It takes resilience, commitment, and, of course, a ton of love to raise children without a partner. But you’re not alone. Nearly 24 million children live in a single-parent household, which makes up 34% of all family households in America.1 Although single parenting has become more common over the past 20 years,2 we know that single parents face unique stresses that can take a toll on their well-being, with financial health suffering the most.   

Raising a child on your own of course means you have one income, and many single parents report they struggle with finances.3 But there are so many other factors of life that impact your well-being. Without the option of divvying up responsibilities, you’re taking the lead on virtually everything each day, like helping children with their homework, cooking for the family, managing household chores, juggling your career, and trying to find time for yourself and other relationships.

Not surprisingly, our research has found that single parents have worse financial health than partnered or married parents.4 And because of the connection between mind, body, and wallet, single parents are struggling with emotional and physical health too.5

So, let’s talk about five small steps that can make big strides toward improving your overall well-being. 

1. Create a budget

Forty percent of single parents worry about unexpected expenses.6 Creating a budget can help manage your money for recurring expenses and sudden ones. If you don’t know where to start, and making a budget sounds stressful, you’re not alone. Only one in three Americans prepare a detailed household budget each month that tracks income and expenses.7 For your budget, keeping things simple to start will help you get started on this essential part of improving your financial health as a single parent.

  • Assess your income after tax
  • Plan for the essentials (bills, groceries, healthcare, etc.)
  • Set your sights on some wants (dining out, entertainment, trips)
  • Allocate a percentage to your savings

Once you’re up and running with the basics, you can introduce budgeting approaches like the 50,30, 20 rule.

2. Create a long-term plan for the future

You may be wondering how you’re supposed to provide for your kids, pay the bills, and manage today’s debts, all while planning for future expenses like saving for college, retirement, etc. Taking charge of your finances and getting a plan down on paper can help get you on the right track and have the added benefit of improving your mental health. By creating plans and putting systems in place for your financial health, you may be able to remove some of the uncertainty around financial challenges.

There are many ways to approach creating a plan, but start simple and make a list of your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. Then you’ll include these goals in your budget to make sure you hit them over time. One-third of single parents don’t own life insurance, but getting set up with financial products that protect your family, such as life insurance and disability insurance, can also provide a sense of comfort that your children will be supported through an unexpected event.7

3. Build positive physical health habits into your routine

With already a full plate of responsibilities as a single parent, caring for your physical health doesn’t have to mean hour-long yoga classes or expensive workout equipment. Much like creating a financial budget, establishing a routine that supports your physical health can integrate a healthy lifestyle that becomes second nature. Look for how you can add easy wins into your day based on your current schedule to optimize your day-to-day activities. Here are some ideas:

  • Opt for walking your kids to school instead of driving if it’s within a reasonable distance. You’ll save money on gas and integrate exercise for you and your children (win-win!).
  • Exchange sugary beverages for water or seltzer
  • Do some stretches or exercises while watching TV at night
  • Introduce more fruits and vegetables to daily meals

Also, make it a point to keep up with your regular doctor’s appointments. You’d never want your child to miss a dentist appointment, but parents do it all the time. Parents are far more likely to ensure their children receive the oral care they need than to follow recommendations from the American Dental Association (ADA) for themselves.9

4. Take care of your mental health

The same concept can apply to improving your mental health. While investing in hour-long therapy sessions is great if you’re able to, it’s not always a viable option. If you find yourself struggling with your mental health, finding fun relaxing activities centered around things you enjoy can help you feel balanced and fulfilled. This could even mean something as simple as playing with your kids. If you’re having a day at the park you can hop on a swing and have a little fun too! Remember that as a caregiver, self-care is a selfless act. It’s ensuring that you’re able to be there for your family as the best version of yourself.  

5. Create a supportive community

As a single parent, there’s no need to feel singled out. To help you feel less overwhelmed, reach out and connect with loved ones, colleagues, or parenting support groups that can offer emotional support, advice, or practical assistance. Studies on happiness have shown that how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.10 Having a community that you’re a part of can play an important role in your overall well-being. When it comes to your financial health, the same principle applies. A little help by working with a financial professional can go a long way.

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