can take away some of their privileges, too. If they refuse to turn off the TV, for example, you can ask them to go think about their actions in their room. If your preschooler refuses to eat dinner, explain that they won't get to have any dessert. If you have a tough time with discipline, remind yourself that kids tend to thrive with structure and boundaries. You can also give yourself a little mental pep talk!
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 12
6
Talk openly to your child if they're worried about changes to their lives. Be mindful of the fact that this might be really tough on your kids, too. Let them know that you are there for them and that you are ready to listen anytime they want to talk. Allow them to be honest about what they are feeling and encourage open communication. [12] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source You could say, “How are you feeling now that it’s just you and me living here? Is there anything that you want to talk about?” If your child is constantly asking which parent will pick them up or put them to bed, work with your child to make a calendar that they can keep with them. They will always know which parent will be there, which should help address some of their worries.
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Method 3 of 3:
Dealing with Logistical Challenges

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1
Keep busy when your kids are with the other parent. You might feel really sad or stressed when your kids are with the other parent. Distract yourself by doing something productive or fun. You might look at this as the perfect time to run those errands that are so much easier without kids. Or you could go meet up with a friend you haven’t seen forever. [13] X Research source Try to look at this as a time that you have for you. It might take some getting used to, but you might find that you like having a little extra freedom every other weekend.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 14
2
Adjust your budget , if necessary. If you’ve recently split from your partner, you might be experiencing some financial stress. This can be one of the scariest parts of becoming a single parent, especially if the other person is not willing to provide much financial support. Go through your expenses and income and set up a budget that you can stick to. [14] X Research source Include items like rent, childcare, your car payment, and utilities. You should also include smaller items, like gas and haircuts, for example. Be honest with yourself about how much you are spending. It's okay to ask for help if you can't pay all of your bills. Do an internet search for rental support in your area or contact the utility companies to see if you can make late or reduced payments. There are resources available, even though it will probably feel really scary to look into.[15] X Research source
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3
Reduce your spending by making cuts to your budget. You might need to cut back on some things like take-out or vacations, which isn't fun but will benefit you financially. Unfortunately, you might have to make bigger changes, like moving somewhere more affordable. If you send your kids to private school, you might need to switch to tuition-free public school. [16] X Research source Try making budget-friendly meals. Buy items in bulk and consider cutting out or reducing meat in your household's diet.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 16
4
Look for a way to increase your income. If you have a job, consider asking for a raise. If you don't work outside of the home, you might need to start looking for at least a part-time job. You can look at websites that list jobs to get a sense of what sort of work is available in your area. [17] X Research source If possible, try to find a job that will allow for some flexibility in your hours so that you can handle unexpected things that pop up with your kids, like doctor appointments. If this feels like too much, ask an accountant or financial planner to help you get a handle on your finances. You can also talk to a lawyer about adjusting the amount of child support you receive. Try searching online for lawyers in your area who do pro bono work in family law.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 17
5
Arrange reliable transportation for your kids. One of the biggest headaches of a single parent is trying to get your kids where they need to go. Whether they have daycare, a playdate, or school to get to, try to reduce your stress by arranging a ride for them in advance. Keep a list of your kids' activities and commitments on your calendar. Look at it at the beginning each week and note the times you're not available to drive them. Reach out to your support system to get your kids where they need to go. [18] X Research source Ask your friends or family members if they are willing to help you out. You could say, "Taylor has a violin lesson after school on Tuesday. I can pick her up, but would you be willing to drop her off there at 3:30?" Reach out to other parents in your neighborhood to form a carpool. This can save everyone time if you take turns with school pickup and dropoff. There are even apps you can use to help with scheduling! Check to see if the school or daycare has transportation available. Those programs are typically pretty affordable.
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6
Consider your children when you’re ready to date again. If you’re feeling open to putting yourself out there, that’s great! It’s important for you to keep living the life that you want. Just keep in mind that it might be hard for your kids to adjust to your dating. It might be a good idea to keep that news to yourself until you are in a serious relationship. [19] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source It’s important to be honest, but your kids don’t need to meet people that you are casually dating. That might cause them unnecessary stress or confusion. This is a personal decision, so do whatever feels right for your family.
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Method 1 of 3:
Handling Your Emotions and Stress

Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 1
1
Ask your support system for help. It can feel really overwhelming to try to handle everything on your own. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it. Reach out to friends and family and let them know that you need their help. Be specific in your requests so that you get what you need. [1] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source You might say to your mom, “I’m having a hard time getting dinner on the table each evening. Would you be able to bring over some meals we can reheat during the week?” If you need some emotional support, tell a good friend, “I’m really stressed. Do you have time to come over and talk after I put the kids to bed?” If you don't have friends or family nearby, try to find a support group in your community. There might be parents groups that you could join and maybe learn about other resources. Ask your pediatrician or staff at your kids' school if they know of any groups.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 2
2
Give yourself time to adjust. Learning to be a single parent is a big life change. Don’t expect it to feel natural right away. Be patient with yourself and understand that adjusting will take time. You don’t have to get everything right the first time. Keep trying different things until you find what works for you. [2] X Research source For example, you might find yourself constantly struggling to get the kids ready on time in the morning. It’s okay! Keep making adjustments until you find a routine that’s right for you. Maybe you’ll discover that packing lunches at night gives you the extra time in the morning that you need. Remind yourself that this adjustment will take time. Try saying, “I am doing the best I can and I’m learning as I go,” or something similar to yourself.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 3
3
Focus on your strengths. You will feel more confident if you remind yourself of what you are good at. Each time you feel a self-criticism creep in, replace it with a positive thought acknowledging your strengths. This will soon become a habit that will help you cope. [3] X Research source Try thinking, “I am really good at making my child laugh.” You could also think, “I’ve done a great job making sure the kids feel connected with their other parent.”
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 4
4
Concentrate on what you can control to avoid feeling overwhelmed. It’s normal to worry about things that are beyond your control. You might spend a lot of time wondering what happens when your kids are with their other parent, for example. That worrying is only using up your energy. Instead, focus on things that you can do to make life better for you and your kids. This will help on those days you feel extra stressed. [4] X Research source Plan to make a special dinner for when your kids return from seeing the other parent. That will let them know that you’re glad they are back and it will give you something productive to focus on while they are gone.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 5
5
Make time to give yourself a break. Being a single parent is really tough. Even when you’re pressed for time, it’s important to take time for yourself. Schedule time to do something just for you. Even if it is just 10 minutes a day, it can really help ease your stress. [5] X Research source If possible, arrange for child care and go do something that you enjoy. You could catch a movie or meet a friend for lunch. If you can’t get out without the kids, do something nice for yourself at home. This might be taking a bubble bath after the kids are in bed or getting up 30 minutes early to do some yoga. You could also make time to follow your favorite sports team or hit the gym.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 6
6
Schedule time with other adults to combat loneliness. Feeling lonely can be one of the hardest, scariest parts of single-parenting. You might feel isolated or like you don't have anyone to talk to. Those feelings are normal, but it's really important not to let them control you. Make sure to schedule a time to talk to another adult at least a few times a week. If you can meet in person, that's even better! [6] X Research source Try setting a weekly meet-up with one of your friends. You could grab a drink after work, or meet for lunch on your break. If you can't manage this, schedule a weekly time to talk on the phone or Facetime. Try a new activity to meet some people and give yourself some structure. Maybe take an art class or join a recreational sports league. You can do these things when your ex has the kids or you can arrange childcare. If your friend has kids, you can have the kids hang out while the two of you talk.
Advertisement

Method 2 of 3:
Providing Stability for Yourself and Your Kids

Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 7
1
Find reliable child care. You can't always be with your kids, so you are going to need childcare. If you need daily childcare for small children, look for a daycare or nanny that suits your needs. Make sure that their hours fit your schedule and your budget. If you can’t afford those options, ask friends or family if they are able to help you out. [7] X Research source It’s also a good idea to have a reliable baby sitter that you can call when you’re in a pinch. Ask your neighbors if they know of any trustworthy teens in the neighborhood that you can call if you have to run out unexpectedly. If possible, try to work out an arrangement with your ex where you can help each other out when unexpected events pop up. If you can't afford childcare, look into daycare facilities near you that have sliding scales for payments. There might also be before and after school programs that are available at little to no cost at your child's school.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 8
2
Create a routine to provide stability. Kids thrive when they have structure. It might be tempting to relax the rules while you all adjust to your new normal, but sticking to a routine will actually make you all feel more secure. Set a schedule that works for your family and stick to it whenever possible. [8] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source This might include things like getting up at the same time each day, doing homework right after school, and eating dinner together at the same time each night. It’s okay to be flexible sometimes, too. If you decide to let your kids sleep in on a Saturday, that’s totally fine!
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 9
3
Spend quality time with your kids. When you’re a single parent, it’s easy to get caught up in everything that has to be done. That’s important, but it’s also important that you spend quality time with your kids. This doesn’t mean that you have to find hours in the day to do something special. It just means taking time to be present with your kids and to connect with them. [9] X Research source This could mean taking time at dinner to ask your child about their day. Don’t just say, “How was your day?” Be specific and try to draw your child out. You could say, “I know you were worried about that Spanish quiz. How do you think it went?” You could also find something special to do together. Maybe that means walking the dog together or working on a puzzle for 30 minutes each evening.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 10
4
Avoid giving your child too much responsibility. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and to lean on an older child a little bit. But that can actually lead to a lot of stress for your kid. Try not to add to their responsibilities, even if it would help you out a lot. It’s fine to have them do chores and help around the house, but don’t ask too much of them. [10] X Research source For example, it’s fine to have your teen help out by watching your younger kids. But don’t ask them to give up every weekend to do that. They need time to have fun, too. Don’t vent to your kids. It’s not their responsibility to try to help you emotionally. Lean on a friend or family member when you’re feeling stressed.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 11
5
Set limits for your child and enforce them. Your kids might be going through a tough adjustment period. It’s natural to want to indulge them. However, it’s best to give them boundaries to make them feel more secure. If they begin to throw tantrums, be gentle but firm. Remind them of the rules that you have and ask them to respect those rules. Don't be afraid to discipline your kids, even if it's hard for you. [11] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source Older kids might react by breaking rules. If they rebel by breaking curfew, for instance, give the same punishment that you would have given them in the past. That might mean taking away their phone or grounding them for a week. If your younger kids act out, you can take away some of their privileges, too. If they refuse to turn off the TV, for example, you can ask them to go think about their actions in their room. If your preschooler refuses to eat dinner, explain that they won't get to have any dessert. If you have a tough time with discipline, remind yourself that kids tend to thrive with structure and boundaries. You can also give yourself a little mental pep talk!
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 12
6
Talk openly to your child if they're worried about changes to their lives. Be mindful of the fact that this might be really tough on your kids, too. Let them know that you are there for them and that you are ready to listen anytime they want to talk. Allow them to be honest about what they are feeling and encourage open communication. [12] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source You could say, “How are you feeling now that it’s just you and me living here? Is there anything that you want to talk about?” If your child is constantly asking which parent will pick them up or put them to bed, work with your child to make a calendar that they can keep with them. They will always know which parent will be there, which should help address some of their worries.
Advertisement

