As a single parent, you may be on your own, but that doesn't mean that you have to do everything by yourself. There are lots of people around you who would be willing to lend a hand. In addition, asking for help builds community and teaches your children valuable life lessons. Begin with these steps, and you'll find that asking for help isn't as painful as you'd imagined.
How to Ask for Help as a Single Parent
- Stop Pressuring Yourself to Be Perfect
The first step is to let go of the pressure you're putting on yourself to do it all on your own. Look at the families around you. Aren't there many two-parent families who receive regular help from grandparents, aunts, and uncles? There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. Needing help is not a sign of weakness or failure!
- Be Honest With Yourself
What is most disturbing to you about asking for help? Do you think asking for help gives the impression that you're not capable of doing it all on your own? Are you afraid that needing help might confirm what the other parent is trying to say about you? Are you afraid you'll "owe" someone? Try to identify what it is that you resist when it comes to asking others for help.
- Redefine Strength
The strongest people are not necessarily the ones who seem to be able to do it all on their own. Authentic strength includes an awareness of your personal strengths and weaknesses and the ability to recruit assistance in the areas where you need it most.
- Be Optimistic
Believe that people around you want to help; because, in most cases, they do. If your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers realized you had a specific need, many of them would jump at the chance to help out. Maybe you've "known" your neighbor for eight years, but she has no idea that you're going through a difficult time right now. Believe that if she knew your need, she wouldn't hesitate to help.
- Take a Risk
As humbling as it can be, asking for help can also provide an amazing opportunity to "get real" with the people around you. When they, in return, do the same thing, you may be surprised to find yourself developing exactly the type of deep, meaningful friendships you've always wanted to cultivate. That's enriching, but it doesn't happen without the willingness to take a risk and be real.
- Start With One Need
Begin by focusing on one area of your life where you could use some support. Maybe it's getting the kids to and from soccer practice, or maybe you could use some help fixing a leaky faucet in the bathroom. Start by asking for help with one specific need.
Who might be able to help you with this particular need? Is it a neighbor you trust? A relative who lives nearby? You might think that you're limited to those people who you already know well, or who you have a lot in common with. But take the time to "think outside the box." Who do you trust? Who are you drawn to? Who is one person in your life that you'd like to get to know better? See How to Build a Support System as a Single Parent for more on this topic.
Once you've brainstormed a list of the people who might be able to help, call them. If it's easier for you, write down what you plan to say on a piece of paper. Also, you can even begin your request by saying, "I'm not really comfortable asking for help, but I was wondering if you might be able to do something for me."
- Say "Thank You"
Of course it goes without saying that it's appropriate to thank someone who helps you. However, there's also reason for a word of caution here: Don't overdo it. You don't have to spend money on a thank you gift! Heartfelt words of appreciation, either spoken or written on paper, are sufficient.
- Give Back
Lastly, you can always return the favor in other ways. If your neighbor watches your kids two afternoons a week, double a recipe once in a while and share half of it with her family. Keep your eyes open, and you'll begin to see the ways in which others around you could use your help, too.
Tips on Asking for Help
- Asking for help gets easier the more you do it.
- Start by asking for help in one small area.
- If you're more comfortable, suggest trading tasks like child care and cooking.