How to Give Support to a Single Parent

It’s not unusual for a single parent to sometimes feel overwhelmed when juggling the responsibilities of work and family. If you know a single parent who’s “doing it all,” keep in mind that she might be stretching herself. Even if she’s not complaining or asking for help, it doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t welcome or appreciate a little help from her friends or family.

Ask your single parent friend what he needs -- and be there to offer that support. For example, if your single parent friend says that he’d love to have a few hours of downtime each week to just relax, offer to take his kids out for a while so he can have that. If he says that he could really use help getting his kids to and from sports practices, you could offer to help him get the kids where they need to go. When you ask a single parent what he needs in terms of support, the answer might be anything from needing a friend to listen to his parenting concerns to talking to his daughter about feminine issues that make him uncomfortable. As a friend, be flexible and try to offer that kind of support he requests.

Offer to watch a single parent’s kids in a non-judgmental manner, notes author Christine Coppa in an article for "Woman’s Day." What you don’t want to say is something like “Just let me know if you ever need a sitter,” as a single mom can misconstrue this to mean, “You obviously can’t take care of your kids yourself.” Instead, be specific and say something like, “I’m free on Saturday mornings, so if you want to run some errands without the kids, I can watch them for you.”

Be dependable when you offer to help a single parent. According to New York-based psychologist and author Leah Klungness, when offering support to single parents you should offer to do small things that you can guarantee doing rather than offering to do so much that you can’t follow through with your commitments 13. For example, you might want to offer to have your single friend’s children over for dinner on the night he works late every week, or drive his daughter home from soccer practice because your own daughter is on the same team and they live nearby. But if you offer to feed two extra kids dinner five nights a week, or take three different kids to three different practices, you risk becoming overwhelmed yourself and have to pull back on your support, which can make it even more difficult for a single parent who started depending on you.