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Your wellbeing

Being a single parent has its ups and downs. And as a parent, you’re no doubt used to putting others before yourself. But everyone struggles with their emotional wellbeing from time to time. There’s no shame in opening up about how you feel and asking for help – it can be the first step in feeling like yourself again.

Here we share advice for looking after your own wellbeing, with ideas to help improve how you feel, boost your confidence and manage when things feel tough. 

If you’re worried about your child’s wellbeing and are looking for ways to support them, read our page on your child’s wellbeing.

Recognising how you feel

Where to get help

Common problems

Tips for looking after yourself

Wise words from single parents

Emergency help

If you’re really struggling, ask for help. Don’t wait.

You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 for free, 24 hours a day. Or you can text Shout with ‘Ginger’ to 85258 to talk with a trained volunteer any time. You can also call SANEline for free emotional support on 0300 304 7000 every day between 4pm to 10pm.

If you feel like you want to end your life, call 999. Don’t worry – this IS an emergency. If you’re under 35, you can also call HopeLine UK on 0800 068 4141 or text 07860 039967. You’re not wasting anyone’s time and you will be taken seriously.

Recognising how you feel

No one can be at their best all the time. Life changes can be very stressful. And it’s easy to ignore the pressures of day-to-day responsibilities when you’re a single parent. Sometimes problems and challenges build up and start to feel overwhelming.

If you’re struggling, you’re not alone. In the UK, 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems each year. This can make the day-to-day challenges of parenting feel even harder.

But you don’t have to struggle on your own. There is support out there.

Where to get help

It’s OK to ask for help, even if you’re not sure what’s wrong. You may be:

  • Worrying more than usual
  • Finding it hard to enjoy life
  • Feeling hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Having thoughts and feelings that are hard to cope with

It’s important to remember this: taking steps to look after yourself will help you to look after your children.

Here are a few places you can go for help. 

The Gingerbread Community

Our free Wellbeing Workshops are a chance to meet other single parents and learn tools to manage stress and improve your wellbeing. These 2-hour sessions are delivered online at times that fit around busy family lives.

Our Single Parent Stories are where single parents share what they’ve been through and learned. Lots are about getting through tough times and dealing with all types of feelings. 

You can also chat, make friends and meet up online in  our Wellbeing group in the Gingerbread Digital Community.

Join our Wellbeing Digital Group

Chat, meet up and share ideas in the Gingerbread Digital Community

Friends and family

Just sharing your thoughts with another person can make you feel much better. And being open with someone you know and trust can help you think about how best to share your feelings with other people, if you need to. 

Mind has some useful tips for talking about your mental health with friends and family

If you’d rather talk to someone outside your family and friends, you could try talking to other parents through networks like Mumsnet, Netmums or Dad.info.

Online and phone services

There are lots of charities and organisations that are here to help people with their mental health. 

  • Mind has information about lots of aspects of mental health – and a helpline where you can talk to someone about how to get the support you need. They also have specific information on parenting and mental health.
  • Hub of Hope can help you find mental health services in your area.

Your GP

Your GP is there for both your physical and mental health. They’ll listen and can suggest a way forward – like self-help resources, medication or counselling. They may also make a diagnosis and refer you to a mental health specialist, like a psychiatrist. 

They should also schedule regular appointments with you to check how you’re doing.

Mind has some useful guidance on preparing to talk to your GP.

If you’re pregnant or have recently had a baby, you could talk to your midwife or health visitor too. 

A counsellor

You might want to think about counselling, or talking therapy. Your GP can refer you to free counselling sessions or you can sign up directly through the NHS if you live in England. 

You can also pay to see a private counsellor or therapist. If you’re on a low income, always check to see if they’ll reduce their fee. 

To find a counsellor or therapist, the Counselling Directory and BACP are good places to start. Relate offers relationship and family counselling in centres around the UK, as well as online and over the phone. If you’re working, your employer might offer free counselling through an employee assistance programme (EAP).

Common problems

Here are some mental health problems we hear about from single parents and how to manage them.

Feeling lonely

Many single parents feel lonely or isolated, and this can affect your mental health and everyday life. 

If you’re feeling this way, try to take small steps towards connecting with other people. Go at a pace you feel comfortable with. Here are a few things you could try.

Talk to someone

Try to open up to a person you know and trust. Or you could reach out to others online – such as through our Gingerbread forum or Mind’s Side By Side community.

Get used to being around people

Doing things where you’re around people but don’t have to talk to them can help you feel more confident: sitting in a cafe, going to the cinema or park, for example. It can be also easier to get to know people by doing something together – like learning something in a class or volunteering. You could look for a nearby Meetup group to find something you like doing.

Try peer support

It can really help to be around people like you who understand what you’re going through. The Befriending Network directory can put you in touch with someone who will understand what you’ve been through and offer support. You can filter by theme and choose ‘lone parent families’. You could also join a Facebook group through the Web of Loneliness.

Mind has more about loneliness and how to manage it.


