Being a single parent comes with all sorts of everyday struggles. You probably know at least one single parent who could really use some help, but you're not sure the best way to lend a hand. Here are a few suggestions that might make their lives a little – or a lot – easier:
- Just listen. Sometimes, we just plain need someone to vent to, and without a spouse around to commiserate, we need an outlet. We certainly can't vent much in front of the kids, and a sympathetic ear over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine can really be a godsend some days.
- Find ways to help them get out. Another big challenge when you're a single parent is getting out of the house and having a life. Even if you're fortunate enough to have some kid-free time, you may not always have someplace to spend it. Offer to take a painting class with them, have them over for a Netflix night, or just go out and walk around the mall. It's nice just being out!
- Pick something small and just do it for them. Seriously – if you tell us you'd be happy to help if we need you, we'll probably never ask because we are very conscious of what it's like to have extra work. It doesn't have to be a major thing. Mow a lawn. Bring over a meal. Fix a broken mailbox, and of course…offer to babysit – at your house if you can, so we can just sit and relax if we want to.
- Consider the financial situation before you give them a gift of "pampering." It's wonderful of you to buy that gift card for the mani/pedi or the hour-long body massage at the ritzy spa, but if finances are a serious struggle for your giftee, that pampering is going to come with a whole lot of guilt and (sorry to say) a bit of irritation (and therefore won't be nearly as stress-free and enjoyable as you think it will be). I had someone gift me with a huge Victoria's Secret gift card once. It was very well intentioned, but we desperately needed groceries that week, and my daughter's backpack had just broken. I could have used that money so badly someplace besides my underwear drawer. If you know money is a struggle, get them a gift card that can be used for a variety of items – like a Target or Wal-Mart card, or just buy a Visa/MC gift card – they're good everywhere. Gas station gift cards are an awesome gift, as well.
- Offer rides to school activities. One of the most difficult parts of being a single working parent is logistics, particularly if you have a long commute to work (like I do) or a revolving work schedule. Getting kids to and from after-school or extra-curricular activities can be tough, and we hate to tell our kids they can't join a club or a sport just because we can't find a way to get them there regularly.
Single parenting is a challenge sometimes, but with the support of friends and family, it gets so much easier. Find a few ways to lend a hand where you can and you'll always be cherished and appreciated for it.