Advice on Raising Girls for Single Mothers

by Ava Lee

    Raising a child on your own is a challenge. Many single moms are often their child’s sole support. Even if your ex-husband helps financially, just dealing with him can cause additional problems and stress. After a full day’s work, you have chores around the house to do, errands to run and homework to supervise. Simply finding time to spend with your child is often difficult. If your child is a girl, you are often confronted with an entire set of challenges.

    The Pew Research Center reports that in 2008, a record number of births were to unmarried women -- four in 10 births, or 41 percent, were to single moms. In contrast, in 1998, only 28 percent of births were to a single mother. In 2008, only 64 percent of children lived with married parents, according to the center's research, so the majority of children in the United States live with only one parent.

    Your daughter needs to know that you love and support her in everything she does. Praise her often. Set aside a special time every day for just the two of you. Watch movies with her, read together, go shopping or just chat about anything she wants to talk about. Express a genuine, consistent interest in your daughter and her concerns and activities.

    Mayo Clinic says maintaining specific routines in your daughter's life -- mealtimes and bedtimes -- helps her have structure and feel more secure. Set limits and establish rules and regulations for your entire household. Let her know what is expected of her and enforce the house rules. Don’t give her unlimited access to television or computer; follow the recommended age-appropriate limits.

    Usually, your best caregiver is a member of your family. Ask for help from your parents, grandparents, siblings and other close family members. If they aren’t available, ask your church community or your friends, neighbors or even her friends' parents. Find a reliable daycare and consider carpooling with other parents.

    If her dad is not in your daughter’s life, try to find a positive male role model -- your brother, cousin, teachers, pastor -- even males in the media. Establish friendships with as many men as possible and maintain them, which will demonstrate to her that men are capable of long-lasting relationships. Additionally, Dr. Phil warns that you shouldn't bash men in front of your daughter, even if you have had a bad experience.

    Mayo Clinic says single moms should try to maintain a healthy, positive attitude, despite the challenges of single motherhood. As you deal with the problems of childcare, finances, loneliness and everything else, remember that you are your daughter’s primary role model. Writing in "The Atlantic," the successful daughter of a single mother says that watching her mother's example taught her: “Perseverance, perspective, determination, the need to clean up your own messes and confront your own problems, no matter how difficult. Above all, resilience.”

    In a study in “Psychology Today,” researchers said that the kids of single-parent homes typically turn out as well as those from other types of households -- adoptive, two-parent, stepmother or stepfather -- in areas such as interpersonal relationships and grades. Studies indicate that grades and relationships depend more on a lack of conflict -- fewer arguments and disagreements between parent and child -- than on the presence of two parents. In fact, kids of single parents sometimes do better than traditional two-parent children. Single-parent children often have a friendlier relationship with their parent, and they typically spend a lot of time with their entire families -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. In "The "New York Times," a single mom writes that a benefit of single motherhood is that you get to make all the decisions about your child yourself, with no interference.

    About the Author

    Ava Lee began writing professionally in 1982. She holds a master's and a bachelor's degree in English literature, and has proofread and copy edited for "Better Homes & Gardens" and the American Marketing Association, among other outlets. She has edited for more than 25 years.

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