I have been a widow for 6.5 years and my three kids are ages 14, 17, and 20. Yes, they were very young when they lost their father. Most of my siblings live out of town, and I am having to help my elderly parents navigate life; not the other way around. I’m tired, stressed, and overwhelmed at times. OK, maybe many times. And self doubt creeps in from time to time about whether I’m doing a good job with the kids and not letting things slip between the cracks etc. Don’t feel sorry for me; I’ve got this. However, empathy and understanding of my situation goes a very long way in helping me feel supported, remembered, and not left on a deserted island of one.

In the past few years I have come to know many single parents. Do you know a single parent? And by SINGLE, I mean the other parent is completely out of the picture. We often commiserate about the same theme; no one really understands our situation. I know, many people will never understand another’s situation unless we have lived it. I get it. But at times it’s a hard pill to swallow when we’re trying so hard to do EVERYTHING and watching others who have a “back up”. We don’t want sympathy, just maybe a gesture now and then that shows us they recognize we struggle from time to time, and that they’re here to support us, and be OUR “back up”.

Maybe when you’re stressed making everything happen for your family, taking care of the house, etc you might stop and think of your single friend who is doing all that you’re doing, and much more, because it’s just them, and their load can be overwhelming at times. It’s true, there is much a person cannot come in and do for another such as pay the bills, take kids to the doctor, handle things for school etc. But there ARE ways you can help them.

Here are just a few ways you can help your single parent friends. Remember, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”—Aesop

Sometimes, it’s the little things that can mean the most.

  • Text, email, call or drop a note in the mail to them once in a while just to see how they’re doing, and let them know you’re there if they need anything.
  • Listen and observe: you may see or hear a need. For example, my friends saw I needed shelves in the basement to store my bulk food etc. On a night I was gone, they came over and assembled shelves for me in the basement. I was shocked a couple days later when I went downstairs!
  • Take them a meal, or even just a main course from time to time.
  • Offer to take the kids overnight to give them a break. Being the only adult in the house 24/7 is exhausting. It is a huge break for the kids as well.
  • If the kids are young, offer to go to their home and take care of the kids so they can get errands done or go out with a friend.
  • Offer to help drive the kids to their activities now and then…or volunteer to do their portion of the carpool one week.
  • Help with the yard work such as raking leaves, shoveling snow, etc. if their kids are too young to help.
  • Surprise them with a treat left on their front porch. Or maybe a bottle of wine! When my husband was battling cancer a “wine fairy” left me a bottle on my porch every couple of weeks.
  • Encourage them and give them a nice compliment now and then like “I admire how you are making it work. I know it can be overwhelming at times”. Or tell them they’re doing a great job with the kids. And remind them sometimes it’s okay to be a “good enough” mom, or a “good enough” dad.
  • Do not assume their life has gotten easier as the kids get older. Many times, the older they get, the busier they get, and there are more responsibilities for taking care of various things for them.
  • Offering helpful advice is nice when it is HELPFUL, but remember, they are in a very different situation than yourself, and how they make things happen at home may have to be different than how you do things in your own home.

Be intentional with your offer to help. In other words, always saying “let me know what you need” isn’t very helpful. Find a specific area you can help, and offer that.

Also, offering something specific relieves your friend of asking, as they may feel like they don’t want to “over ask” people for help. When it is offered, then it takes the burden of constantly asking off of them.

Lastly, just let them know you’re there. Simply knowing they have supportive friends all around makes a bigger difference than many people realize.