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7 Keys To Successful Single Parenting

Single parenting arises when a mother or father takes on the sole responsibility of a child’s upbringing. Single parenthood can result from divorce, the loss of a spouse, or having a child out of wedlock.

Single parents often encounter more difficulties because they receive less support from the other parent. However, the good news is that seven strategies can help single-parent homes raise children with positive outcomes.

son and single mother

How to Raise Successful Kids As A Single Parent

According to a 1993 study conducted with 26 single-parent families, the following strategies can be used by single parents to raise successful children.​1​

Accept the role and challenges

Single parents in the study accepted the realities of single parenthood, such as less time for themselves and financial concerns. Despite these constraints, they maintained a positive attitude. 

Whether dealing with divorce or the death of a parent, these parents worked through their negative feelings without dwelling on self-pity. 

For example, being divorced or losing a spouse can be upsetting or even traumatizing. In the beginning, it is normal to feel angry or depressed. But after the divorce or death, these lone parents were able to work through and resolve their negative feelings. Divorced parents took responsibility for the failure of the relationship. Those who lost partners were able to move on while keeping their loved ones in their hearts.

Prioritize The Child

One of the most important things was that these parents made a conscious decision to prioritize a positive relationship with their children. Parents prioritize emotional support, daily routine, and quality time together before their own needs.

Use Consistent, Non-punitive Discipline

Instead of imposing strict rules, these parents encouraged good behavior through a democratic parenting style. This approach was particularly effective in fostering child development and mental health, earning the respect and trust of their children.

Use open communication

Open communication was a hallmark in these single-parent households. Children were encouraged to express their thoughts freely, building trust that positively affected their mental health. This openness extended to the child’s other parent, especially in cases of divorce, as well as teachers and social workers.

Encourage Individuality in a Supportive Environment

Parents encouraged their children’s individuality by allowing them to decide about activities and interests. This supportive environment was crucial for child development and was a great way to spend quality time together.

Make time for self-care

Despite time constraints, these parents found effective ways to care for their mental and physical well-being. They leaned on a support system that included new friends, places of worship, and community centers.

Create Special Rituals

Creating special rituals at regular times was another way these single parents bonded with their children. Whether it was a weekend morning breakfast or sharing household chores, these activities provided a safe environment for young children.

Single Parent Household National Statistics

In November 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau published its most recent findings on the structure of single-parent families in America.​2,3​

  • 10.9 million American families had a single parent with a child under 18.
  • 80% of single families are single-mother homes.
  • Two-thirds  (67%) of single families had at least one child under 12.
  • Half (51%) of the single families had at least one child between 12 and 17.
  • Twenty-three percent of children in single families under 18 live with one parent.

What is the most common cause of single parenting?

The most common cause of single parenting for fathers was non-marital birth (41%), followed by divorce (38%), according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2022. The most common cause of single parenting for mothers was non-marital birth (51%), followed by divorce (29%).

How many single parents are there in the United States?

There were 37.9 million single-parent households, 29% of all U.S. households in 2022.

What are the struggles of single parents?

Single parents, including single mothers and single fathers, often face more challenges compared to two-parent families. Here are some of the most common challenges single parents face.

Less Financial Resources

Managing money on a single income can be difficult. Bills, groceries, and quality child care costs add up quickly, and child support may not cover all the expenses.

Time Management

Finding time for everything is hard. Between work, taking care of the kids, and household chores, there’s often little time left for the parents.

Lack of Support

The absence of a co-parent means all parenting duties fall on one person. While friends and family members may offer some help, it’s not the same as having a partner to share the load. Single parents are more prone to parental burnout.

Emotional Stress

Being the only parent can be emotionally draining. Parents are the primary source of love and discipline for their children, which can be exhausting and stressful.

Social Stigma

The stigma around single parenting can lead to parents and children’s low self-esteem. The stigma has been perpetuated by research since the 1960s. Such research has primarily focused on the adverse effects of single parenting on children, such as dropping out, mental health conditions, physical health concerns, and financial hardships.​4,5​

Child Development

Worries about children’s behavior and development are heightened. The absence of a second parent can raise concerns about the child’s well-being.

Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a career while being a full-time parent is challenging. Job opportunities may be limited due to the need for flexible hours.

Legal Issues

Legal issues like custody arrangements and visitation rights can be complex and emotionally draining.

Health Concerns

Parents’ health often becomes a lower priority, leading to skipped medical appointments and neglected well-being.

Planning for the Future

Setting long-term goals, such as saving for children’s education or planning for retirement, becomes a daunting task when focused on immediate needs.


  1. 1.
    Olson MR, Haynes JA. Successful Single Parents. Families in Society. Published online May 1993:259-267. doi:10.1177/104438949307400501
  2. 2.
    Barrett K. Census Bureau Releases New Estimates on America’s Families and Living Arrangements. United States Census Bureau. Published November 2022. Accessed January 2023.
  3. 3.
    Press R. National Single Parent Day: March 21, 2022. United States Census Bureau. Published March 2022. Accessed January 2023.
  4. 4.
    Rumberger RW. Dropping Out of Middle School: A Multilevel Analysis of Students and Schools. American Educational Research Journal. Published online September 1995:583-625. doi:10.3102/00028312032003583
  5. 5.
    Fergusson DM, Boden JM, Horwood LJ. Exposure to Single Parenthood in Childhood and Later Mental Health, Educational, Economic, and Criminal Behavior Outcomes. Arch Gen Psychiatry. Published online September 1, 2007:1089. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.64.9.1089


    * All information on is for educational purposes only. Parenting For Brain does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician. *