The Single Parent's Need for a Social Support Network and How to Acquire One

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In an exhaustive report by researchers at Brigham Young University looking at over three decades of studies on social relationships and mortality, it was concluded that people with friends, family, and community involved were fifty percent less likely to die during the study periods than those with sparse social support. And on the contrary, people with little social support have a rate rate risk equal to alcoholism and even higher than obesity or physical inactivity. The link between social support and mortality risk was found for both men and women of all ages, regardless of initial conditions, years of a study, or cause of death. To put it more concretely, that 50% number means that socially connected people live an average of 3.7 years longer than less connected people.

Parents, especially single parents, need to be connected and receptive to all the help that's available . The strongest as well as the most fragile family requires a vital network of social support not only in reference to mortal risk, but to deal with the stresses that are out of proportion to what any one parent can handle.

In today's world, parents find themselves at the mercy of a society which implies pressure and priorities that allow neither time nor place for meaningful activities and relationships between children and adults. It downgrades the role of the parent and the functions of parenthood and prevails the parent from doing things she wants to do as a guide, friend, and companion to her children.

At this point in time, the social support network can play a major role. It would help to eliminate the feeling of being isolated and give you someone who understands what you're going through. You will have others that you will be able to rejoice with, commiserate with on various parenting issues, and get help in time of difficulty.

So while you are living far away or estranged from parents or other relatives, isolated in a city apartment, or even surrounded by people but still feeling lonely, here is something you can do.

Play this game at the next opportunity you have some quiet time. Take out a piece of paper and list the following categories followed by a dash, eg Immediate family ___, Extended family___, Community or Civic Activities____, Communications with others – letters, e-mail, phone calls, etc. ____ and put an X on each line indicating the contacts that you have made in the past four weeks. Set some goals for yourself and think about techniques for developing new supports and friendships. It can lead to both a longer and happier life.

by Will Barnes

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