50 Ways to Help a Single Parent

How to Lend a Hand and Be a Friend

The best way to help a single parent is to be their friend, by getting to know them and letting them get to know you. Whether they live next door or across town, give them your phone number and let them know that she can call you when she has a specific need or when she just needs someone to talk to. As trust develops, let them know that you're available to help with their kids, too, and show them that you're someone they can count on. The following list of "50 Ways to Help a Single Parent" will help you think up new ways to lend a hand to your single parent neighbor, coworker, or friend.

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Volunteer to Watch Their Kids

Single mom dropping her baby off at a neighbor's house.
Photo © ONOKY - Eric Audras/Getty Images

Especially for single moms who don’t have family nearby, this is a huge gift. Just make sure that you’ve gotten to know her well enough that she can trust you before you volunteer to take care of her kiddos. It’s a big deal for her to leave them with anyone, and you’ll want to make sure she’s comfortable with you before you take this step.

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Have Their Kids Over for a Play Date

Especially if you have children who are close in age, this is a great way to get to know a single parent and their children. Even just those few minutes of conversation during drop off and pick up times can be a breath of fresh air to a single parent who doesn’t get to spend much time with their peers.

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Invite Them Over for Coffee

Here’s another low-key way to get to know a single mom who lives next door to you or who works in your building. In addition, having coffee doesn’t imply a big time commitment, and if you invite her to bring her kids along, it will be that much easier for her to say “yes.”

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Make Her a Meal

We all have nights when cooking is too much to bear. Double up on a recipe you’re already planning to make, and give her the duplicate to put in her freezer.

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Give Her Coupons You’re Not Going to Use

If you’re a skilled coupon clipper (or clicker, if you hunt for coupons online), share the ones you’re not going to use with a single mom who can also benefit from the savings. In addition, if you subscribe to a coupon site that has been particularly effective for you, show her how it works so she can reap the savings, too.

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Share Your Kids’ Hand-me-downs

Be tactful, of course, when you make this offer. Don’t assume that her children need clothing or would feel comfortable in the same styles your children have worn. Instead, gently inquire as to whether she would be interested in seeing some of the things you’ve set aside.

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Show Her the Best Thrift Stores in the Area

Shopping at thrift stores can significantly cut your clothing budget, but good ones can be hard to find. If you know of a reputable thrift or consignment shop in your area, tell your single mom friend about it and volunteer to go there together.

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Give Her a Gas Card

Many single moms are responsible for driving their children long distances for visits with the other parent. The next time you’re buying gas, consider picking up a $10 gift card to share.

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Leave a Bag of Groceries on Her Doorstep

You can choose to do this anonymously or not. Sometimes that unexpected bag of staples is what gets a struggling single mom through until her next ​paycheck!

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Include Her Kids in Your Carpooling Group

If you’re going to be driving your own kids—and perhaps others in the neighborhood—to school or summer camp, volunteer to include her children, too. She may be in a bind for transportation and feel reluctant to ask for help.

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Ask Her if She’d Like to Drive to a School Meeting Together

Walking into a large school meeting can be intimidating, especially if she’s new in town. Ask her if she’d like to drive together. You can even offer to share a babysitter, too. And if she can’t go, let her know that you’ll share the information from the meeting with her when you get back.

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Tell Her About the Extra Curricular Activities Your Kids Have Enjoyed

She may not know what’s available in town, so make a point of letting her know what types of activities your kids do currently or have enjoyed in the past. It can be difficult to nail down specific information about things like baseball and soccer signups, and you can be a key resource for her in this department.

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Share a Box of Your Kids’ Old Books or Toys With Her

Again, you have to be tactful about how you offer hand-me-downs, but most single moms will appreciate the gesture, even if their kids’ bookshelves and toy boxes are overflowing.  Maybe you can take a few of her old ones and donate them ​to a library for her.

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Recommend a Mechanic When She Has Car Trouble

Unfortunately, some auto repair shops will take advantage of a woman in need of assistance, by overcharging her or by recommending fixes for things that aren’t really broken. Save her this trouble by recommending a mechanic you’ve used personally or one who is known for being trustworthy.

