If you've ever had to cook supper while helping your children with their homework, or field phone calls from work as you pack lunches and worry about making the next mortgage payment, you probably don't have to wonder why single parents in particular need emotional support. But there's some hard data to back this up as well.
Past research has shown that many working parents -- especially mothers who work full-time and single fathers -- feel that they don't have enough time for their children [source: Health and Human Services]. Additionally, studies have indicated that children in single-parent households are at higher risk for developing psychological problems and addictions [source: CBS News]. And Census Bureau data from recent years has shown that around half of children under age 6 living with single mothers were in poverty -- a rate five times higher than that of children in two-parent households [source: Census Bureau].
These pressures may lead single parents to push themselves harder to provide for their children, which can also mean taking less time for themselves and their own needs. Difficulties caused through interaction with former spouses can add to the emotional strain. When one parent withholds financial support or otherwise doesn't carry an equal load when it comes to parenting, the job of a single parent becomes even more difficult.
And even if a single parent has figures out a way to meet all of those challenges, there's still the question of making friends and finding new emotional connections. A potential return to the dating scene can be intimidating, and married friends may sometimes find it hard to relate to what single parents are going through.
However, there are some emotional support systems single parents can tap into. For those who are tech-savvy, there are several online groups that serve that purpose. But if you prefer something a little more tangible, there are also more traditional groups that organize in-person events. Many of these programs have chapters in local communities that meet regularly and help people in similar situations connect with each other. Some even help single parents gain access to education, legal assistance or financial counseling that can help with their overall emotional well-being.
Types of single-parent support can range from informal groups to structured programs. Read on to learn more about the support groups that are available to single parents.
Single Parent Support Groups
Many support systems for single parents began as parent-to-parent systems of helping newly single parents adjust to their circumstances [source: Parents Without Partners]. Now, some support groups are starting to emphasize wellness for single parents and their children, organizing family recreational activities and providing a forum for people to exchange ideas about how to live healthy as a single-parent family.
Groups such as the Single Parents Association in Phoenix, Ariz., are run by single parents for single parents in the traditional support group style. Members pay a annual membership fee (ranging from $30 to $75), meet monthly and also get together for camping and other recreational activities that cater to both parents and the children [source: Single Parents Association].
Many churches and other faith-based ministries offer emotional support for single parents, too. For example, the Wake Forest, N.C.-based Church Initiative Inc. specializes in helping churches help single parents through divorce or the death of a spouse. It charges a fee of $340 to $540 to each church that wants to start a support group [source: Church Initiative Inc.].
Additionally, there are many groups on the Web that provide resources and support. SingleMom.com is an example of a free clearinghouse for information about parenting, finances, education -- basically everything from cooking to tax returns. It also provides a forum for single moms to interact and offer support to each other [source: SingleMom.com].
One of the easiest ways to find these groups is through simple Internet searches for "single parent support" and related topics. Also, some commercial news and information companies such as Gannett have developed or acquired parent networking Web sites such as MomsLikeMe.com that can connect parents with local people who might be in similar situations. These are typically free to join [source: MomsLikeMe.com].
Besides the Web, sources of information can include the United Way's 211 information phone service, church- or faith-based nonprofits such as Lutheran Social Services, or local government offices that deal with children and parents, including a county human services agency. These resources are usually free, but the programs they reference could cost money.
There may not be hard evidence that the support group you're interested is effective, but to get an idea, you can seek out feedback and comments from members about how useful the group has been to them. However, if you think you need a little more support than an informal group can offer, there are some more structured programs out there to get involved in. Read on to find out more about these.
Single Parent Programs
Emotional support programs for single parents can be similar to support groups, but they tend to be a bit more formal and more targeted in their approach. For example, an organization known as Parents Without Partners has evolved from a local parent-to-parent support group into an international organization that sponsors group discussions, lectures by professionals, study groups, training seminars, leadership training and more for its single parent members [source: Parents Without Partners].
Some support programs specifically exist to help single parents with all aspects of attending college, from offering assistance in securing financial aid to helping parents with children live on campus. Many college campuses also have specialized counseling and support for students who are single parents [source: Higher Education Alliance].
Education programs from local school districts, churches and nonprofits in the United States often offer parenting skills and education classes at a reasonable price. These can also boost single parents' emotional well-being. For example, Comprehensive Youth Services of Fresno, Calif. offers classes for newly divorced parents on successful single parenting. The cost is $165 and covers six sessions on topics like the needs of children and how to share parental responsibilities after a relationship ends [source: Comprehensive Youth Services]. Pathways Christian Fellowship in East Aurora, N.Y., on the other hand, offers free seminars for single parents to develop skills like food budgeting, meal preparation, and dealing with emergencies [source: East Aurora Advertiser].
Organizations like The United Way can also connect parents with parenting skills programs such as Success by Six and Parenting Skills for Teen Mothers. Many of these support programs are free to qualifying members. Others are membership-based organizations that require dues. For example, Parents Without Partners members pay $40 a year [source: Partners Without Parents]. Community education classes typically cost less than $40 per class, but income-qualifying participants may be eligible for reduced rates, in some cases.
If you are a single parent who's considering involvement in some kind of support program, it's a good idea to make sure that the program you're looking at is accredited with a respected nonprofit, unit of local government or educational institution. For more information on support for single parents, follow the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Boulder County Housing Authority. "Resource Directory for Single Parents." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://bcn.boulder.co.us/pss/spd.html
- CBS News. "Single-Parent Kids More At Risk." 2003. (Feb. 3, 2003) Census Bureau. "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2004." 2005.
- Church Initiative Inc. "Church Initiative Inc." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.churchinitiative.org/
- Comprehensive Youth Services. "Successful Single Parenting: Consider the Children." 2004. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.cysfresno.org/ssp.htm
- Department of Health and Human Services. "Indicators of Child, Family and Community Connections." 2003. (Last updated July 7, 2008)
- East Aurora Advertiser. "Classes Aimed at Needs of Single Parents." Jan. 30, 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://eastaurorany.com/articles/2010/02/09/news/doc4b61b5e69513c101179769.txt
- Higher Education Alliance. "Welcome to the Home of the Higher Education Alliance for Residential Single Parent Programs." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.singleparentcollegeprograms.org/
- Lutheran Social Services. "Lutheran Social Services." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.lsss.org
- Meetup.com. "Single Parents Meetup Groups." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://singleparents.meetup.com/
- MomsLikeMe.com. "MomsLikeMe.com." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.momslikeme.com/
- Parents Without Partners. "Who We Are." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.parentswithoutpartners.org/about-who.html
- SingleMom.com. "Resources for Single Mothers." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.singlemom.com/
- Single Parents Association. "Single Parents Association." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.singleparents.org/
- United Way 211. "2-1-1 Call Center Search." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.211.org
- Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre. "Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre." 2010. (Feb. 7, 2010). http://www.singleparentvictoria.ca/