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The Single File - Single But Not Alone

Certain summer activities can seem a little daunting when planning to execute them as a single-parent. Who’ll keep an eye on the kids on the slide while you’re cooking hot dogs on the outside barbeque at the park? What will you do if one child desperately needs to use the washroom and the other is in a line-up for the water slide at the pool?

Thankfully, when friends and family aren’t available, or if you’re simply looking to share some family time with families like yours, there is a group in the city who organize play dates and day trips throughout the year for single parents and their children.

Calgary Single Parents Meet-up Group connects via the meet-up website at: singleparents.meetup.com. Membership of both the website and the group is free and members chat via the message board, share resource news via the site and also organize group get-togethers. The main events and meetings are overseen by an area organizer, Laura, with the support of four assistant organizers. As Laura explains, the aim of the group is to, “Meet up together to provide support to one another, to meet other single parents like ourselves, often to look for playmates for our children and generally just to get out and have fun with our kids.”

Members of the group have children from newborn to college-aged and ‘meet up’ either online or at one of the events or day trips organized at local venues. During the summer months activities typically include many outdoor get-togethers, e.g. an afternoon at Sikome Lake or a barbeque at Bowness Park. Laura explains that, “A big part of our group is giving single parents a place (either online or in person) where they can meet other single parents. If members wish to form a bond with other members and get together on their own, they can do that. And anyone can create their own meet-up group if they so choose.”

The Single Parent Support Program located in the Huntington Hills Community Centre in Calgary’s Northwest offers support, information, and assistance to single parent families and their children. The program offers a limited participant weekly support group that runs from September to June and includes a camping trip for families in the warmer months and a new drop-in support group will be starting up by early April 2007.

The Centre also provides individual support and advocacy for single parents and their families including assistance with problem solving, counseling, goal setting; but a major part of their days are spent helping parents access the services they need. Although this particular centre specifically serves the surrounding communities, there are many community resource centres throughout the city and although they may not specifically run a single parent program, they may have information about many relative groups or organizations of both a social and more parenting education nature.

Becki McKee, a Single Parent Advocate that coordinates the program at Huntington Hills Centre, recommends speaking with your local community centre representatives, even if they are not specifically focused on providing services to single parents. “If you are interested in joining a social support group they can help you find out if people in your community would be interested in starting a group. If the community centre sees a need they will probably try to help facilitate it.” Becki McKee also explains that just by visiting the centre you may find out that other similar groups are already established in your area.

For those of you looking for more of a social get-away by means of an international vacation, there are travel companies that cater primarily to the needs of single parent families. Single Parent Tours based in the US offers a wide range of trips including trail riding holidays in the States to beach vacations in Jamaica. By visiting their website at singleparenttours.net and signing up for their monthly newsletter you can access updated information not only about available tours but also travel tips and documentation requirements when traveling as a single parent family.

A similar service if also offered by a travel company based in the UK called Small Families. Found at smallfamilies.co.uk, they organize everything from Christmas trips to Lapland to cruises down the Nile to beach holidays in Tunisia. Again, this company offers tips and support about traveling as a single parent family. Your local travel agent may be able to give you more information about travel companies that cater to the needs of smaller or one-parent families, there definitely seems to be a need in the travel market in Canada to provide this kind of service. Still, whether you decide to meet up with other single parents at the park, take your children camping alone, or venture abroad, hopefully it won’t seem too daunting and you and your family have a wonderful summer time.

Victoria lives, writes and works in Calgary. She is the single Mum of two young children.

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