Single parent holiday advice

single parent holidays

Taking your kids on holiday solo can be a daunting prospect – especially if you’re new to the single parenting game. However, taking a trip together is also an amazing bonding opportunity for your one-parent family. These practical tips from the Frolo Community will help you feel prepared and have fun on your single parent holidays.

Get permission

If you plan to take your child on holiday abroad and you don’t have a child arrangement order from court, you need to obtain permission from everyone with parental responsibility.

It’s a good idea to obtain this permission in written form – for example, in a letter – as you might be asked to prove that you have permission when trying to leave the UK or enter another country. It also helps if you can bring evidence of your relationship with the child – in the form of a birth or adoption certificate – and a divorce or marriage certificate if your surname is different from you child’s.

If you can’t get permission from the other people with parental responsibility, you can apply to court for permission.

You can find more information on this topic on gov.uk

“Take your child(ren)’s birth certificate if you’re travelling abroad and get a letter from the other parent if you can.

Do your homework

This might not be the most exciting tip, but it’s crucial to ensuring everyone has a good time. 

When you’re deciding where to stay, look for reviews from other people with kids and, ideally, from other single parents. They’ll be able to give you the low-down on how family friendly a hotel really is. Even if a resort or self-catering apartment has lots of five star reviews it might not suit your needs; if  all of the reviews are from couples or single people without kids they won’t tell you what you really need to know. 

Similarly, if you opt for Airbnb – which can be a brilliant, affordable option that allows you to cater for kids at home – make sure that it’s located near a shop, has convenient transport links, and has all of the amenities you need. For example, air conditioning and wifi aren’t always guaranteed and some hosts ask you to bring your own towels and linens.

“I’d recommend smaller resorts over big ones. When my daughter was little it could mean walking for a long time to go to the loo from the pool or back to the room, packing everything up several times.”

“If it’s an option for you, it might be worth paying for extras that will make your life a bit easier, eg airport transfers or full-board – kids clubs are always a bonus too!

Plan ahead – but not too much

This advice might seem contradictory, but bear with us. When you take your kids on holiday on your own, you need to strike a balance between making your life as easy as possible and setting yourself up to fail.

Research local taxis and public transport options before you go to make getting around an unfamiliar place as easy as possible. It’s also worth booking tickets for the attractions that you know you want to visit in advance so you don’t have to queue (queueing with kids is not our idea of a holiday). But don’t overdo it – planning an overly ambitious itinerary will just add pressure when you’re supposed to be relaxing.

“Create a rough plan and book things in advance as much as possible.”

“Plan some things, but not too much so you can go with the flow.”

single parent holidays

Go hands-free

As the only adult on the trip, you’re going to need your hands to be free to keep track of your kids. It’s worth investing in a large backpack that you can use as a hands-free luggage alternative.

“It’s always good to be super conscious about the amount of luggage you take. Pack light and take the type of luggage that means you can be hands free to manage your child. The practicalities of not having another adult to help with luggage can be stressful, so make it as easy as possible for yourself.”

“It’s slightly easier when they are not weaned and can fit in a sling!”

The beach

Frolos also recommend investing in a waterproof bum bag to wear in the water, or fake suncream bottles that you can hide valuables in for a bit more peace of mind when you’re poolside or on the beach.

“Be prepared to spend lots of time in the water as that is the safest way to take care of them as opposed to the shoreline.”

“Wear a brightly coloured top or hat at the beach so your kids can easily spot you – and dress them in bright colours so you can spot them from a distance too.”

Rest and relaxation

It’s easy to forget that this is supposed to be a holiday for you too! If you’re travelling with little kids, frolos recommend that you factor in some time to rest every day (even if that means dragging them away from the pool). They also suggest packing a little parent self-care kit so you can unwind in the evenings after the kids are asleep.

“If you’re going with little kids, bring things to entertain them in the apartment or hotel room so you can have a bit of a rest in the afternoon before heading out again to enjoy the evening.”

‘If they go to bed before you, have some treats ready for ‘you time’. A book, magazine, some chocolate, or a glass of wine. This will stop the evening from feeling lonely and help you refill your jug for the next day.”

You can find some frolo-approved holiday reads on Frolo Reading List

Buddy up

If you’re still a bit nervous, why not team up with another single parent? Or plan a group trip? Frolos in the community organise holidays on a regular basis – from camping trips in the UK to villas in Ibiza. Head to the Meetups section of the app to see what’s on offer.

Have a brilliant time!

There are so many positives to taking your kids on holiday as a single parent and your kids will cherish the memories that you make for years to come. 

“I went to Tenerife for a package holiday with my (then) 5 year old for a week last May, having gained my confidence we then went on a 2 week cruise in October. I have a partner now so it is unlikely to happen again, but those memories are so treasured and the last holiday we had somehow marks the end of the five-year chapter my son and I spent alone.”

“I’ve been travelling solo for the last five years with my little guy and we’ve done all sorts of adventures across 37 countries – from chasing the Northern lights to living on a boat in the middle of the Barrier Reef! Honestly travel is probably what really helped us both accept and begin to love our new life. I highly recommend every adventure – big or small – even something within your city or close by. We found ourselves as we explored the world together.”

