About help and support for single parents
All parents need formal and informal support sometimes. Getting support is good for you and good for your child. That’s because support helps you look after yourself and meet your child’s needs.
People can support you in your role as a single parent in 3 main ways. They can give you:
- practical help to lighten the workload
- emotional support to help you cope with parenting
- social support so you can have a break.
Most parents – whether single parents or couples – need all 3 forms of support.
People who can help single parents
Asking for help, and saying yes when it’s offered, can be hard sometimes. You might feel like you should be able to cope on your own. You might also worry that you’re being a burden. But people like to help, and they’re usually glad if you ask them to do something specific. And if you can help them out in return, you don’t need to feel uncomfortable.
If you’re finding it hard to think of people who might be able to help, you could try these ideas:
- Friends: support from friends can sometimes be less complicated and emotional than support from family.
- Local communities: you could try people from your child care centre, kindergarten or school, or a local club, religious group or support group that you or your child is connected with.
- Colleagues at work or people you meet studying or training: they can take your mind off parenting for a while and might be able to help out sometimes.
- Counsellors or other professionals: they can offer a safe neutral place to explore your situation and help you come up with solutions and strategies.
- Telephone hotlines or online counselling: this might be good if you need to spend a lot of time at home or just need someone to listen sometimes.
Our Support networks activity guide helps you work out where to get support, who can support you and how to expand your support. The activity has 3 steps – map your support network, reflect on your network and put your network into action.
Ideas for finding support as a single parent
Here are some ways and places you can find support as a single parent.
Connections and services in your community
Local papers, councils and libraries often have information about neighbourhood houses, playgroups and toy libraries. Child and family health nurses can also be a valuable source of support and advice.
You might be able to connect with other parents at first-time parent groups, playgroups, kindergartens, schools, or sporting clubs and leisure centres. Try inviting other families for afternoon tea, playdates, walks and so on. When you talk to other parents, you might be surprised at the family challenges and changes they’ve been through themselves.
Local support and interest groups
Support groups for single parents can be helpful for sharing ideas, feelings and experiences with other people in the same situation as you. You can also join book clubs, craft or sporting clubs, charity organisations, religious groups or political groups.
Online forums and social media
Going online can help you connect with other parents from Australia and around the world. Many single-parent groups have forums or Facebook pages or groups. Just remember to protect your personal information when you go online.
Parents who get support tend to use more positive parenting strategies, are better able to cope, and are more consistent in parenting decisions than those who try to manage by themselves.
Finding the right support as a single parent
When you’re looking for support, it can help to start by imagining the kind of help and support you’d like. Sketch out the ideal scenario – then plan out the steps to achieve it.
It’s OK to have a few close friends or a large social group. Both situations are good for your emotional health and wellbeing, as long as you feel you’re getting the support you need.
You and your child will both benefit from having supportive, positive people in your lives. So surround yourself with trustworthy, encouraging and reliable people, who support your dreams, hopes and goals. And if there are some critical, unhelpful or even hostile people in your life, it might be good to keep them at a distance.
If you’re spending a lot of time caring for children as a single parent, it can be hard to stay in touch with friends who don’t have children. Or you might have lost some friendships when you became a parent or during the separation or divorce. You could think about getting back in touch. You can let people know you’re sad you lost touch but you’re keen to reconnect.
If you find it hard to arrange child-free time, you could meet for coffee at a child-friendly café or the park so the children have something to do.
Getting financial support as a single parent
Many people find managing money and budgets difficult, and you might feel worried about money. As a single parent, you probably have 3 potential sources of income:
If you’re a single parent because of separation and can get child support from your child’s other parent, do so. You might need help or even someone to advocate for you. If there’s conflict with your child’s other parent, seek help from a family support centre – don’t try to do it on your own.
When you’ve worked out how much money you’ve got coming in, take the time to plan a monthly budget and get advice from people you can trust. If you need help, many community services agencies offer financial counselling. You can also use Services Australia’s Financial Information Service.