6 Proven Ways Single Parents Can Create A Support System

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father and young daughter laughing

Single parenting, whether by choice or by consequence, can be overwhelming at times. This is why it's imperative to develop a support system as a parent, so you can get through difficult situations.

Finding yourself solely responsible for a child or children — at least for a designated period of time — can challenge, exhaust, and burden you in ways you could not see coming.

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Creating a support system is imperative for single parents.

After my divorce, I recall feeling like I was failing when I couldn’t do it all well.

The cooking, the housekeeping, the school work, the activities, the discipline, the playtime, the finances, my job, my church, my family, my ex, my in-laws, my friends, “our” friends, dating… It was all too much.

The clothes would remain unfolded, the dishes would pile up in the sink, and the mail would have to wait until the weekend. But hey, I got that sword fight in!

I may have worn pajamas under my raincoat, but I got my son to school on time. Oops! He forgot his gym shoes — again. Back home, get dressed, because I would have to walk into the administrative office with them.

"Wait… Did I pack his lunch? Let me take one with me, just in case."

I remember feeling the judgment in the eyes of the “put together” married moms around me in the community. They looked rested, organized, and… happy.

Didn’t unhappiness lead me to divorce? I digress. It was obvious. I needed support. And not just emotionally.

Here are 6 ways single parents can create a support system.

1. Prioritize your needs.

In the years I spent as a single mother, I often reminded myself of the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Because it does.

This proverb saved me from continuing to martyr myself, making ongoing and unnecessary sacrifices that would lead to "mommy burnout," and ultimately wearing pajamas under my raincoat.

The village is there, and people want to help. Before you wander into it blindly, take the time to prioritize your needs.

Food, shelter, clothing? A babysitter, a dog walker, a grocery shopper? Financial or legal counsel? An emotional support group? A tutor for your child? A bike someone else’s kid might have outgrown? A carpool for school?

You may need all of these things, but rank what matters most right now. Put them in order, and get ready to start your journey of creating your support system.

2. Ask for and accept help from your village.

You’ve now prioritized your needs, so start with the top two or three, and push yourself beyond martyrdom and ask your village.

Think of it like this — by allowing others to help me, I am helping them. Why? Because they feel good about themselves! They want to help, so give them something to do.

Asking for and accepting help requires vulnerability, but it gets easier. People with healthy boundaries will say “no” if they are not in a position to help, but will also make an effort to point you in the right direction.

Let the people in your life know what you need. Your family, co-workers, friends, and neighbors.

Depending on your relationship with your ex and your former in-laws, let them know as well. It may not be that they are the ones to help, but they may have the right connection for you.

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3. Scout the village for a tribe.

Connecting with other single parents is one of the greatest resources for the support you'll find. Check in with your network of people and ask to be connected to other single parents they know.

Plan a meetup and get to know one another in person or virtually. Find out what you have in common.

Have kids at the same school? Both with after school activities? Maybe there is an opportunity for ride-sharing to and from the activity.

One of you stays at home and loves to cook? Others work outside the home and then drive through fast food on the way home? Maybe there is an opportunity here.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? Get creative. Help one another.

Many modern outreach programs are offered to provide support to the community through faith-based programs. Check for single parent support groups.

There may also be non-faith based support groups offered through non-profit agencies. Make some phone calls.

Your local school Parents Association may have resource information or be willing to make a post to connect single parents as a support initiative and allow meetings. Parents Associations also have budgets to serve the Parental community through education. Inquire, suggest.

4. Give your child another role model.

Don’t worry. There will never be anyone more special in your child’s eyes than you. And you do not have to run the race alone.

Before you collapse, hand off the baton to another runner. Rest. Self-care. Even for a few hours.

The Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs are wonderful for providing your child with a mentor and same-sex role model. These amazing volunteers are well-vetted and carefully matched to your child.

The quality time they share and the bond they create can last a lifetime. As they share this time with your child, you can recharge, refresh, and be ready to take the next lap.

The more support you give yourself and your child or children, the more stable and secure life will feel for all of you.

5. Join a virtual tribe.

Support comes in many forms. Your support is only as limited as you choose to limit it.

Facebook groups offer the opportunity for people to connect regardless of where you live, preventing you from feeling isolated in your location or alone in your thoughts.

There are private Facebook groups for single parents where they can share their questions and concerns about everything from how they are doing by giving their kid ice cream for breakfast, to clothing and item swaps, to preparing to see friends you share with your ex at an upcoming birthday party.

These click-in, click-out places become easy go-tos for quick inspirations and chats. Post your question, come back 30 minutes later, and read the responses.

There will be people who have walked the path ahead of you who offer great insight, but also know there will be those who may just be hate-bombing on their ex or stuck in a negative mindset.

Watch your exposure and make sure you join one that has “rules of engagement” to keep you on the path you want to be on. Don't forget to participate and help others by responding to them. You, too, are wise.

The company you keep matters, even online. They don’t call them “influencers” for nothing.

If you can’t find what you already need out there, start your own. If you need it, so does someone else.

6. Choose your battles.

Support yourself by knowing what the small stuff is and by letting it go. Will it really matter tomorrow? Next week? 

What’s more important, getting the dishes washed before bed or seeing the joy on your child’s face and filling your home with abundant laughter while playing?

I can promise you that creating a happy life is more important in your child’s development than creating a magazine cover kitchen.

Single parents, you're everyday warriors. You're courageous and strong, but life doesn’t have to feel like a fight.

Your village awaits you. You must be brave enough to walk into it, humble enough to admit you belong there, and selfless enough to contribute back to it.

No house stands without a foundation. Build yours, and create stability for yourself, your family, and your community.

You can do this. Your tribe will have your back.

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Ann Papayoti, CPC, is a life coach helping people through losses and transitions as a relationship expert. To learn how she can help you, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.