Frolo.com contains some affiliate links. If you purchase something via a link on the Frolo website we may receive a small revenue share.

Talking to kids about sex and relationships

Manolee Yadave is a psychosexual therapist who specialises in sexual health and relationship therapy. She joined us to answer questions from the Frolo Community about supporting children’s sex and relationships eduction at home.

What’s the right age to start talking to children about sex?

This is a tricky one to answer because it’s so individual! As a parent you can set the parameters here. You don’t have to tell them explicit details in these early conversations. As soon as they’re at an age where they understand what sharing is, what’s mine, what’s yours, then you can start to encourage discussions about boundaries and relationships. You can encourage them to think about what feels ok with them and vocalise if something doesn’t feel ok.

Going through puberty at an earlier age that their peers can be a very isolating experience for children, but explaining body parts and how they change, the fact that some people have heterosexual and some people have homosexual relationships, and letting them know that it’s OK to be who they are, is very empowering and can lead to some great conversations. So, I think the earlier the better.

What language should I use to talk about sex with my children?

It’s really important that you make sure you’re using the correct terminology when having these conversations with your children. It’s important that they have the right language to discuss genitals, for example. There’s often a concern among parents that, if they don’t use euphemistic language, then their child will repeat what they’ve learned at school or with friends – but this is actually why it’s so important for parents to normalise the language and just lay down some ground rules about where you have these conversations.

What can I do to ensure that channels of communication remain open with my child as we hit the teenage years?

Firstly, it’s easier to have these conversations which make you feel a little bit awkward if you feel confident about the subject matter. Do some reading, get on the internet, and make sure you’re fully clued up about sexual health before you broach the subject. It also depends on the dynamic you have with your child and their personality – some children are unfazed by a direct approach where’s others will prefer building up to the conversation more gradually. What’s really important is having relevant conversations about sex and relationships little and often so that when you get to that point, and you’re thinking they might want to have sex, it doesn’t feel so scary to raise it.

My 16yo has asked if her boyfriend can stay over. I’ve met him and he is nice but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it. Having said that, if they’re going to have sex I’d rather it was somewhere safe. Can you give any advice? I have told her I’ll think about it.

In this situation, there’s value in honouring the fact that your daughter has come to you and been honest about what she would like to do. It’s also important to explain the reasons why if you decide to say “no.” Having an open conversation together would be really beneficial here so that you can understand the nature of their relationship – don’t assume that this is entirely about having sex – and so that your daughter understands how you reached your decision. Overall, I think it’s a sign of great trust in you from your daughter.

My son is asking questions about where babies come from. What kind of level of knowledge is appropriate for him?

Again, this is as much about what you’re comfortable with as it is what he is ready for. You don’t necessarily have to say “babies come from penetrative sex,” but you can choose your words carefully, tell him that women grow babies and give a more scientific explanation of the process. Then, when he’s a bit older, you can introduce conversations about other reasons why people might have sex.

I have read that kids whose parents are separated or divorced have an increased chance of going through the same thing. Is there a link between having divorced parents and difficulty forming lasting relationships as an adult? Is there any way to reduce the chances of my child going through this?

This is a common anxiety for single parents. While some studies do suggest there is a link between having divorced parents and going though divorce yourself, it’s absolutely not guaranteed that that is what will happen in your family. Children can have the most beautiful relationship with a single parent and draw really strong foundations from that relationship. They can also make attachments with other people as they grow through life – with grandparents, siblings, and other family members – that will help them understand what a good relationship looks like. If those relationships teach you about sharing and respect then it doesn’t matter that it’s not a parental relationship.

It’s also worth mentioning that I’ve met divorced parents who have brilliant relationships on the basis of co-parenting. They’re not lovers any more but they’re both committed to doing what is best for their child, which is really beneficial for the child to see.

Will my child be missing out on seeing a healthy relationship model if he doesn’t see one at home? His dad has never met him or been involved as a parent and if I don’t meet anyone else – which is the last thing on my mind at the moment! – I am worried it might negatively impact him.

Although I don’t know the individual situation, this child might have the most awesome relationship with his mum and have other important people in his life who will show him what it means to treat people respectfully. Not having that particular male role model in his life isn’t necessarily going to change his outlook on life. He might be curious about his dad and you might want to decide at what point you tackle that, but it’s important to create that space for alternative family set-ups. I’m not saying it’s easy, but you don’t need to create those imagined barriers to your child’s wellbeing and can instead focus on what makes your child happy.

Are there any books you recommend?

Again, I’d encourage you to introduce books at an early age, rather than waiting until they’re near puberty and then presenting a book that feels loaded with significance. There are lots of questions that arise with younger children: is kissing the same as sex? Am I going to marry Mummy or Daddy? And it’s great to have a book that you can look through together. I’d really recommend Talking To Your Kids About Sex by Lauri Berkenkamp and Steven C. Atkins. I’d also recommend you read it on your own first so you’re comfortable with everything and feel that it’s appropriate for your child.

