What’s it like to be a young single parent?

Young single parents tell us that practitioners that see things from their perspective help them to achieve more. But often, stereotypes are hard to overcome and single parents may not find it easy to explain to a professional what their life is really like. This section helps you to separate stereotypes from reality and build a deeper understanding of the parents you support.

Overcoming stereotypes

Take the quiz

Take our sterotypes vs reality quiz to see what it’s really like to be a young single parent.

As the quiz shows, many of the ideas shared in the media and wider society about single parents just aren’t true. But that doesn’t mean that single parents themselves don’t regularly hear them.

Young single parents involved in Growing Together gave long lists of stereotypes that they felt others unfairly applied to them – from not being old, educated or responsible enough to be good parents, being bad role models or being scroungers. Practitioners were also all too aware of the typical connotations associated with being a young single parent.

As you support young single parents, be mindful that they know exactly what stigma they face. And they probably believe that you think those things about them too!

If a young person is acting defensive or seems distant, take a minute to think about how they might be feeling. Be careful not to imply or reinforce any stereotypes when talking to them. And remember that building their trust first will help in the long run.

Fear of being judged: Emma’s story

Emma was 18 and living with her family when she became pregnant. She continued to live at home in an overcrowded 2-bed house for the first year of her son’s life, but when social housing became available she moved.

“I got on well with my mum but living on top of each other like that led to arguments and I wanted my own space. We get on much better now and even though I miss seeing her every day, our relationship has improved.”

Although the journey between her mum’s house and her new home is only ten minutes by car it takes at least twenty five minutes to walk, especially when pushing a buggy or holding hands with a slow toddler. In those early days she felt isolated as there was no where to go, apart from a small park up the road, no reliable transport and no one to talk to.

“For the first two weeks I got there I just cried every day.”

This loneliness led to depression and she became almost housebound.

“I had loads of friends at school, but I was the first to have a baby. They were all interested at first and promised to keep in touch and come and see me but after he was born they just didn’t. Even those that arranged the baby shower and were really involved when I was pregnant – our lives just changed and they didn’t want to know.”

She described her anxiety beforehand and her relief after meeting Lyn and Paula for the first time to register to take part in the Growing Together project. But says that the relationship with them was “based on trust and mutual respect.”

See more of the toolkit

  1. About the toolkit
  2. What’s it like to be a young single parent?
  3. The benefits and challenges of single parenthood
  4. A practitioner’s role in supporting young single parents
  5. Dos and don’ts when supporting young single parents

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