Dealing with loneliness and isolation

Loneliness is a challenge many single parents experience. There's no one at home to go over the day's events with once the children are in bed, or to share the pride and burdens of parenting, or to help with finances and chores. Many single parents are so focused on parenting and work that they have little time left over for adult relationships.

Here are some ways to lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness:

• Make time for adult company. Research shows that companionship— time spent with friends sharing thoughts and feelings—not only tends to make you feel better, but also has a significant effect on your health. Exercising with a friend, finding people who share a hobby or interest, looking for compatible people at work or through your child's school, or connecting with siblings can all help you build a social support network. And those connections with other people can form an important defense against stress. It takes some effort to bring adults into your life, but it's worth the trouble. Make a habit of getting together with friends. Invite a neighbor over for dinner or to watch a game on TV. It's good for your children to see you enjoying the company of other adults, and it will give you some balance in your life.

• Reach out to other single parents. Look for other single parents through support groups like Parents Without Partners (see the resource list at the end of this booklet). Ask around at your children's school, child care, or playgroups. Find other single parents through your place of employment. Other places to connect with single parents include your faith community, your local YMCA or YWCA, a Boys and Girls Club, or other youth and family organizations. Consider posting a notice on a bulletin board at one of these community organizations advertising your desire to get together with other single parents. Online forums can offer a lifeline of support during those times when other parents are unavailable or you're unable to get out of the house. You might visit or another online site.

"We know that adult one-on-one interaction is an important ingredient to successful single parenting. This interaction allows you time to be a 'person' as well as a parent, to rejuvenate, find help, counsel, and friendship. Adult interaction is also vital to avoid the pitfall of relying too heavily on children to fill the gap left by an adult."

—Brook Noel with Art Klein, The Single Parent Resource

• Take trips and vacations with relatives or other single-parent families. It will be more relaxing for you if there's another adult along on vacation, and it will be fun for your child to have friends along, too. Sharing may also keep the cost down for a trip, as you may be able to share driving and other expenses.

• Be open to a wide circle of friends. Look beyond your own age group for friendship and support. Knock on the door of the retiree who lives in the apartment across the way and invite her over for a cup of tea. Chat with the young, newly married couple you see at the playground. You may find you share a passion for old movies or cooking, and that can be the springboard to a new friendship. Remember that it is OK to connect with others who are not single parents. Be sure to include at least one friend of the opposite gender in your circle to keep diverse points of view available to you.

• Keep in touch with friends by e-mail. It's a great way to keep up friendship ties despite long distances and busy schedules.

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