How can I supplement what my child learns at school? I am not sure the national curriculum will give her the full picture – especially when it comes to LGBT+ relationships. 

This is such an important conversation to have with kids and, as parents, when we’re confident about a subject we’ll be able to translate that really well. When in comes to LGBTQI+ relationships, it’s all about teaching kids that we don’t live in a binary world and that it is completely OK to be who you are. Read books to your kids where people have two dads, or one mum, and all sorts of other family set-ups, so that understanding is with them from a young age.

Clients regularly tell me that they knew they who they were attracted to from a really young age but they might have absorbed the idea from society that one kind of love is “the norm” and that can be very confusing. If you feel that the education they’re getting at school is only covering heterosexual relationships, then that’s a great place to start that conversation, discuss other kids of relationships, and let your child know that they can love who they want to love.

Brook is a really great charity which supports all young people to lead happy and healthy lives by providing clinical services, sex and relationships education, and professional training. Brook can provide you with all sorts of helpful information when tackling the subject of sex with your teen. It’s also a great resource that you can point your child towards if they feel a little shy to discuss things in detail with you.

Thanks for answering our questions Manolee!

You can follow Manolee on Instagram: @the_sex_talking_mama

You can read more Frolo Q+As here

Frolo.com contains some affiliate links. If you purchase something via a link on the Frolo website we may receive a small revenue share.

Furlough and redundancies: what’s next for working parents?

In this guest post, Pregnant Then Screwed – a charity that promotes and protects the employment rights of pregnant women and mothers – explores the ramifications of Covid-19 for single parents in the workplace

For the last four months, we have all dreamt about life after lockdown and a return to normality. The Coronavirus pandemic has tested our emotional resilience, our finances, patience and, for those of us that are homeschooling – our belief that Pythagoras’ Theorem will ever be useful. Many of us have wished away those days and longed for the chance to pay too much money for bad coffee on the way into a job we hoped would still be there.

Furlough

At the height of the pandemic, the government’s job retention scheme was a lifeline for many, preventing immediate and widespread redundancies. Eventually the scheme was expanded to allow employers to furlough those with caring responsibilities (cue a collective exhale among working parents) but for some single parents, it was too little too late. More than three weeks had passed between the closure of schools and nurseries and the expansion of the scheme. In that time, Pregnant Then Screwed heard from countless single mums struggling to hold down their jobs without any form of childcare. Some resorted to taking unpaid parental leave in order to manage; they continue to feel the effects of having weeks with zero income. Those with less than sympathetic employers were refused any degree of flexibility, and told us they had no choice but to leave their jobs when schools shut. 

As the furlough fog begins to lift, and we come to terms with the economic impact of the Covid-19 virus, it’s now clear that widespread job losses will be an inevitable part of the ‘new normal’. Redundancy is a difficult experience for anyone, turning your finances and your confidence on its head, but if you’re a single parent, then losing your household’s main source of income is going to hit particularly hard. 

Why did they pick me for redundancy?

How an employer selects people for redundancy is often the most scrutinised part of the process. The selection process will depend on how widespread the redundancies are; maybe the company has gone into administration and they are letting everyone go, or perhaps they are restructuring and need to downsize their workforce. It’s common to ask people to volunteer for redundancy in the first instance, but in such uncertain times, we don’t expect many hands to go up for that one. Your employer might then look at criteria such as length of service, performance and disciplinary records. What matters above all else is that the process is fair and the employer has genuine reasons for needing to make you redundant.

Am I more likely to be made redundant if I’ve been furloughed?

While the job retention scheme was undoubtedly a positive thing, it has raised concerns about whether it makes you more prone to redundancy. The cold reality is that the world of work is still full of unscrupulous employers that think ‘working mother’ is an oxymoron, and judge an employee’s performance and value on that basis. Last month, 57% of women we surveyed told us they felt that managing childcare alongside their paid job had damaged their career prospects. If you’ve been furloughed or taken unpaid leave for childcare reasons, so that you don’t completely short circuit, you may be worried that you’ve inadvertently earmarked yourself for redundancy.

It’s important to remember that no matter how long you’ve been in your job, there is a very long list of things that constitute unfair dismissal and even in these harsh times, that list is non-negotiable. Among those protected characteristics are pregnancy and maternity leave, your working pattern, paternity leave, parental leave and dependent’s leave. If you think that you’ve been unfairly selected for redundancy purely because you had to keep a small person alive during a pandemic, then you can obtain free legal advice from Pregnant Then Screwed by calling 0161 930 5300.

Redundancy Rehab

As a single parent, redundancy might leave you with no other income. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what lies ahead of you financially and emotionally. That’s why Pregnant Then Screwed have launched Redundancy Rehab, a month-long programme of events designed to help you understand your legal rights, rebuild your confidence and support you in getting another job. Tickets are £10 (which just covers their costs) and are available here. But if finances are tight, they’ve got plenty of bursary tickets available too.

Starting on 8 July and running until 29th July, they’ll be releasing weekly content to support you if you’re made redundant. The content will be available for six months but tickets will go up to £20 in August.

