building support systems for single parents

Skills for single parents | Creating support systems
Part 1 of 2

All of us need people in our lives: someone to talk to who listens and is there to share the good and bad times. Having someone on our side helps us to cope with stressful situations like balancing work and family, handling household emergencies and finding and keeping reliable child care.

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If you are a single parent, remember that it's not just the children in the family who are in need of emotional support. You too need to hear that you are loved, valued and important, too. You may also need advice on child rearing, community resources, coordinating school activities or even help in managing money, increasing income and dealing with unforeseen emergencies.

Emotional, social or financial support may come from family, friends or groups you belong to or are affiliated with. Occasionally, you may need to turn to public agencies to help deal with the everyday hassles of survival. All of these different kinds of support networks can help you maintain balance in your life.

Reaching Out: Single Parent Networks

An adequate support network or system made up of neighbors, relatives and friends is crucial to single families. Reliable babysitters are essential for families with young children. These people will be the ones to provide encouragement and support when things get rough. Groups provide strength and remind us that we are not alone.

Consider the following four types as you build the support you need in your life.

1. Inner Circle.

The inner circle includes the people closest to you. These are the people you depend upon, the people you can share your deepest feelings with. They may include your family, former spouse's relatives, coworkers, neighbors, babysitters and friends.

Don't overlook yourself as an important source of strength. You often console yourself, find ways to overcome loneliness and look inside for inner peace and strength. You also are a source of strength and role model for your children.

Relatives. Family members usually are the major support for single families. They may provide child care, money and the encouragement and emotional support needed to keep you going. You will find your relationships with relatives are strongest when helping is a two-way street, communication is open and you are allowed your independence. It is important that you and your family build a new life for yourselves as soon as possible.

It may be difficult, but it's helpful if you maintain a positive relationship with your children's other parent and other set of grandparents. Children benefit from staying in touch with relatives. It can also give you time alone when children spend time with relatives.

Friends. Single parents need adult company. It may be difficult to get together with buddies if you live in an isolated place, work odd hours or are over committed with child care and household tasks.

You may have to find new friends if former friends avoid you after a divorce. They may not know how to handle the relationship or may feel embarrassed or awkward about your situation. This does not mean that they don't
want you as a friend. You may need to take the initiative and invite a friend to a movie, a visit at your house or shopping.

If you need to make new friends, remember that many single parents make friends with other singles at church and in singles groups and special-interest organizations.

If you have people in your inner circle who downgrade you, refuse to negotiate or try to control your life, take a close look to see if they are worth keeping. Be cautious of people who are very supportive but don't allow you to grow. As you change, so should the people in your inner circle.

NEXT: Reaching out to Youth Connections, Professionals and Support Groups »

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