If you’re a single parent, you know how important it is to have people available who you trust with your kids. We are meant to live in community, and never is this more apparent than when you’re parenting alone. This article gives you some ideas on who to lean on when you don’t have a support system.
There are four different kinds of support systems. And although these categories are typically discussed in the health arena, I believe they are valid for anyone.
- Emotional: Those you can turn to for empathy and trust enough to share your troubles with.
- Instrumental: Service-related support such as a babysitter you can depend on. Or a fellow mom who can carpool with you.
- Informational: People or organizations you can turn to for advice and information. It might include your church and/or a mentor.
- Appraisal: These are your closest friends or family that give you feedback – positive and truthful.
Single parents especially need all four areas for support. Being the only adult in the home is taxing and overwhelming. However, due to strained relationships, low income, and the stress of being a single parent, many do not have a support system.
So how can a single parent build a support system?
Most turn to their extended families, their ex, and their friends. But some single parents aren’t living near grandparents and don’t have a good relationship with their ex. So who can you lean on when you don’t have a support system in these cases? Because you WILL need someone at some time.
Building a support system as a single parent
The first point is almost so obvious we skip it altogether. But until we truly believe God is always with us, we will continue to feel alone.
But how do we “feel” His presence?
Bring everything to Him. “Lord, I don’t know how to get my children dropped off in time to make it to work. I need help.” Then keep bringing all your concerns, worries, and joys to Him.
He wants to hear from you about the little stuff and the big problems. Talking with God about everything will grow your heart towards Him as well.
Most of us don’t know our neighbors well. I urge you to develop a close enough relationship with your neighbors so that you can at least feel comfortable asking them for emergency support. And if your relationship progresses past this, great.
When my children were young, an older man lived next door. At first glance, he wouldn’t be anything besides a neighbor, but we developed a rapport that my children considered him an extra grandpa. He walked them to school, had them over to bake cookies, and mowed my lawn when I first divorced and didn’t have any lawn equipment.
When my daughter started Kindergarten, I walked down to the bus stop each day and talked with the other parents. We exchanged numbers just in case.
Thankfully, we did that because my daughter got off the bus once the following year only to discover her babysitter wasn’t there. One of the other moms brought her to her house and called me. You never know when your connections (however shallow they seem) will save you or your children from a potential disaster.
Places you frequent
Where do you regularly take your child? The library’s storytime, the park, dance or gymnastics class? Instead of using that time to catch up on work or your social life, take a chance and start speaking to the parents you see there often.
The only way for a friendship to bloom is for one of you to make the first move. You don’t need them to be your best friend, but someone you trust enough to call if you can’t pick your child up.
One of the critical indicators of friendship is consistency. So developing relationships with those you see consistently makes sense.
Whether it’s the church, the Boys and Girls Club, or another community organization, being familiar with their programs can support you.
Find out what they offer children in your child’s age range and the cost. If needed, pursue scholarships. If you have your children 24/7, being able to drop them off for a sport or having someone else take care of your children while you attend worship are ways for you to take care of yourself.
Building support around your family is worth it
Although it can be difficult, it is essential to try and build a support system for yourself as a single parent. This may mean reaching out to friends or family members, joining online forums or groups specifically for single parents, or seeking professional help.
No matter what you do, make sure that you take care of yourself first and foremost. You are the most important person in your child’s life, and they need their parent to be healthy and happy. For more support, check out the “Overwhelmed No-More Vault” for single moms.