This is when you feel nervous, tense, or worried about something in the future, or that you think might happen. Anxiety feels different for everyone. You might feel restless, shaky or sick. You might notice your heart pounding or that you’re breathing faster.

Lots of people feel anxious when they’re dealing with something stressful. But this can become a problem if it stops you from living your life. If your anxious feelings are really strong or don’t go away, or your worries feel very hard to control, you might need to get some help.

Mind has lots of information about anxiety and how to manage it. And the Mental Health Foundation has a free guide on how to overcome fear and anxiety.

Panic attacks

A panic attack is when you have a sudden and intense feeling of anxiety – so strong that you feel dizzy or sweaty, or can’t breathe, or your heart is pounding. A panic attack isn’t life-threatening, but it can be scary and unpleasant.

You can read more about anxiety on the Mind website and see a video about how to cope with a panic attack. The NHS also has advice on coping with panic attacks.


If you feel low or sad for a long time – so much that it affects your everyday life – you might have depression. Most people have days when they feel down, but depression is feeling constantly sad or withdrawn for weeks or even months. 

Signs of depression:

  • Often feeling low
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy 
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Low self-esteem
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling constantly tired
  • Not able to sleep

Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. If you feel depressed, speak to your GP. They should point you to where you can find help, or suggest counselling or medication.

Mind has lots of information about depression – you can also read more on the NHS website.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

This is a type of anxiety that can develop after experiencing something traumatic. This could include domestic abuse, bullying, the death of someone close, or childbirth (known as birth trauma or postnatal PTSD). 

PTSD may involve reliving the experience as flashbacks or nightmares, intense anxiety, trouble sleeping, or feeling numb. It’s normal to go through things like this after something traumatic happens. But if it goes on for more than a month, you may have PTSD. Talk to your GP to get help and treatment. 

You can learn more about PTSD from Mind and the NHS

Struggling during pregnancy or with a new baby

Becoming pregnant and having a baby can have a big impact on your mental health. As many as 1 in 5 women have a hard time with their mental health while they’re pregnant or in the first year with a new baby. This could mean feeling depressed, anxious, having PTSD from a difficult birth, or experiencing eating problems. Fathers can also struggle with their mental health in the first year of having a child.

It can be hard to talk about it if you feel this way. But it’s OK to ask for help if you need it – all parents need support at some point. Try talking to a friend, your GP, or your midwife. 

Mind has more information about maternal mental health. And the Pandas Foundation has support and advice for any parent who feels they’re struggling during or after pregnancy.

The challenges of parenting with a mental health problem

Hear 3 parents talk about their experiences

Tips for looking after yourself

Find time for yourself

Looking after your children can take all the time and energy you have. So try to get some time to yourself every now and then to recharge your batteries. All busy parents need time away from children, housework and chores. Maybe you could get a family friend to look after things for a few hours while you get away. Or perhaps you could arrange a little extra childcare – you can look for local childcare through the Family and Childcare Trust.  

Say yes to help

If someone offers to help, don’t be afraid to say yes. Even an hour or so of babysitting can give you time to get away and collect your thoughts, and do whatever helps you relax. 

If you don’t have family or friends nearby, or if you’d rather talk to someone outside your family, somewhere like Home-Start can help. They have specially trained volunteers who can visit you at home for a few hours each week – see how they work

Celebrate the little wins

Every family has its ups and downs. Try not to compare yourself to others – no parent gets it right all of the time. Try making a list of all the things you’ve done in the last week, then highlight the ones that have been good or helpful for you and your children. You might be surprised at what you’ve done.

Look after your body

Looking after yourself physically can really help you feel better. Something as simple as getting out for a walk can change how you feel. You could also check whether there are any low-cost or free exercise classes near you. Or do some yoga at home – there are lots of videos on YouTube.

What you put into your body also makes a difference. It’s important to eat well – as what you eat can affect how you feel. Netmums has some budget-friendly recipes you could try for the family.

Learn something new

This can give your confidence and mood a boost. Many adult education colleges offer reduced fees on both leisure and career-related courses if you’re claiming benefits, tax credits or qualify for a concession. For more, read our pages on financial help if you’re studying – either in further education or higher education.

If you’re planning to go back to work and want to learn new skills, see our page on learning new skills.

Wise words from single parents

Forgive yourself

Be forgiving towards yourself, and your children. When things don’t go to plan – remember tomorrow is another day.

Mum with 5-year-old


Talk. To anyone and everyone. Talking really helps to alleviate and normalise how you’re feeling. Our emotions are perfectly natural and we shouldn’t feel ashamed of them.

Mum with a 6-year-old

Keep busy

Keep busy, surround yourself with good, positive people, and do something you love.

Mum with a 13- and 15-year-old

Make small changes

Sit down and look at what’s going right and what’s going wrong in your life. Be brave, take control and make small changes.

Mum with a 17-year-old

Focus on the good things

Focus on the good things – try not to let the negative thoughts bring you down and keep you down. Start with recognising you have a happy and healthy child and that’s down to you, then build up from that with positive thoughts.

Mum with a 2-year-old

Date last updated: 27 September 2023

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