You might not be able to stop redundancy, but with the right tools and a supportive community, you can bounce back, rebuild your career and shape what your ‘new normal’ looks like.

Dating as a single parent

Lydia Davis is an experienced dating coach and matchmaker, and has even created her own dating app. She joined us to answer questions from the Frolo Community and share her insights on dating as a single parent.

Single parents dating

Should you make it clear that you have kids on your dating app profile or not?

Some people are very private about their children and some people aren’t. No matter what, if you’re online dating, your profile really needs to reflect you as a person – and I know that your children are a big part of your life – but it needs to encapsulate who you are and what you’re looking for. Your profile should reflect your personality and showcase the values that you’re looking for – for example, if you’re a sporty person, get some sports pictures up there. You also want your profile to be open and inviting to lots of people – you wouldn’t put that you only wanted to date someone with a specific hair colour or job, for example.

You can put a picture of your children up there, but you don’t have to. It doesn’t have to be mentioned on your profile, but I think you do need to mention it on the first date. Some people might not be open to the idea of meeting someone with a child, but then if they have chemistry with a parent in real life they might change their mind. I think it’s worth seeing what the situation is between you and that person first.

Are there any dating apps single parents should avoid?

It really depends what you want to get out of an app. Take Tinder for example – some people say it’s just for hookups but I know friends who have met people on Tinder and married them. It really depends on what you’re looking for and what you’re putting out there. They all have a niche.

Most people are on three apps – as single parents, you probably don’t have much time, so maybe you’re only on one or two. It’s a bit like a part-time job! You’ve got to set time aside to meet someone, be happy, confident and open with whoever you’re talking to. 

However, I think messaging for too long on an app is a huge mistake. You’ve got to meet someone in person to see if there’s chemistry and, if you chat for ages before you meet, you run the risk of building each other up and then being disappointed.

Try and schedule time for dating into your diary – you might decide that you’re going to go on a date with someone every two or three weeks. You can talk to lots of people online but you’ve got to meet them to see if that connection is there.

Apps are very gamified; it’s so easy to swipe and swipe and swipe. So you’ve got to set some rules: Is this person getting back to me promptly? Am I getting a good feeling about them? Your gut instinct is usually right. If someone comes across a bit creepy, they probably are. If you feel excited about them, you should feel confident about suggesting a date somewhere mutually convenient and seeing what’s there.

Any advice on boosting confidence before a date?

Firstly, no matter what, when you’re going on a date you need to feel good about yourself, who you are, and what you have to offer. You need to know that this is an opportunity for you both to get a feel for each other – it’s not just you trying to impress them.

Put some music on that removes you from the day that you’ve had. Make an effort – whether that’s brushing your hair and spritzing some perfume or getting a full blow dry.

If you’re really nervous, think about doing an activity. You’ve got a start and a finish, you’ve got an end point, it’s not as intense as just looking at each other across a table. Then, if you get on well you can go for drinks or dinner afterwards, but you have an out if the chemistry isn’t there. Sometimes short dates are better as they leave you wanting to see each other again.

My last relationship has left me with low self-esteem and very untrusting. I’m worried that my past will sabotage any future relationships. Any advice?

Low self-esteem is very common – especially as we get older and we’ve had some slightly rough experiences. I would really advise that you work on your self-esteem before you start dating because there will be some rejection along the way. Things will fizzle out not because of you, but because things aren’t working out between you and that other person – and that’s actually a good thing to know early on. You do need to have a relatively thick skin for dating!

You also need to feel good about yourself because that’s when you’re going to attract someone. If you’re sat opposite someone who is happy and confident then you come away thinking you’d like to be around them again. Whereas if you can see that a person is very nervous and has low self-esteem you’re not so likely to feel that way. 

A really good way to feel more confident is by doing a little bit of research into dating – which actually hardly anyone does. Reading books about dating will help you navigate your future dating path and settle your nerves. You can read about how to gain confidence and what to expect if you’ve not dated for a while. You need to think about what values you’re looking for in someone – what are you not prepared to put up with? How am I going to get to know someone, open myself up, and be vulnerable again? It could also be worth speaking to a professional about those trust issues because trust is so important when you want to meet someone new – especially as that person might not have been through the same experiences as you.

I’d also recommend just being honest with the person that you’re dating. If they’re the right person for you then they will be understanding. After a few dates, you can explain to them that you’ve been through a difficult separation or divorce, you’re very much ready to move on, but sometimes it comes up emotionally – just give them a heads up. This will help them to understand what makes you tick a bit better.

How do I avoid people just looking to hook up or have a casual thing? I’m ready for a relationship.

I think it’s very obvious if someone isn’t dating seriously. If all someone wants is to have some fun and sleep with you, you’re going to be getting messages late at night, they won’t try to make proper plans with you, and they won’t ask about other areas of your life. 

If they’re not organising to meet you and you’re not interested in something casual, just be up front and say thanks but no thanks. You’re not going to change them and continuing the conversation will just waste your time and your emotional energy.

How can I meet people if I don’t want to use dating apps?

