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Free parenting and mental health support by text

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

Parenting is a long road, filled with bumps and difficulties. Many of us find ourselves overwhelmed, struggling to cope with everything from becoming a parent, to tricky teenagers, to divorce or separation.

Thankfully, support services are becoming more available by the day, offering easily accessible, instant advice.

Run by parents for parents

One such service is Parents Online, a free online support organisation. Users can chat by texting anonymously to trained volunteers from 6pm to 9pm, Monday to Friday using a laptop, phone or tablet. Parents can vent or seek support about whatever issue they need to, and receive a listening ear and support. The Parents Online volunteers are all parents themselves and fully trained to offer advice and help.

Many of the peer support volunteers are dads, some of whom previously used the service themselves and went on to become involved. All volunteers are trained to become fully accredited peer supporters.

Don’t suffer alone

If an issue is troubling you, there’s no need to bottle it up. From financial worries to separation, custody battles and difficulties trying to parent, there is support readily available. Support services are waiting to help you, with no need to see anyone face to face or give any personal details.

Another free, brilliant service is Shout. If you’re feeling stressed or down, just text the word SHOUT to 85258 and someone will text you back for an anonymous conversation. The service runs 24/7 and no trace of contact will show up on your phone bill.

A text conversation is a quick, easy way to talk

Not only is a text conversation an instant way to get support, but it’s also easier for some people to chat without being seen or speaking their difficulties out loud. Nobody will know that you asked for help if you don’t want them to, and you don’t have to schedule a time to speak to someone. It’s as easy as picking up your phone and texting somebody, but with the added benefit of knowing there is a trained, supportive person replying to you.

How Simon got help and advice

Simon* texted Parents Online one evening, looking for advice on how to deal with being a separated family. John*, the Parents Online support worker, listened and aimed to help with Simon’s predicament.

Simon explained that his ex had been leading a double life, and since they had separated his children lived at home with him. Simon had met someone new and his ex partner was making his life difficult. He wanted to talk about how to deal with it.

John asked questions to get a better handle on Simon’s situation, and Simon explained that his ex wants to come home while still seeing another man. Simon’s life had been made very difficult.

John empathised with Simon’s situation. He listened when Simon explained that he had previously struggled to talk to a professional as he felt too embarrassed. John said that he had been in a similar position himself before, and mentioned how hard it is sometimes for men to open up.

Simon discussed how he had fallen into a black hole of despair before over his ex. He struggling to make sure he didn’t end up back there. John listened and explained how he had been in the same kind of situation as well.

He then suggested that Simon should contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for free legal advice about contact arrangements. John ensured that Simon felt better having discussed his difficulties before the conversation ended.

Where to go for instant support

The following organisations offer free, anonymous support via text:

Parents Online, open 6pm- 9pm Monday to Friday.

Shout, available 24/7. Text the word SHOUT to 85258 to start a conversation.

*Names changed to protect anonymity.

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