What not to say to a single parent!

Insensitive much? Here's our top ten list to avoid when you're talking to single parents...

People say all kinds of things you when you become a parent – some helpful and sensitive, and some not so much. Single parents in particular often find themselves on the wrong end of some horribly intrusive questions/statements. If you want to avoid coming across as rude and nosy, check out our top ten to avoid below.

  1. Why are you single? Let’s start with this clanger. First off, if the person wants you to know they will tell you in their own time. (This question is also unhelpful for singles who aren’t parents, by the way!) They may have had no choice in the matter and desperately want to be in a relationship, or perhaps they have their own reasons for staying single. You may not be ready to hear the answer, which could be anything from incompatibility to domestic abuse. Avoid this question at all costs.
  2. Who’s the father/mother? Ummm, it’s none of your business! What does it matter whether the other parent has died, left, been kicked out or is a complete stranger? Focus on how you can be a support to this family regardless of parentage. While we’re on the subject, don’t be asking whether the children all have the same mother/father!  
  3. You’ve really got your work cut out for you. Well, duh. All parents do, and single parents tend to have it even tougher. Your intention may be harmless way, but it could imply that you think the parent in question is not doing a good job with their kids or that they are struggling in a way that they wouldn’t be if they were coupled up. Not helpful.
  4. It must be so nice to have your weekends free. Most parents miss their children terribly when they’re not around, and they probably also have a million things to catch up on when the kids are with the other parent. Supposing that there is another parent, and that the other parent spends time with the kids, that is. Again, this kind of statement could open up a whole can of worms.
  5. I have a single friend you’d be perfect for. To begin with, the person may not be interested in dating. They may be too busy or have gone off relationships because they’ve been so hurt in the past. Also, your idea of ‘perfect for’ may be very different from theirs. Don’t make them feel as though they’re incomplete because they don’t have someone fancy hanging off their arm.
  6. Having to be both parents must be so hard for you. The reality is, no one can be a mother and a father. Single parents simply do the best they can to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment, just like any other parent. It may be meant sympathetically, but it can make people feel inadequate and even guilty about being single.
  7. My partner works away sometimes, so I know exactly what it’s like. No you don’t! You’re confident that after a few days your partner will be back home. Not only does that give you an extra pair of hands and help you get over the loneliness, but it also probably makes you more financially secure. If you knew that your partner was never going to come back or pay bills again you might have more of an idea.
  8. How come you’re never free to meet up any more? The likelihood is that the parent is up to their eyeballs in looking after children, keeping the household ticking over and paying the bills. They may not have the time, money or inclination to get a babysitter every time you feel like hitting the local coffee shop. It’s likely that any rare free time is taking up with decompressing or catching up on sleep. Offer to pop over and do the vacuuming if you’re missing your friend, and bring snacks!
  9. Maybe you’re still single because… You might think you’re being helpful by pointing out that your friend’s standards are too high, or that they’re too outspoken, overweight or obstinate… but you’re not! Most people (single or otherwise) know what their issues are, and having someone point them out only compounds them. Perhaps they’re single because they actually want to be single. Steer clear of any kind of finger-pointing!
  10. Do you ever regret having kids? This is the absolute pits when it comes to single parents… or any parents for that matter. Most parents consider their children to be their greatest achievement. Would they like more support? Probably yes. Do they regret having kids? Most would give an emphatic no… And then swiftly blacklist you.

As Proverbs 17:28 says: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”