I think so many people need to be more open in all areas of their life! You might think that you’re open to meeting someone, but you’re actually giving off a very closed impression. Be open and make small talk with people when you’re out and about. You can also try going to talks on a topic that interests you or joining clubs – running clubs, art courses, for example – places where you’ll meet like-minded people. Of course, it’s harder to know who’s single in these contexts but it will take the pressure off and allow you to see who you get along with first. Concentrate on coming across as a friendly and confident person – the rest will follow.

It’s also a good idea to find someone else who is single – a wingwoman or wingman – who can look at your profile, see how you’re coming across, and who’s also willing to come to events and to try new things with you.

You’ve got to take the plunge and really commit to dating – and just being on a dating app is not the same as being committed to dating in my opinion.

When would be a good time to start dating after lockdown?

Start now! Seriously, you can start chatting to people now. Lockdown rules are relaxing, so you can meet up for a socially-distanced walk around the park or even a drink soon. 

I’d also like to make it clear that, if you get a little burnt out by the apps, it’s fine to take a complete break for a while. It can be exhausting putting in the effort to chat to multiple people so it’s definitely ok to take breaks.

How can I meet someone if I have limited childcare?

It can be really difficult if you don’t have a lot of child-free time. If you have limited options or need to book childcare well in advance, opt for something with a fixed timetable – like a block of dance classes. Then you don’t run the risk of organising childcare for a drink that gets cancelled or rearranged.

It’s also worth considering where you can you meet like-minded people with children. Are there local meetups, classes, or activities where you might meet a fellow single parent?

Could you swap childcare with a friend in a way that would allow both of you to date?

You could even suggest that you do a Zoom first date! We’ve all got used to chatting this way during lockdown and it will help you see if there’s a bit of chemistry there and whether it’s worth setting up a face-to-face date.

Once you’ve been on a few dates and you want to see more of that person, when do you introduce them into your child’s life?

This is a very personal matter and hopefully, with the right person, you would know when the time was right. If in doubt, waiting a little longer is probably better than making the introduction too soon. I would advise you to be wary of the big displays, fireworks, and someone who’s really keen to move things along quickly. In my matchmaking experience, things that accelerate really rapidly can also collapse pretty quickly and if someone is really interested they’ll be happy to stick around.

Have you got any advice for avoiding cold feet before a date? I’ve chatted to a few people, arranged a date, then a couple of days beforehand they cancel or say they’re not ready to meet someone.

I think unfortunately this is part and parcel of dating – especially online dating. People can be so flaky and just ghost you. Maybe that’s when you think about dating someone who is also a single parent and understands what it means for you to put that time aside.

Remember that this is something that happens to everyone in dating and don’t let it knock your confidence too much. If I’d been chatting to someone and they had to rearrange last minute, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and reschedule once – but if they cancelled again I’d drop it.

I feel like I’m interviewing people when I’m chatting to them! It’s always the same questions: where do you live, what do you do etc. How can I start conversations that are more interesting?

What are your interests? Can you chat to them about that? Unfortunately, especially when you’re chatting to multiple people, it can become a bit of a fact-finding mission, but I’d recommend that you include some information about your hobbies and interests on your profile and, if they do the same, you can ask them about their interests and that’s a great way to strike up a conversation. If they conversation still isn’t flowing – that might be a sign!

How much information should I include on a dating profile? What sort of thing do people want to know about me? Do people even read them or is it all about pictures?

I think people definitely do read them. Creating the best possible profile goes back to openness – you don’t want to start putting your requirements and what you’re looking for very specifically as that’s going to narrow your appeal and put people off.

Have at least three photos – one with some other people (so not all bathroom selfies!) – and write about your interests. You can specify that you’re looking for something serious and it’s really up to you whether you write a detailed introduction or just write a line or two. Ask a good friend who really knows you to read over it and give their opinions on the photos you’ve chosen too.

I always go to the same type of person – how do I break this cycle?

You need to ask yourself why you’re repeating these patterns – and that’s why reading up about love and dating is so helpful. look at your attachment style and see if that helps to shed some light on your patterns. Also, look at the values that you want in a partner – you might need someone spontaneous, or a planner, you might really value kindness and thoughtfulness – and look at the amount of effort they’re putting in too. It’s not all about looks. If someone seems to have those core values, then it could be worth meeting them even if they’re not your usual “type.” When you meet them in person they might look completely different to their pictures or there might be chemistry there that surprises you.

How long after your relationship ends is it ok to start dating?

I’ve seen so many different approaches to this situation. Some people are ready to commit and throw themselves into a new relationship quite quickly after a relationship ends, and some people take longer to heal and move on. You need to be very honest with yourself and how you feel about it – there’s no right answer and you will just know when you’re ready.

If it’s taking you a long time to move on, it could be worth talking to someone about it. It can be very scary putting yourself out there and dating again so don’t feel embarrassed to get some help with that.

I’d just like to say, you could meet someone next week, next month, next year who turns out to be the love of your life. You’ve got to remind yourself that it could happen at any point and stay excited about it.