Method 3 of 3:
Dealing with Logistical Challenges

Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 13
1
Keep busy when your kids are with the other parent. You might feel really sad or stressed when your kids are with the other parent. Distract yourself by doing something productive or fun. You might look at this as the perfect time to run those errands that are so much easier without kids. Or you could go meet up with a friend you haven’t seen forever. [13] X Research source Try to look at this as a time that you have for you. It might take some getting used to, but you might find that you like having a little extra freedom every other weekend.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 14
2
Adjust your budget , if necessary. If you’ve recently split from your partner, you might be experiencing some financial stress. This can be one of the scariest parts of becoming a single parent, especially if the other person is not willing to provide much financial support. Go through your expenses and income and set up a budget that you can stick to. [14] X Research source Include items like rent, childcare, your car payment, and utilities. You should also include smaller items, like gas and haircuts, for example. Be honest with yourself about how much you are spending. It's okay to ask for help if you can't pay all of your bills. Do an internet search for rental support in your area or contact the utility companies to see if you can make late or reduced payments. There are resources available, even though it will probably feel really scary to look into.[15] X Research source
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 15
3
Reduce your spending by making cuts to your budget. You might need to cut back on some things like take-out or vacations, which isn't fun but will benefit you financially. Unfortunately, you might have to make bigger changes, like moving somewhere more affordable. If you send your kids to private school, you might need to switch to tuition-free public school. [16] X Research source Try making budget-friendly meals. Buy items in bulk and consider cutting out or reducing meat in your household's diet.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 16
4
Look for a way to increase your income. If you have a job, consider asking for a raise. If you don't work outside of the home, you might need to start looking for at least a part-time job. You can look at websites that list jobs to get a sense of what sort of work is available in your area. [17] X Research source If possible, try to find a job that will allow for some flexibility in your hours so that you can handle unexpected things that pop up with your kids, like doctor appointments. If this feels like too much, ask an accountant or financial planner to help you get a handle on your finances. You can also talk to a lawyer about adjusting the amount of child support you receive. Try searching online for lawyers in your area who do pro bono work in family law.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 17
5
Arrange reliable transportation for your kids. One of the biggest headaches of a single parent is trying to get your kids where they need to go. Whether they have daycare, a playdate, or school to get to, try to reduce your stress by arranging a ride for them in advance. Keep a list of your kids' activities and commitments on your calendar. Look at it at the beginning each week and note the times you're not available to drive them. Reach out to your support system to get your kids where they need to go. [18] X Research source Ask your friends or family members if they are willing to help you out. You could say, "Taylor has a violin lesson after school on Tuesday. I can pick her up, but would you be willing to drop her off there at 3:30?" Reach out to other parents in your neighborhood to form a carpool. This can save everyone time if you take turns with school pickup and dropoff. There are even apps you can use to help with scheduling! Check to see if the school or daycare has transportation available. Those programs are typically pretty affordable.
Image titled Cope with Being a Single Parent Step 18
6
Consider your children when you’re ready to date again. If you’re feeling open to putting yourself out there, that’s great! It’s important for you to keep living the life that you want. Just keep in mind that it might be hard for your kids to adjust to your dating. It might be a good idea to keep that news to yourself until you are in a serious relationship. [19] X Trustworthy Source Mayo Clinic Educational website from one of the world's leading hospitals Go to source It’s important to be honest, but your kids don’t need to meet people that you are casually dating. That might cause them unnecessary stress or confusion. This is a personal decision, so do whatever feels right for your family.
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