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Explore ways to conquer challenges of single parenting 

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Single-parent families are more common today than ever, but the realities of raising children alone are just as hard. As the sole breadwinner, homemaker, and role model of the household, the single parent has a lot on his or her plate. 

Here, we address some of the most common challenges that single parents face and advice for overcoming them. 

Juggling a Busy Schedule 

Between their own work schedule and kids’ school, daycare and extracurricular activities, single parents might feel like all their time is spent running around. As exhausting as it may be, no parent wants to cut out activities their child enjoys in favor of downtime for themselves. The solution, then, is to find ways to do more with less. Stacking functions is an effective strategy for optimizing time. For example, if a parent has to drive across town for soccer practice, she can use the time before pick-up to grocery shop, thereby saving time and fuel. Another option is to turn to other parents for support: If there’s another single parent at soccer, why not ask about splitting up the driving? 

In addition, staying organized at home goes a long way to relieving single parents’ stress. After all, no one enjoys coming home to a cluttered house and a list of chores at the end of a long day. Creating a system of organization makes basic upkeep easier and provides more time to relax and connect as a family at the end of each day. 

Creating stability in co-parenting 

Routine gives children a sense of stability and security, especially in the wake of a recent divorce. However, it’s hard to maintain consistency when custody schedules have a child bouncing from house to house. Custody agreements should consider which arrangement is best for the child, not just the parents. While babies and toddlers benefit from frequent visits with each custodial parent, older children struggle with constantly transitioning from one house to the other, and may prefer to spend longer stretches with each parent. 

The challenges of shared custody grow when you consider that each household might have different rules and parenting styles. For example, if one parent sends their child to bed at 8 p.m. but the other lets him stay up until 9:30, it could lead to unnecessary bedtime and morning struggle. Children do their best when expectations are clear and rules are applied fairly and consistently. Co-parents must come to agreement on rules regarding bedtimes, meals, homework, behavior, and appropriate discipline for their children’s sake, not just their own. The nonprofit Boys Town offers suggestions for rules that co-parents and their children can agree on.

Saving for the future 

Raising a child isn’t cheap, and doing it alone only makes it harder. Not only do single parents have to manage household expenses on one income, but they’re also more likely to have to pay for childcare. To make the most of a tight budget, single parents must track their income and expenses carefully to ensure there’s plenty to cover household bills as well as prepare for minor emergencies. 

Of course, a parent who only budgets for the next month or year is going to end up in trouble eventually. In addition to keeping the lights on and food on the table, single parents face the challenge of budgeting for college. 

While it may feel impossible to prepare for such a big expense when day-to-day bills are stress-inducing, putting even a small amount away can make a big difference. According to Vanguard’s college savings planner, putting only $50 a month into a 529 college savings plan from birth could amount to a $20,000 college fund at age 18. 

There’s no denying that single parenthood is difficult. Parents raising kids alone must make many personal and financial sacrifices in order to provide the best possible life for their children. 

However, as parents watch children grow under their leadership and mature into kind, responsible, intelligent adults of their own, they get the satisfaction of knowing it’s all been worthwhile. 

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