Books about dating

Thanks for answering our questions Lydia!

You can check out Lydia’s dating coaching website here.

You can read more Frolo Q+As here

Frolo.com contains some affiliate links. If you purchase something via a link on the Frolo website we may receive a small revenue share.

Talking to your children about race

Uju Asika and Orla McKeating joined the Frolo Community for a live Q+A on how to talk to your children about race and racism.

Uju is an award-winning blogger and the author of Bringing Up Race: How To Raise a Kind Child in a Prejudiced World (available to pre-order now)! Orla is an activist, speaker, and a frolo who is raising a biracial child in Northern Ireland. She is also the co-founder of Still I Rise Storytelling.

Here are the questions we discussed:

I’d like to know more about implicit bias. How can we be aware of it, move forward with our children, and raise them be aware of it too?

Uju: The first step is just acknowledging it. Most of us aren’t examining these biases – they’re implicit. There’s actually a test you can do online, created by Harvard University, and pretty much everybody would fail that test in one way or another. We’ve all been conditioned by society and an innate fear of strangers. When I was researching the book, I learned that babies as young as three months old can tell the difference between people of different ethnicities. The point is that they don’t attach any judgement to that observation – they just not that you look different from their primary caregiver. It’s at around nine months that a sense of anxiety around unfamiliar people kicks in. That’s why its important to intervene early and make sure that children are exposed to representations of different races from an early age – but also acknowledge that on some level this is a primal response. You can tackle that by being intentional and interrupting the narrative when it occurs – either by ensuring that your child has people in their circle who look like them, or, if your child is in a homogenous environment, introducing people who look nothing like your child and bringing diverse books into your home.

Don’t be afraid to talk about times that you make a mistake or have a strange reaction to a situation – don’t be afraid to admit it. People are very afraid of being racist or being called a bigot, but most of this is not our fault – we’ve been conditioned into it by centuries of history. So let’s unlearn the things that we’ve learned and do better. Every day is an opportunity to do better.

I’m a white mum to a biracial daughter who’s three. How can I best support her when it comes to race issues, given that I may not fully understand the situation due to my white privilege?

Uju: As I said, she’s aware of race and has been since she was a baby! What happens with kids is they don’t have the language to talk about race and racism because it’s something that doesn’t get discussed in polite company most of the time. They pick up on the tension adults feel in conversations about race too.

I think the best thing to do is be proactive. Often, parents end up having these conversations after their child has asked them something awkward in public and you panic and give a reactive response. You should take the initiative and bring it up. If you’re not sure how to bring it up, start with a question about what she’s noticed, what she feels, what her friends look like, how she feels about her skin tone and your skin tone. You can talk about your differences and your different family trees. she’s inheriting so much diversity, culture, and things you can celebrate. You can bring all of this in. But it also doesn’t have to be one big, heavy conversation – you can talk about it in small chunks every now and then. You can talk about the characters she sees in books and TV shows too – conversations about race in my house often start when we’re all watching TV together.

In terms of your different experiences, that’s something you can talk about too. You can talk about how things were different for you growing up as a white girl. You can also reach out to her community – there must be a black community local to you, or you could reach out online. Don’t be afraid to reach out and say you want to learn more and you want more for your daughter.

Sometimes, in families with mixed heritage, parents aren’t keen on emphasising difference too much. It’s actually better to acknowledge that your child has a different ethnicity to you and that that is wonderful. You’re still a family and there are so many different ways to be a family. Always be open to their questions and the more you talk about it, the more you normalise it. As parents, we want to wrap our kids up in cotton wool but unfortunately we can’t do that. We can educate ourselves and make sure that they can come to us and talk to us about anything. It’s like talking about sex – the best way you can protect your child is by being there, being open, and keeping that dialogue going.

Can you recommend any books that will help children learn about diversity and different cultures?

I want to talk to my daughter about racism before she experiences it herself, but I don’t want to pass on any of my anxieties or give her the idea that being black is anything but beautiful. Any advice?

Uju: This is a very difficult and emotional conversation to have with your child. I’ve had to have that conversation with my boys. It’s great that you’re planning ahead though. Don’t shy away from racism when talking about race, which many parents do because they want to protect their child. It’s case of preparing your child to encounter hazards – in the same way that you explain how to cross the road safely, you need to explain that there are some people in the world who have wrong ideas about people with different skin colours, hair, or people who speak a different language. I would just explain that they are people who don’t have big hearts or minds, and tell her that she can be different. You can explain it to her, but also empower her by making it clear that she’s not a victim and she can be the kind person who stands up for others. Also let her know that, if anything like that happened to her, there are things that can be done and she never has to endure racism alone. You can talk about historical figures too – someone like Dr Martin Luther King, who was able to bring people together and stand up to racism. Then she can see herself as part of the fight for change. Be very affirmative and spend time telling her how beautiful her skin and hair is. That’s a wonderful thing and you can never do enough of it. Agin, when educating your child, don’t drench them in information.

