By Raising Children Network
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Single mum with baby
 

It can be hard to ask for help as a single parent. But looking for support doesn’t mean you’re not coping. In fact, it’s a smart thing to do for both you and your kids.

People who can help you

Sometimes it’s difficult to think of someone to ask for a favour or talk to about what’s going on. You could try:

  • Friends – support from friends might be less complicated and emotional than support from family.
  • Counsellors or therapists – they can offer help and neutral advice without any emotional involvement.
  • Online or telephone hotlines or counselling – this might be good if you’re housebound a lot of the time.

Support can come in the form of practical help to lighten the workload, or emotional support to help you cope with parenting alone.

Without the respite, I would not have been as calm a caregiver as I have managed to be. Isolation and children is a bad mix for any caregiver. Regardless of any other differences or similarities, no-one understands being a single mum like another single mum.

Where to find support

  • Make new connections in your local area. Local papers, councils and libraries often have information about neighbourhood houses, playgroups and toy libraries. Maternal and child health nurses can also be a valuable source of support and advice.
  • Get involved with other parents . Children are a ticket to making new friends at first-time parent groups, playgroups, kindergartens, schools, or sporting and leisure centres. Invite people to afternoon tea, or to come for a walk – invitations out equal invitations in. Talk to other parents – you might be surprised at the family changes they have been through themselves.
  • Seek out support groups. Groups for single parents can be especially helpful for sharing ideas, feelings and experiences with others in the same boat.
  • Try online forums, chatrooms and social networking sites. Going online can help you connect with other single parents from Australia and around the world. Many single-parent groups have forums or chat rooms connected to their websites. You could also try social networking websites, like facebook and MySpace. They can give you a chance to network with individuals and join groups.
Parents who get support use more positive parenting strategies, are better able to cope and are more consistent in parenting decisions than those who try to ‘go it alone’. Start by checking out our single parents forum.

Finding the right support

  • It’s quality, not quantity . It makes no difference whether you have a few close friends or a large group. Both are equally good for your emotional health and wellbeing, as long as you feel you’re getting the support you need.
  • Give and take. Reaching out for support – and saying yes when it’s offered – can be hard. You might feel like you should be able to cope on your own, or that you’re being a nuisance. But people like to help out. Also, giving and receiving support lets people feel good, see things in a different light, and forget about their own problems for a while.
  • Stay positive. People who are critical, unhelpful or even hostile can have a bad effect on your self-esteem. Don’t hesitate to cut your ties to people and things that upset you. Instead, surround yourself with good company – people who have dreams, hopes and goals.
  • Collect friends you can count on. Friendships can sometimes get lost in the process of separation and divorce. It can be hard to stay in touch with friends who don’t have kids when your child care duties have increased. It’s good to find ways to keep in touch with old friends and develop new relationships. If you find it hard to get kid-free time, try meeting for coffee at a child-friendly café, or meet at the park so the kids have something to do.

Sorting out your finances

As a single parent, you have three sources of income:

If you can get child support from your ex-partner, do so – but make sure it’s worth the effort.

 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 19-08-2010
  • Acknowledgements

    Article developed in collaboration with Elly Robinson, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

    Based on material produced for Single Mothers: A resource for parenting solo, a publication produced by the Parenting Research Centre in collaboration with the Council of Single Mothers and funded by the Victorian Government Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.