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Tips for single parents
Parenthood presents enormous challenges under the best of circumstances. Experts give survival tips.
Families and finances

7 strategies for single parents

It's probably the hardest job in America and it doesn't pay a salary, but millions do it anyway. The job is single parenting. About 13 million one-parent households were counted in 2006, the last time the U.S. Census Bureau tallied them.

Adjusting to life as a single parent involves facing numerous energy-sapping challenges that may not have existed before your divorce or your spouse's death.

If you're a newly single parent, you'll have to come up with a balanced strategy that meets the emotional and financial needs of yourself and your family.

It's no easy task, but these tips may help you avoid burnout and realize your future goals.

Create a new roadmap
Create a road map for your new life

If you're co-parenting with an ex-spouse, you'll have to cultivate a relationship that is more organized than when you were married.

This can be difficult when one parent finds the divorce hard to accept, but it's a critical step in transitioning to something akin to a business partnership, especially when children are involved.

"It requires a certain conscious planning ahead in terms of how you're going to communicate with each other and what kind of schedules you're going to have," says Carolyn Ellis, author of "The 7 Pitfalls of Single Parenting."

In her book, Ellis advocates an even-keeled style of communication devoid of hostility or even negative nonverbal social cues, particularly when the children are present or within earshot. "Parents who demean the other parent to their children typically do it to foster a greater sense of loyalty to them. This strategy can backfire in the long run," she writes. "Making children choose a side between Mom and Dad is unhealthy for their long-term happiness and success."

Cultivating a business-like relationship with a former spouse is a good start, but it's also critical for you to develop a forward-looking self-image. 

Ellis, a certified divorce coach based in Toronto, says it's very easy to remain emotionally stuck if you don't have a new vision of your post-married life.

"Without that new vision, it's like trying to drive a car, but you're only looking in the rearview mirror," she says. "The most amazing opportunities could be right outside in front of you."

-- Posted: July 21, 2009
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