Date last updated: 10 October 2019
Mental health advice for single parents
This page is an introduction for single parents to find out more about mental health, providing general advice on practicing self-care and focusing on wellbeing.
At Gingerbread we want single parent families to feel valued. We know that single parents face many challenges that can sometimes make it difficult to prioritise self-care, and may impact on their mental health. We believe that self-care isn’t an indulgence but a necessity that will help single parents to be the best that they can be for their families. The information on this page is designed to inspire and support single parents to practice self-care, develop strong coping strategies, and build confidence and resilience in managing their mental health.
If you would like more specialist information and advice about Mental Health we recommend visiting:
Looking after your mental health
Our mental health is how well we think and feel, and how well we are able to cope with life’s ups and down. Some people also call it our ’emotional health’ or ‘well-being’.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and it is important for everyone to practice self-care. Just as there are good practices you can do to keep your body healthy, there are active things we can all do to help keep our minds healthy.
The New Economic Foundation recommends their Five Ways to Wellbeing which can help improve and maintain your mental health.
1. Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
2. Be active. Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
3. Take notice. Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
4. Keep learning. Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.
5. Give. Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
Resources for single parents
Here are some resources you can try to help look after your mental health.
Read: try Mind’s tips for everyday living, covering everything from eating well to relaxation methods.
Listen and watch: there are lots of podcasts and videos which talk about mental health and how to manage it in your everyday life. Check out the Mental Health Foundation’s list of podcasts and videos.
Try an app: the NHS has a library of apps for your phone that are designed to help you manage your mental health from day to day.
Ask for help: If you have children under 5, your local Home Start may be able to arrange for a volunteer to come and help support you at home, or to connect you with local services.
Tips from single parents
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, 1 child, age 6
Keep busy, surround yourself with good positive people, and do something you love.
Mum, 2 children, age 13 and 15
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, 1 child, age 17
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 is down to you, then build up from that with positive thoughts.
Mum, 1 child, age 2
Be forgiving towards yourself, and your children. When things don't go to plan - remember tomorrow is another day.
Mum, 1 child, age 5