When you are sharing parenting with a partner – even if you’re co-parenting – you can share the load and help each other out. But when you’re parenting alone, this sort of emotional and practical support isn’t as readily available (or it’s even non-existent). For a single parent, an active network is the best support. Building a network does take time and a bit of effort, but it’s worth it. Here are a few tips to get you started...
Think about the kind of network you want
Single parents need a network for different reasons: maybe you need help with transport, occasional babysitting, or just someone who you can have coffee with. 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. To build a network you’ll need to put in a bit of work, as people won’t usually come to you. But once you know what – and who – you’re looking for, it’ll be much easier.
It makes no difference whether you have a few close friends or connect with or a large group of people. Both are equally good for your emotional health and well-being, as long as you feel you’re getting the support you need.
Look around and connect
To find your network you’ll have to start looking in the right places. The easiest place to start is online, as there are plenty of support groups. You can also try connect with people who live nearby, like neighbours, playdate friends, or, if all else fails, why not start your own group?
You can also try joining a club or a group activity that’s kid-friendly (exercise is a good one) – while being a single parent is tough, it’s so important to cultivate your own interests and meet other adults. If you find it hard to arrange child-free time, you could meet for coffee at a child-friendly café, or meet at the park so the children have something to do.
It can be hard to stay in touch with friends who don’t have children. If friendships dwindled when you became a parent, or during a divorce, try getting back in touch. Be honest and say you’re sorry you lost touch, but you’re keen to reconnect now.
You and your child will both benefit from having supportive, positive people in your lives. So surround yourself with people who have dreams, hopes and active goals. It can be three close contacts or 30, as long as you have a few people in your corner, you’ll thrive.