Advice for single parents
If you're bringing up a child on your own, don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family. You may also find that other single parents are a good source of support.
Finding support as a lone parent
- accept help from relatives and friends willing to lend a hand for time out, babysitting and school runs
- suggest a "swap" arrangement with another parent, so you take it in turns to look after each other's children
- suggest a regular evening's babysitting by a trusted relative or friend
- ask friends and relatives if they'd be happy to have your child stay overnight sometimes
If you don't know people locally, ask your health visitor what local groups are available in your area or contact Gingerbread, a charity for one-parent families that can put you in touch with other parents in a similar situation and give you much needed support.
Co-parenting when you live apart
If you'd hoped to bring up your child as a couple, you may be feeling angry and hurt.
But as a lone parent, it's important to hide those feelings from your child and let them build their own relationship with their other parent.
It's usually better for children to see both parents regularly, even if you start new relationships. Of course this doesn't apply if your ex-partner is violent or abusive towards you or your child.
At first, you may find your child behaves badly when they come home after a visit. Playing up is one way they may let you know they're upset or confused about the situation.
Unless you think something bad may be happening on access visits, the best way to deal with this is to be reassuring and calm. In the end, your child will learn to look forward to visits and coming home.
You'll almost certainly need to talk about your own feelings. Try to find another adult to talk to.
Benefits and child maintenance for single parents
Gingerbread offers free information packs for lone parents. They can also give you independent advice about benefits, housing and child maintenance problems.
Child Maintenance Options is a free service that helps separated parents come to an agreement about child maintenance arrangements.
If you can't reach an agreement with the other parent about child maintenance arrangements, the government runs a statutory Child Maintenance Service that can arrange child maintenance on your behalf.
The Child Maintenance Service can collect maintenance payments from the paying parent and pass them on to the receiving parent.
It can also help you find the other parent if you don't know where they live, and help sort out any disagreements about parentage.
If you want to use the Child Maintenance Service, you'll need to contact them first. You can call them on 0800 988 0988.
Single parents with a disabled child
Looking after a disabled child on your own can be exhausting and isolating, but lone parent carers can get support and financial help.
Try to include your child's other parent in their care, if possible. If your child needs any aids or adaptations around the home, you may be able to get a grant to help with the costs.
There are also a range of benefits and tax credits you may be eligible for as the lone parent of a disabled child.
These include the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children, Universal Credit, and tax credits. If your child is 16 or over, they may be able to claim the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Some charities and organisations issue grants to parents who have a child with a disability or long-term illness. Call Contact a Family's free helpline on 0808 808 3555 for a list of these organisations.
More information for single parents
- Feelings and relationships while you're pregnant
- Relationships after having a baby
- Tips for new parents
Article provided by NHS Choices