Increasing your support

Single parents shouldn’t parent alone.

This is a statement I make frequently. As a single parent you need others to help you. You need to parent together with others to grow your best family. The previous blog unpacked some of the reasons why I believe a single parent needs a community and support team. So how do you do that? How do you grow community and support? There’s a couple of tools to help you.

A touching moment as a tiny Piping Plover chick snuggles into its parent on a sandy beach in the early morning sunlight.

Mapping your support circle

Firstly, have you heard of mapping your support circle? It’s a helpful way:

  • to work out who is currently supporting you
  • look for gaps you need to fill
  • identify people you can move within the circle

I have used this tool when I teach single parents ‘One Together’. I teach it to my pastoral care students to use with people they are supporting. I use it when I coach people for healthy living and I have used it on myself. Getting curious yet to use it for yourself?

Download a copy from the ‘My Life’ Healthy Living journal’ here

How to map your support circle

You are the centre of all the circles.

The inner circle are the people who are closest to you – usually only 3 or 4, and they can be family or best friends. These people know you inside out and you can be truthful with them. Likewise they will tell you the truth. They love you unconditionally, hold your secrets and keep you accountable i.e. they are safe. Think and then write names of people in your inner circle.

The friendship circle is for your friends. These are people you comfortably hang out with. You invite them to your birthday party and they would invite you to theirs. They are a network of support to you.  Think and then write names of people in your friendship circle.

The social circle is your wider social network. These are people in the local sports club, parents at your kid’s school, people you chat to at the shops. You can have a friendly chat but the conversation is not deep. Think and then write names of people in your social circle.

The paid circle is people who are paid to be in your life like your local doctor or your hairdresser. The paid circle includes any support workers or counsellors.  Think and then write names of people in your paid circle.

Watch the video on using the circle by clicking here

What next?

Answer the following questions?

  • Do you have people in all circles? Are their gaps?
  • Do you have 3 to 4 people in your inner circle and people in your friendship circle (as this is where most of your support will come from)?
  • Do you have paid support if you need it – like a counsellor?
  • Are you using people in your paid circle to provide support that the inner circle should provide e.g are you telling your hairdresser your inner most feelings because you have no-one else to talk to?
  • Can you see someone whom you would like to move into another circle e.g a friend in the friendships circle who could provide additional support in the inner circle?

An example of using the tool.

At the start of last year, my 20 year old daughter in the space of a month, had her brother whom she was close to move interstate, her best friend was killed in a car accident and she broke up with her boyfriend of 18 months.  Her inner circle was destroyed at a time when she most needed them.  So for emergency support we added some paid support with counselling. Some months later, we drew her circle of support and identified people in the friendship circle who she could spend more time with and grow her inner circle again. She thought it was a clinical way to make friends, but it worked!

Building support networks

As a single parent and due to the busy demands of life, lack of money and sometimes an overloaded schedule (see 4 strategies to ease the household load as a single parent) it can be difficult to prioritise your support network, leading to big gaps in your support circle. So another simple tool to prompt your thoughts about where you could connect with others is – ‘Activities you can try to meet new people’.

Putting legs it

Have a go with using the tools and grow your support network.

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter

Resourcing families, Building support Networks

Focussing on disabilities has great information on building a network and the manual, ‘Circles of support’ p9-10 has more information on social circles


Legge, V, Oerman, B & van Loon, A 2015, My Life: Healthy Living Journal , Baptist Care (SA) Inc, Wayville.

Photo credit Ray Hennessy

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