Orla: From my experience, whenever I’ve been been panicky, upset or given an emotive response – instead of, as Uju was saying, owning the moment and being honest about it – that’s when I’ve not given by best response as a parent. Also, there are so many stories about bias and discrimination, but race is also joy and community and family, resilience and allyship. There are so many wonderful things that are always worth discussing and reminding your child of, at any age. So try to identify what your child needs at that point and remembering to share all the positives of their identity. Avoid anxiety like I did!

Uju: But also be kind to yourself! It’s not easy. I’ve literally written the book on talking to kids about race and my kids still say things or ask me things that make me freak out a bit. Just take a breath and tackle the question in the best way you know how. You’re not going to get it right and come out with some eloquent speech every time. Like Orla said, just be as honest as open as you can – you want your child to trust you with how they’re feeling.

Orla: I’d also say that, with younger kids, to really consider a diverse school and dig deep into whether they’e really diverse. How is diversity represented in their curriculum, after school clubs and policies? It’s definitely worth setting up a meeting with the head teacher or head of pastoral care if you can. I wish I’d done more of this when choosing my son’s school.

As white people, we can and must do better every single day. There’s no shame in it. There’s no shame in feeling uncomfortable. The vast majority of us want the same thing and it’s just a matter of being aware of that and being ok with it.

Talking about race with children with learning disabilities.

Uju: The Conscious Kid is an amazing website with tons of materials about race, but it also talks about kids with different abilities, gender, etc – they also have a great instagram page.

This is also a great opportunity to bring up race as a conversation in any support networks, organisations, clubs, or community groups that she belongs to with her son. Discuss what you can do as a group to introduce more resources for talking about race with your children.

Orla: I’ve found that really gentle learning, based on real events and real figures can be really helpful for children with learning disabilities. I’d recommend getting two or three books which offer the opportunity to learn about race and racism that they can check back in with regularly to help promote that gentle learning.

My children are white and I’m trying to raise them to be kind and aware of diversity. Resources and books often focus on diversity – when and how do I bring in conversations about their white privilege?

Uju: If you’re aware of white privilege and you feel like you have a good grip on what it is, you can’t start talking to your kids about it from a very early age. Take crayons for example, for many years the “flesh” coloured crayon was pink. So you can bring in things like that to illustrate the assumption by society that whiteness is the default and everything else is other. You don’t have to lecture them, but just talk about things as they crop up. When you’re watching TV – it doesn’t even have to be a show about diversity – but if you notice, for example, that all of the characters were white you can have a really interesting conversation with them about why they think that is. There are also lots of books where the central character is black but the author is white and you can talk about that and all the steps that that author went through to get published over other authors.

The important thing is getting across the idea that being white gives you certain advantages in this society – so what can you do for others with this advantage? Encourage children to recognise the powers they have and use them well.

Thank you Uju and Orla!

You can pre-order Uju’s book Bringing Up Race: How to Raise a Kind Child in a Prejudiced World here.

And you can check out her blog, Babes aBout Town, where she shares all the best things to do with kids in and around London here.

You can find out more about Still I Rise storytelling, and join one of Orla’s live Zoom sessions, here.

How to get the most out of Frolo

Welcome to the community! We’re delighted to have you as part of the Frolo family. Here’s how to make the most of all the app has to offer…

There are four main sections to the Frolo app:

Feed

The Feed is where the whole Frolo Community gathers. You can use this part of the app to ask questions, seek advice, and have a chat with thousands of other single parents who can relate to what you’re going through.

All you need to do to access this community hive mind is tap the ‘+’ icon in the top right corner of the Feed and start creating your post. There are five different types of post to choose from:

  • Write a post
  • Share an image
  • Share a link
  • Post a thought, quote, or question
  • Create a poll

If you need to post about something sensitive, there’s also the option to post anonymously (more on that later). You can filter the Feed using tags to browse all the posts on a particular topic – just tap the filter icon in the top-left corner to get started. You can also look for specific posts by typing key words into the search bar at the top of the Feed.

Not only are you guaranteed to receive a response to your post but you’re likely to have people reach out to you directly to offer help, a kind ear and advice on your situation as well.

Meetups

In this part of the app, you can browse meetups organised by other frolos, both virtual and face-to-face, or create your own meetups. Meetups come in all shapes and sizes – from our regular (virtual) movie and book clubs to park trips with kids, child-free mountain biking, and even Frolo holidays!

Virtual meetups have been a lifesaver during the Coronavirus lockdown. To create your own meetup, navigate to the Meetups section (represented by the little calendar icon) then tap the ‘+’ icon in the top right corner. Select either ‘Face-to-face’ or ‘Virtual’ depending on what you’ve got planned. Whichever option you choose, make sure you include a title, start and end time, a location (or link if it’s a virtual meetup) and plenty of information for your fellow frolos.

During a time which can be so lonely, the frolo virtual meetups have been great for the soul. Like a night out with friends direct from the sofa

Connections

If you’d like to chat to another frolo 1:1, or invite them to join a meetup or group chat, you can send them a connection request. Once your connection request is accepted, they’ll be added to your list of frolo friends so you can reach out to them whenever you like.

