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7 Key Ingredients To A Successful Single Parent

| Single Parent Challenges | How to Raise Successful Kids As A Single Parent |

Single Parent Household National Statistics

In Nov 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau released the latest data on single-parent family structures.

It found that

  • 10.9 million American families had one parent with a child under the age of 18.
  • 80% of them are single-mother homes​1​.
  • Two-thirds  (67%) of them had at least one child under the age of 12.
  • Half (51%) had at least one child between the ages of 12 and 17.
  • Twenty-three percent of children under the age of 18 live with one parent​2​.
single parent mother and son

Single Parent Challenges

Single parents face challenges more than married parents. For example, there is usually less help in sharing parental duties.

One of the issues, in particular, associated with single-parenting is stigma. 

Since the 1960s, research and studies have often focused on the negative aspects of single parenting. They have linked the single-parent status to children’s outcomes such as dropping out​3​, mental health conditions​4​, physical health concerns, and financial hardships.

Such research has perpetuated the negative societal stereotypes of single-parent families.

A few researchers set out to change this. Two of them were Myrna R. Olson and Judith A. Haynes.

How to Raise Successful Kids As A Single Parent

Both Olson and Haynes have raised children as single parents, one after a divorce and the other after the death of a spouse.

In 1993, they interviewed twenty-six single parents who had successfully met the challenges of single parenting to identify what made these families strong.

While these in-depth interviews may not reflect every single parent or cover all successful parenting strategies, they can provide a glimpse into the bigger picture.

In this study, “successful” single parents were identified by qualified professionals as those who displayed a positive attitude and appeared competent in their parental roles​5​.

Here are the common themes of these single families.

Accept the role and challenges

The parents accepted the difficult aspects of single parenting, such as less personal time, social life, family income, and other financial resources, while still displaying a positive attitude toward life.

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.

Despite the difficult circumstances and initial anger, they did not dwell on bitterness or self-pity.

These parents bore positive attitude toward parenting and life in general. As they assumed their new roles, they sought solutions.

Prioritize The Child

Their relationships with children were the priority of these parents.

Their love for their children was evident. As they talked about them, they showed a sense of pride, warmth, and compassion.

They sacrificed their time, money, and energy without regret to be the best possible parents.

Use Consistent, Non-punitive Discipline

Despite initially struggling in discipline, the parents did not want to use the same intergenerational approaches they did not respect.

Rather than imposing a strict discipline, they empowered their children and provided consistency at the same time.

This democratic style of parenting earned them trust and respect from their children.

Use open communication

At home, there was no restriction on topics, feelings, or thoughts. Children were encouraged to express themselves freely and honestly since early childhood.

When trust was built through non-punitive discipline, children were not afraid to express their needs, thoughts, and concerns.

Open communication was not limited to their children. Divorced parents also maintained communication with their spouses regardless of the shared parenting arrangements or the living arrangements of children. Despite their conflicts, they were able to prioritized the needs of their children.

Additionally, parents communicated openly with teachers and child care providers about the family situation to provide their children with extra support.

Encourage Individuality in a Supportive Environment

Through cultivating their interests and skills, parents nurtured children’s individuality and independence.

The children could pick sports or activities according to their interests, not those of the parents.

Members of a family are supportive of one another in their choices as well as in the issues they face in their everyday family life.

Make time for self-care

Parents recognized the importance of their own wellbeing and made time to take care of themselves.

In spite of their lack of time as single parents, they reduced parental stress through adequate levels of physical, spiritual, emotional, or social activities.

Their strategies included friendships, exercise, extended families, romantic partner, counseling, and religious affiliation.

Create Special Rituals

In these single-parent families, parents generally created special rituals and traditions to spend time with their children.

These rituals could be daily, weekly, or seasonal routines.

For instance, some families had picnic breakfasts on weekends and others prepared dinner together daily. Or they might cook a special dish on holidays.

Final Thoughts On Successful Single Parenting

There are many challenges associated with single parenting, including time constraints and financial strains. These issues can have a significant impact on distress levels, resulting in adverse health effects.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are facing difficulties.


  1. 1.
    Barrett K. Census Bureau Releases New Estimates on America’s Families and Living Arrangements. United States Census Bureau. Published November 2022. Accessed January 2023.
  2. 2.
    Press R. National Single Parent Day: March 21, 2022. United States Census Bureau. Published March 2022. Accessed January 2023.
  3. 3.
    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
  4. 4.
    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
  5. 5.
    Olson MR, Haynes JA. Successful Single Parents. Families in Society. Published online May 1993:259-267. doi:10.1177/104438949307400501

About Pamela Li

Pamela Li is a bestselling author. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Parenting For Brain. Her educational background is in Electrical Engineering (MS, Stanford University) and Business Management (MBA, Harvard University). Learn more


    * 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. *