Why support for parents is important
Raising children is an important job. Looking after yourself will help you do the job well. An essential part of looking after yourself is getting support for parenting and raising children.
All parents need formal and informal support from others at times. Seeking and accepting support is good for you and your child in many ways:
- You’ll be relaxed and healthier, which means you’re better able to look after your child.
- You set a good example for your child. If your child sees you getting support, they’ll be more likely to ask for help if they need it.
- You show other people that they’re valued and needed. People often like to be asked for help – it makes them feel they’re special to you.
Parents can benefit from 3 kinds of support – practical support, emotional or personal support, and information or advice.
Practical support for parents
This is help with the day-to-day tasks involved in raising children and running a family – for example, help with looking after children, finances, emergencies, transport, household tasks, shopping and so on.
People who can provide this kind of support include your extended family, friends, neighbours and parents of your children’s friends.
If you have a child with disability, you can look into specific types of practical support for your child and family. For example, you might be able to get funding to employ a support worker.
If you need to look outside your community for practical support, try our articles on law and money services and government services for families.
Emotional and personal support for parents
This is support for you as a person – for example, someone to listen to your concerns and frustrations, or someone to have fun with. This type of support is likely to come from family and friends.
The most valuable personal support comes from people who are willing to listen and share ideas and advice, talk things over in positive and non-judgmental ways, and keep what you say to themselves.
It can really help to find someone who’s in the same position as you. You could find friends with common interests through parents groups or your child’s kindergarten or school.
Religious leaders or community elders might also be a source of emotional and personal support.
It’s OK not to seek support from people who cause you tension and stress. It’s also OK to say no to their offers of help.
Information and advice for parents
You can get information and advice from professionals, family, other parents, friends, neighbours and more. Sources of information and advice include:
- parenting education groups, support groups, playgroups and groups for children with disability, like MyTime
- preschools or schools
- child and family health nurses
- child health, safety and wellbeing services
- trusted and reliable online sources.
Information from friends, family, social media or online sources might not always be accurate. If you’re not sure about any advice, check with your GP or another medical or parenting professional. And try to use reliable online information from recognised organisations like the Australian Psychological Society or Beyond Blue. You can also rely on online sources that publish evidence-based information, like raisingchildren.net.au.
Creating your parent support network
It’s a good idea to think about who you can call on for help when you need it, and what types of support the people around you can offer. Try our support network activity to get yourself started. You could think about the support you get from:
- your partner if you have one
- other close family members, like your child’s grandparents or your siblings
- other people who live with you
- people who provide care for or spend a lot of time with your child, like your child’s teacher
- close friends
- local community organisations, like your church, community elders or community support groups
- professional agencies that provide parenting programs.
As you think about where you can get support, you can also think about how you can support others. Giving others support is a great way of creating a support network. When you offer or ask for help, others feel that they can ask you for help in return.
Expanding your parent support network
There might be times when you feel that you don’t have the support you need. For example, the people around you aren’t helpful, you live a long way from your family, or you’re separated from your child’s other parent.
Or there might be times when you feel your support network isn’t working as well as it could. This can happen during times of change, like when you return to work or change jobs, or your child starts school.
If your family situation changes, it’s a good idea to think again about who’s in your support network and what other supports you could draw on.
If you feel that you don’t have enough informal supports like friends and family, you could use more formal supports like playgroups while you build your network.
Here are some ideas for getting to know new people and building your support network:
- Join a new parents group at your child and family health clinic or community centre.
- Chat to other parents at the park or at your local playgroup, kindergarten or play centre.
- Go to ‘parents and babies’ storytelling sessions at your local library.
- Join an online forum where you can chat with other parents.
It can help to try these ideas regularly to build your support network.
If you have particular support needs, you can look into mental health services, child and parent disability services, multicultural services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services and the NDIS.
Asking for help as a parent
It’s OK to let people know exactly what will help you. Sometimes you might also need to say what won’t help. Here are some ideas:
- If you need someone to listen but you don’t need advice or solutions, just say so. Friends and family members will usually understand.
- Share tasks with other parents. For example, if you don’t drive, another parent you trust might offer to drive your child and their own to sport each week. In return, you could offer to walk the children home from school.
- Ask your child’s teacher about what you can do at home to help with your child’s schoolwork.
- Ask someone to exercise with you, or offer to exercise with someone. For example, you could make a date to go for a walk together with your child.
- Ask a professional like your child and family health nurse or GP about reliable online or other information sources.
When you need professional help as a parent
There’ll be times when you need more formal support. For example, it’s always best to check with a professional if you’re:
- worried about any aspect of your child’s health, development or behaviour
- still having trouble even after trying strategies suggested on this website, in books or by friends or family
- having persistent feelings of depression, anger or resentment towards your child
- feeling very worried, angry or upset and it’s affecting your relationship with your partner
- frequently fighting with your partner, having fights that you can’t resolve, or experiencing violence in your relationship.
You can get professional support from:
- your GP
- community health centres
- child and family health nurses
- parent and family support organisations
- online and telephone counselling services, Lifeline and the parenting helpline in your state or territory.