Parenting on your own can make you feel proud, free and independent. But it can be hard to think about your own needs when you’re focused on your child’s.
You don’t have to do it alone, though. There’s support available if you need it. We’ve put together this handy guide to some of the info that’s out there. Some types of support may be as close as your own neighbourhood!
The Department of Human Services can provide information, referrals to counsellors and links to other government services that may be helpful. They cover things you might not have considered; for example, if you’re newly separated, they have a list of admin things you need to take care of, like changing details on your driver’s licence and having your mail redirected.
The department can also help you check your eligibility to receive child support, or support for non-parent carers and for people affected by family and domestic violence.
The department’s payment schemes include:
- Family Tax Benefit, which helps eligible families with the cost of raising children.
- Child Care Subsidy, to help cover the cost of child care for children 13 years old or younger.
- Double Orphan Pension, which provides support if you’re caring for a child whose parents can’t care for them or have died.
- Isolated Children Scheme, for parents and carers of children who can’t go to a local government school because of geographic location, special needs or disability.
- Youth Allowance, for young people aged 16 to 24 who are studying or looking for work.
You can also check whether you and your child are enrolled in Medicare, which provides free checkups with a GP and other benefits.
If you’re having trouble getting your head around all the information online, you can always call them for more information, or get in touch with a financial counsellor to help talk you through your options.
It’s worth exploring if there are any subsidies you could be eligible for, to support the cost of sending your child to school. What's offered differs in each state – check out this list of state and territory allowances that are available.
Allowances cover things like the cost of participating in sports and other clubs, buying uniforms and paying for excursions. You could also have a confidential chat with the welfare officer at your child’s school to discuss your options.
Family Relationships is a government initiative that provides information and support. Their services include counselling, dispute resolution and mediation, and legal and financial advice. Information is available in languages other than English.
Parents Beyond Breakup is a suicide prevention organisation that specialises in separation. They also have support groups around Australia that you can attend, as well as mentors you can call to have a chat. If you’re in a place where you want to help other single parents, they’re also always looking for people to get involved.
Call Lifeline’s free 24/7 crisis support service to speak to a trained volunteer if you’re in a crisis or thinking about suicide. Lifeline also provides online support if you’d rather chat online than call.
MensLine provides support for men around Australia. Over the phone and online, they offer counselling for everything from family and relationship concerns to everyday stress.
This organisation is a national peak body that provides information and support to single mothers. They also have a Facebook group, where they share relevant news and have conversations and discussions.
This organisation is a national peak body that provides information and support to all separated parents, not just fathers. Currently, women comprise 35 per cent of the organisation’s membership.
This organisation provides support and information for single mothers and their children. Based in Victoria, they have members around Australia and strive to empower single mothers.
Stepfamilies Australia is a centre for research, resources and education. They offer strategies to navigate step-parenting, as well as referrals to family counsellors.
This helpline offers free telephone financial counselling to anyone experiencing financial difficulty. Their services are non-judgemental, independent and confidential. You can also search their directory to find a local financial counsellor.
One-on-One Support is a free initiative that helps parents and carers build confidence and skills. Accessible over the phone and online, the program includes up to four sessions with a professional experienced in supporting families. They’ll work with you to figure out your needs, and help you to build strategies to achieve your parenting goals.
Online communities, like the ReachOut Parents Forum, are a great way to access advice and guidance from the comfort of your own home, at a time that suits you. They’re anonymous and private, and give you a safe space to share what’s going on with you or to read about other parents’ experiences.
We found that many single parents like connecting with others in similar situations to themselves, so the forums are a great and convenient way to do this.
People who can help you
It can sometimes be hard to ask for or accept help. It’s common to feel like you should be able to do everything yourself. But getting support when you’re feeling stressed or run-down is one of the best ways to ensure your wellbeing, and your child’s. Also, many people are happy to do whatever they can to help out.
Asking for or accepting help from friends can be less complicated than looking to family for support.
Getting support from your friends doesn’t need to be a big deal, so don’t be afraid to ask. Even simple things can be helpful.
- Call or text a friend to have a chat. It might be when you’re stressed and need to vent, or when you want some time to reconnect with the world around you.
- Ask a friend who lives in the area to pick up your child from school one day a week. You might find it tricky to get out of work early on that day, or it might free up time for a yoga class.
Colleagues or peers
Colleagues at work, or people you meet while studying, can help make your schedule a bit easier. For example, you could ask to:
- swap a shift at work so that you can take your child to their sports game
- arrange for flexible working hours so you can pick up your child from school
- share study notes if you miss a class.
GPs and other professionals
GPs, counsellors and other professionals can offer and give objective advice. You can access these people through your local medical centre or through specialist organisations like the ones listed above.
In your immediate area
You can find support in your own neighbourhood. The following sources of support will also help you to connect with people around you.
Community services and groups
Check out your local council, library or newspaper for information about what services are available in your area. Support groups for single parents can be helpful for sharing your experiences, as well as for hearing from others who are in a similar situation. You could also join clubs or special-interest groups, such as reading, crafts, sports, exercise, religious or political groups.
Encourage your child to find groups they’re interested in at school or in the community. This will help them to form new friendships and give them opportunities to participate in activities they enjoy.
The next time you’re visiting your child’s school for an event, sports game or performance, strike up a conversation with another parent there. You might be surprised to learn of the challenges they’ve faced and the strategies they’ve used to get through them.
Apps to make life easier
Sometimes, you might just need an app to help you juggle everything you’ve got on your plate. Here are some that will help make life a bit easier.
This budgeting app syncs with your bank account and automatically organises your spending into categories, showing you where you spend your money. It’s like a personal assistant for your money. You’ll also get notifications for when bills are due – never cop a late fee again!
This groceries app lets you make shopping lists – you can add details like quantities needed and your own photos (so you remember which brand you like using). You can make multiple lists for events, and users can sync their lists so everyone is involved with the planning.
Supercook is a recipe service available online and as an app. You can search recipes by what ingredients you already have at home, so it’s a useful tool for when you don’t manage to visit the shops and want to throw together a quick meal.
This is a shared calendar and organising app. It can be useful for keeping track of everyone’s events and activities, and has inbuilt grocery and recipe plans. It can also be a good way to share schedules if you have a co-parenting arrangement.