Single parents

You may find it hard sometimes to bring up your children as a single mum or dad. Raising children alone can be a really positive experience, but also stressful at times. This is especially true if you are dealing with a family breakdown or the death of a partner.

Trying to balance childcare with other practical things like work, cooking, cleaning and finances can mean you need to find some extra support or learn new skills.

On this page, you can find support and friendly advice for single parents.

You may also be interested in our pages on support for separated parents and reducing arguments and conflict between parents.

Support from family and friends

It is okay to ask for some help from family and friends. You may need something practical like childcare, or perhaps just a listening ear. Single parents can feel guilty if they do something purely for themselves, but it is important to take care of yourself. If you are not happy and healthy, you will not be able to manage.

Stay consistent

Try to offer your children consistency around routines and boundaries. Children count on stability, and feel safer when their day-to-day routine remains constant. Whether you have been single for a while or it has just happened, try to stick to what your child considers ‘normal’.

Talk to someone

Becoming a single parent will come with a range of feelings, regardless of whether you wanted the relationship to end or not. Make sure you share your feelings with trusted adult family members and friends.

You can also talk to professionals like your midwife, health visitor or GP.

Visit the Bump, Birth & Beyond website to contact my midwife.

Visit the NHS Kent Family website to contact a health visitor.

Visit the NHS website to find out about using an online form to contact your GP surgery.

The Porchlight charity can help if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Visit the Porchlight website for mental health, physical health and wellbeing support.

Agree on your approach to co-parenting

Work out a plan for shared childcare arrangements early on. Agree what you do and don’t need to communicate about. Think about how you will manage things like school runs, weekends, holidays and emergencies. Then stick to your plan. Always ask yourself: how might this affect my child?

Work together as a team. This usually means making a few compromises and letting go of being right. Being united in your decisions gives your children clear ideas of rules and what to expect. It also helps them see a positive example of co-parenting.

Try to be clear about boundaries. Getting the same message from both parents is important. This helps your child understand what they’re allowed to do. Come up with some shared rules for bedtimes, mealtimes, homework and technology.

Seek help if there is conflict

Regardless of whether parents live together or separately, the family still exists. Working together with your co-parent gives your child a positive example of communicating that can help their welfare.

You can find more help on this topic on our page about reducing arguments and conflict between parents.

Talk about the death of a parent

If a child’s other parent has died, it can be extremely hard to know what to say to them. Depending on their age, it can help your child to talk about the person who has died.  This may help them open up about how they are feeling, so you can answer any questions they may have.

CHUMS Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Service offers specialist bereavement support to children and young people. Visit the CHUMS website page on the Kent and Medway Specialist Bereavement Support Service.

The NHS also offers helpful information if your child has lost or is about to lose a parent. Visit the NHS website page on children and bereavement.

Financial support and child maintenance

You may be unclear about what financial help you are entitled to as a single parent, but help is available. Visit the Citizens Advice website for details about arranging financial support after you separate.

Child maintenance covers how your child’s living costs will be paid when one of the parents does not live with the child. You must have a child maintenance arrangement if your child is under 16 (or under 20 if in full-time education). Visit the GOV.UK website for details about the Child Maintenance Service.

Further support and guidance

Gingerbread offers advice and help for single parents. Visit the Gingerbread website for support for single parents, or to call and message their Gingerbread Advice Service.

The Kent and Medway Integrated Care System can help if you or your children are struggling with mental health and wellbeing. Visit the Kent and Medway website page for mental health and wellbeing.

Dads Unlimited provides mentoring and support to help dads have ongoing positive relationships with their children, and improve co-parenting relationships. For details, visit the Dads Unlimited website.

Home-Start provides volunteers and opportunities for families with at least one child under 5 years old. You can get advice about lots of issues such as money worries, or help when you are feeling isolated or emotionally low. Visit the Home-Start website for details of things we can help with.

OnePlusOne offers a range of online courses from relationship experts. Wherever you are in your parenting journey, these courses will help you learn how to cope with stress and communicate better. Visit the OnePlusOne website for online relationship support for parents.

These free online courses from OnePlusOne may be particularly helpful:

  • Me, you, baby too explores how tiredness and stress associated with parenthood can lead to parents misunderstanding each other.
  • Arguing better shares ways in which you can argue in a more constructive way.