When people think of a single parent, most envision a single mom.
A young, single mom.
They’re not wrong: there are more young, single moms than any other type of single parent in the U.S.
But not all single parents are moms.
And they’re not all young.
Single parents can dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, or foster parents of either gender. There’s only one criterion a person needs to meet to be considered a single parent: they’re the sole legal guardians of the children in their home.
Also, some parents who are married or have partners might feel like single parents. They’re not included in the statistics, but we’ll include them in this post, because we understand what it’s like to parent alone.
We want them to know that while they may be alone in parenting, they’re not alone.
If they feel alone, we want them to feel supported on National Single Parent Day. We also want to express our support for a special category of single parents: single parents of teenagers.
What is National Single Parent Day?
National Single Parent day this year falls on Saturday, March 21st.
On Single Parent Day, we recognize single parents and everything they do. From the single mom working two jobs to make ends meet, to the well-off grandfather taking care of his grandchild for reasons unique to his family, to the single teenage dad finishing high school and planning to go to college, Single Parent day is a time to honor and support those who arrange their lives around taking care of the world’s most precious resource: children.
The Data on Single Parents
The 2016 U.S. Census reports the following facts about single parent families:
- There are 11 million single parent families in the U.S.
- Single moms make up 8.5 million of those families.
- Single dads make up the remaining 2.5 million families.
- Over the past 50 years, the percentage of children living with their mother only increased from 8% to 23%.
- Over those same 50 years, the percentage of children living with their father only rose from 1% to 4%.
Those statistics drive home a point we want all the single parent families out there to know and understand:
You are not alone.
There’s eleven million of you – and if you’re unaware, there are organizations out there whose sole mission is to support you. Skip to the end of this post if you want to see those resources right now.
First, though, we want to recognize a group of single parents we mentioned at the beginning of this post: single parents of teenagers.
Strength and Resourcefulness
We want to banish the notion that a single parent home is a broken or dysfunctional home, and that single parent homes are only capable of producing troubled teens.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Anyone raising a teenager alone faces challenges it’s hard to describe to someone who’s never been a parent or never worked with teenagers. Single parents of teens have to handle everything parents in marriages or partnerships have to, as well as all the other responsibilities of adulthood. This means single parents of teens have to:
- Trust themselves.
- Work hard.
- Make difficult decisions every day.
- Prioritize and make the best use of available resources.
- Create family and community themselves, sometimes out of thin air.
- Stay organized.
- Stay calm.
- Communicate efficiently.
- Play multiple roles: mom, dad, friend, disciplinarian, chauffeur, coach – to name a few.
- Go to bed last and get up first.
Teens who watch a single mom or dad do all that themselves learn important life lessons many non-single parents send their kids to coaches, teachers, or counselors to learn. That’s a distinct contrast to the idea that single parent homes are broken homes, or single parent families are broken families. If anything, single parenting – especially of teens – creates the kind of strength and resilience celebrated in our society.
That’s why we should all celebrate single parents on National Single Parent Day.
Help for Single Parents
We want to remind single parents what we said above. It’s a fact borne out by the statistics:
You are not completely alone.
A number of public and private entities exist to help you on a variety of levels.
Here’s a list of resources single parents can use right away:
The Single Parents Alliance of America is “dedicated to the purpose of supplying information about financial planning, advice, articles, information, and other services that may be useful and beneficial to single parents.”
Single Parent Advocate is a non-profit organization “committed to educating, equipping and empowering single parents with resources, practical assistance, emotional encouragement and social networking to better their lives, and those of their children.”
The Single Parent Resource Alliance Resource Center (SPARC) is similar to both The Single Parents Alliance of America and Single Parent Advocate: their mission is to help single parents.
Finally, state and federal programs single parents can utilize include cash hardship assistance (TANF), help paying energy bills (LIHEAP), help feeding infant children (SNAP), school lunch programs (NSLP), early education programs (Head Start), and assistance for women who are pregnant or have children under the age of five (WIC).
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.