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Give her a Ride

Whether her car is in the shop or public transportation is down temporarily, offer to give her a ride on occasion—especially if you’re going in the same direction, anyway.

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Help Her Resolve a Computer Problem

Computers have become a necessary appliance in all of our lives, but fixing them can cost a lot of money. If you have the technical ability, help your single mom friend or neighbor resolve the issues that are slowing down her computer or interfering with her email accounts.

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Volunteer to Cut Her Lawn or Shovel Snow

Even if you only do this once or twice a season, the help will be a welcome surprise!

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Let Her Borrow Your Grill or Lawn Tools

Grills, lawnmowers, and snow blowers can be huge expenses. Let your single mom neighbor know that she can use yours instead of buying her own.

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Let Her Use Your Washing Machine or Other Appliances When Needed

We’ve all been in the position of having a refrigerator, dryer, or washing machine fail at the worst possible time. When this happens, let her know that she can borrow yours until her own appliances are up and running again.

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Be a Character Reference For Her During a Job Search

Looking for work can ​be difficult and draining. Pass on any tips you know about what jobs are available in your area, and offer to be a reference for her, as well. Even if you’ve never worked together, you can speak to her character, determination, and work ethic just by what you know of her interactions with her children.

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Volunteer to Pick Up Her Kids in an Emergency

Especially if she's a single mom with no family in the area, she may not be sure who to put down on her children's emergency contact forms. Let her know that you're available to help in emergencies and give her your home, work, and/or cell phone numbers so you can be reached in an emergency.​

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Be Her Back Up Plan For Snow Days, Delays, and Early Dismissals

Snow days are great fun for kids, but they wreak havoc on a single mom’s carefully constructed schedule. Help a single mom who lives next door or in your neighborhood by volunteering to provide backup childcare when needed.

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Take Pictures at School Events and Share Them With Her

There may be occasions when you’re able to attend a school play, party, or special event, but she cannot. Offer to take pictures of her kids and email them to her, if possible.

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Tell Her Something Positive About Her Interactions With Her Kids

Everyone needs to hear something affirming now and then, and far too many single moms get very little positive feedback about the important work they’re doing raising their children. You can make a big difference just by taking the time to give her a genuine compliment about what you see.

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Speak Up When You Observe Her Kids Doing Something She’d Want to Know About

All of our kids need to know that the adults in their lives care about them, and sometimes you may need to demonstrate this by telling your single mom neighbor or friend about something negative that she’d probably want to know about. When this happens, let her know that you’re sharing the information with her because you care and you hope she’d do the same if the tables were turned and she observed your children doing something they shouldn’t have.

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Volunteer to Water Her Garden or Outdoor Plants

If you’ll be out there watering your own plants, anyway, why not volunteer to take care of hers, or at least turn her sprinklers on and off at a certain time of day.

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Watch Her Pets or Pick Up Her Mail While She’s on Vacation

Pet sitting can be expensive. When she goes on vacation, volunteer to keep an eye on the house, pick up her mail, put out the garbage, and feed her pets. The peace of mind you’ll be giving her is priceless!

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Co-Host a Yard Sale Together

We all have stuff hanging around the house that could be sold or given away, but doing a yard sale alone can be intimidating. Volunteer to host one together, and help her organize her wares ahead of time, if necessary. You’ll both have more traffic and better sales by running the event together.

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Volunteer to Run an Errand For Her

Are you running out to the library or dollar store? See if she needs anything that you can pick up. This is especially helpful for single moms with young children, who may have difficulty making the time for regular errands.

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Include Her Kids When You Buy Treats From the Ice Cream Truck

Here’s a simple way to help a single mom! Her kids will appreciate the treat, and she’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness.

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Invite Her to Attend Church or a Community Event With You

Every family needs a community of support. If you’re involved with a religious or civic organization, invite her to join you for an upcoming meeting or event. Let her know, too, that this is a “no strings attached” standing invitation.

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Go Walking With Her

Exercise is a great way to beat stress, and having a buddy to go walking with two or three times a week can be the difference between thinking about exercising and actually getting out there and doing it. If you both have young kids, bring strollers, bikes, or scooters along for the children.

