Single parenting often comes with extra stressors. As the sole care provider, it’s hard to be available for your child’s physical and emotional needs 100% of the time. And when taking a break is rare to come by, stressors can compound one another.

However, there are ways to reduce and manage stress, as well as foster closeness with your child!


From infants to young children, our littlest ones thrive on a routine they can count on. Whatever your routines, your child can feel comforted by knowing expectations. It can also help create a calm atmosphere and provide opportunities for you to get needed breaks. Anything you do the same way at the same time every day can be a routine. For example, your children will know that after dinner comes playtime, book time, brush teeth time, snuggle time, and then bedtime. If the routine happens at the same time in the same way every day, they know what is coming next, and they can take pride eventually in telling you what comes next (rather than resist).


Even very young children ask for limits in the way they behave. Limits can make your child feel safe and give them freedom to explore within secure boundaries. As a single parent, setting clear and understandable limits can help you avoid spending too much of your time explaining and re-explaining rules to your child.


As a single parent you are the one always saying setting limits or saying no. Whatever you say, be consistent and follow through. Your child will form helpful habits and you can avoid disappointment and confusion. When you set a consistent limit, like “just three stories before bed”, and you consistently follow your limit, your child will argue less and you can enjoy more quality time together.


The day can get away from us when there’s work, meals, cleaning, bills to pay . . . When you are responsible for all of your child’s discipline and logistics, it can be hard to find time to play together. Make time every day to draw some pictures together, bake cookies, or build a blocks tower. It doesn’t need to be hours, just ten minutes consistently at the same time every day can put “money in the bank” in your relationship with your child.

Caring for Yourself When Parenting By Yourself

As a single parent, it may be hard to get a break, but breaks are not only important for you, but also for your child.  Taking care of yourself means you’ll be a more effective parent and a great role model for self-care.

Remember the basics — good food, sleep and exercise.

  • Park at the back of the supermarket parking lot to get in some walking.
  • Get your child to bed at a consistent and early enough time so you get some down time and still have time to get enough hours of sleep.
  • Use short cuts like buying pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables, shredded cheese, etc. if you can afford it.
  • Take walks or bike rides when the weather permits. Strollers and bike trailers are great for hauling young kids around.
  • Get active at the playground with your child: tag, climbing, jumping and dancing are all great ways to sneak in some exercise.

Set Up Support!

Everyone needs help. Getting some support will help you be a better parent.

  • Child care:
    • Have a trusted family member, friend or neighbor provide some child care. Even 30 minutes can allow a needed walk around the block or a quick child-free trip to the store.
    • Some communities have babysitting co-ops. Is there one in your neighborhood? If not, perhaps start one!
  • Errands:
    • Do you and your neighbor go to the same grocery? Make an arrangement to send a quick text if one of you is heading out. Eliminate the need for a trip just for a loaf of bread.
    • Some stores in your community may offer online grocery shopping. For a nominal fee, you can choose your items online, pay for them, and then pick them up at a specific time. At some stores, such as Fred Meyer, staff will even bring them to your car and load them up. It not only can save you time, but you can avoid the impulse buys and the occasional (and inevitable) meltdowns in the store. Or buy online and have it delivered to your home.

Building Your Own Community

When you build community, you help your child see the diversity of ways people can be. It builds compassion and empathy and provides your family with support.

Adult role models:

As a single parent, you may particularly want to develop other strong adult role models for your child. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, co-workers and others may be thrilled to be part of your child’s life.

  • Join a group. There are lots of places to meet parents – single parents and families of all kinds.

Single But Not Alone           

Embrace the rewards of being a single parent and find ways to deal with the stressors. Set limits and routines to create a calmer daily life. Spend time playing. Take care of yourself and get support from others. You’ll not only lessen the stress, but both your child and you will thrive.

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (  Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website ( or contact us at

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