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Recommend a Pediatrician, Dentist, or Orthodontist For Her Kids

Personal recommendations are often the best kind when you need to find a new doctor, dentist, or even a veterinarian. Let your single mom friend or coworker know which specialists you trust, especially if she's new in town.

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Pick Up Items From the Farmer’s Market For Her

Farmer's markets often have the best prices for produce, but her work hours may make it difficult for her to go there on a particular day of the week. If you'll be going anyway, offer to pick up something special for her, or go in together on bulk items like corn, potatoes, and seasonal fruit.

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Share Your Newspaper Subscription With Her

Especially if your single mom neighbor is looking for work, let her know that she can use your newspaper to access the Help Wanted ads.

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Tell Her About a Single Parent Scholarship in Your Area

Some single parent scholarships are region-specific and may not be widely advertised. If you know of a program at your local community college or university that could a help single mom you know go back to school, share the information with her.

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Help Her Fill Out Government Forms Like Financial Aid and Taxes

Government forms like financial aid applications and federal and state taxes can be overwhelming. If you have experience with these matters, let her know that you'd be happy to help her understand what they're looking for and complete the application, either by hand or online.

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Share a Book With Her That You Really Enjoyed

Whether it's a parenting book or a best selling novel, recommending a favorite title can help you get to know one another better. And if you're in a book club, ask her to join you for your next meeting!

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Offer to Help Her Learn New Computer Skills

Being proficient in certain computer skills can be the difference between getting a new job and being passed over. Help the single mom in your neighborhood or mom's group gain new skills by providing an hour-long lesson in your home or at the local library.

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Help Her Get On-the-Job Training or an Internship Through Someone You Know

Sometimes getting a new job comes down to who you know. If you have connections that can help, let her know that you're willing to call upon them to help her secure a new internship or on-the-job training opportunity.

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Offer Free Tutoring for Her Kids

Help her children study for a test or master a math skill they've been struggling with. Taking the time to read a book together would be a welcome bonus, too!

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Teach Her Kids a New Skill, Like Baking or Gardening

Take her children under your wing just like you would if they were your own nieces and nephews. This means passing down the skills you know that they can benefit from. Whether it's gardening, baking, or something else, becoming proficient in a new skill is a huge self-confidence booster!

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Share a Gift Certificate to a Nearby Salon, Spa, or Coffee House

Do you have a gift certificate sitting around that you're not going to use? To the single mom who lives next door or up the street, that might feel like a luxury. Rather than let it go to waste, share it - and don't forget to let her know that you expect nothing in return.

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Leave an Anonymous Gift Card or Basket of Goodies By HerDdoor

Sometimes it's easier to give a gift when the recipient doesn't know it's you. While you don't want to be anonymous all the time, there's nothing wrong with leaving a gift card or basket of goodies on her doorstep with an anonymous note saying, "Enjoy!"

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Share Your Kids’ Old Halloween Costumes, Winter Coats, Gloves, and Boots

Like all other hand-me-downs, you'll want to inquire whether she's interested before dropping these items off at her house. However, because these seasonal items can get pricey, they're a gift she'll probably appreciate!

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Buy Guest Passes For Her and Her Kids to Attend a Local Pool With You

Invite her and her children to come to the pool with you. It's a low-key, non-threatening way to get to know one another better, and it makes a great summer outing.

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Help Her With Home Repairs

Would you be willing to help a single mom you know install a ceiling fan or window air conditioning units? These are tasks that often require another set of hands. In addition, there are countless home repair jobs that she may just need to see someone do once in order to be able to do them on a regular basis on her own.

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Ask Questions

Let her know that you care by asking her questions about herself and her children. When people show an interest, it's easier to open up and build authentic relationships.

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Validate Her as a Person

Many single moms have experienced difficult and even oppressive relationships. Let her know that she's worth the effort it takes to build a friendship, and when you can, be specific about telling her what you value about her as a person.

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Be Her Friend

This is the most important thing you can do for the single mom you live near or work with. Everyone needs positive, uplifting relationships, and as adults, it can be difficult to form meaningful, no-strings-attached friendships. Being that type of person for her is one of the best ways to help a single mom you care about.