The Connections section of the app is where you can manage your friend requests and access private and group messaging. There are tons of group chats to choose from, covering everything from co-parenting tips to hobby chats; support groups for widowed frolos and single dads to local area groups.

Frolo is an amazing example of how online support transitions to real life friendships. It really is changing the lives of single parents!

Discovery

You can browse all the other frolos living in your local are in the Discovery section of the app (represented by the binoculars icon).

If you tap the icon in the top righthand corner, you can choose whether you want to browse mums, dads or both, and filter them by their distance from your location and their kids’ ages to help you find the perfect playdate companion. You can also see how many common interests you share with another frolo before you connect with them.

You can match by age of children or location, and toggle between only wanting to meet dads, mums, or both. You also have the option to make yourself invisible should the awkward happen and your ex joins the app.

Key features

  • Anonymous mode. Post and comment on the Feed anonymously by navigating to your profile and tapping ‘edit’ and then ‘General Information.’ Scroll to the bottom of the page to toggle Anonymous Mode on and off.
  • Reporting a post. Tap into the post from the Feed, tap the three dots in the right-hand corner, then tap ‘Report post.’
  • Reporting a comment. Swipe the comment you would like to the left, then tap the warning triangle icon and ‘Report.’
  • Reporting a user. Tap on the users name to navigate to their profile. Tap the three dots in the right-hand corner and then select ‘Report user.’
  • Invisibility. If there’s a frolo you’d rather not interact with, you can make yourself invisible to them. This means they won’t be able to see your profile, posts, or comments and they won’t be able to see any meetups that you RSVP to. To make yourself invisible to another frolo, navigate to their profile. Tap the three dots in the right-hand corner and then select ‘Make me invisible to this user.’

Thanks for reading – all that’s left to do now is get stuck in!

Personal finance Q+A

Clare Seal is a personal finance guru who has learned good financial habits the hard way –  she’s currently paying off £27k of debt and has written a book all about her journey towards financial wellness

Clare’s personal finance journey

For lots of people who have debt, how they got there is a bit of a mystery. It’s like when you go to work and you’re really tired and you realise you don’t really remember the journey. 

I had a fundamentally broken relationship with money. I didn’t understand what it meant to live within my means and I always felt that things would be ok when I earned more money – rather than finding a way to fix things as they were. 

I had my first child when my husband was 24 and I was 25. We didn’t plan for that – then we got married and had a second baby. These are all things that take a toll on your finances. We also rent privately and have had to move (and pay letting fees) regularly. That said, I think all of that would have been ok if we had a handle on our finances. 

It all culminated in a conversation with my bank last March where I’d been juggling small amounts of money from one account to another to try and plug all the gaps – then I realised it was the end of the rope. There was nothing left to move around; there was no more give. The person I was speaking to at the bank kindly refunded some account charges which took me back into an arranged overdraft and stopped me from incurring more fees. When I got off the phone I realised that this was as far as I could let the situation go. It was taking such a toll on my mental health, my relationship, and my work life. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about money – that it’s something separate from our everyday lives – and it’s not. It’s something that has its tendrils everywhere. But I also realised that if you are open and honest about your situation, people are willing to help you.

It can be a very emotional experience to lay all your cards on the table – it was for me because I’d had my head in the sand for so long. When I found out the extent of my debt, the scale of the situation felt like too much to deal with by myself – that’s why I started the (then) anonymous Instagram account @myfrugalyear.

Instagram, especially during my second maternity leave, had been a real source of emotional spending and comparing myself unfavourably with other people online. So it felt like poetic justice to use that same platform to change things. I thought I’d have maybe a couple of dozen followers, but it turned out that lots of other people felt the same way about Instagram and emotional spending so it gained a lot of traction. Quite quickly I had a few publishers get in touch about turning the experience into a book. The whole experience has been a testament to what can happen if you’re open and allow yourself to be vulnerable.

Clare’s top tips for taking control of your personal finances:

A budget is not a diet

A budget is not a diet. No matter what your financial situation is, whether you’ve got debt, savings, or you’re somewhere in the middle. A budget isn’t like a diet, it’s not there to say no to you, be punitive, or restrict you. A budget should be something you live with and all it really means is you know what’s coming in, what your fixed expenses are, and it helps you decide what to do with what’s left over. This has been key for us and helped us feel in control, even though we’ve still got some debt. We use a spreadsheet with income on one side and outgoings on the other. If you’re not a fan of spreadsheets, there are lots of different apps you can use for this.

Create a digital toolkit

I use Money Dashboard which gives you an overview of all of your accounts so you can see your net balance. It also lets you set budgets for things like food shopping and treats so you can see where you’re overspending. You can also look back – one of the things that’s really handy when you’re just starting this journey is looking back over six months worth of spending and seeing where you could afford to cut back. We felt that we were doing all that we could but there were definitely things where, when we looked back, we could see we hadn’t got value. For some people, that’s not possible and, if your outgoings are more than your income and there’s debt involved, you should speak to an organisation like StepChange. Youneedabudget is also great – it’s a paid app, but people swear by it and the net benefit is really good. Emma and Yolt are both also great apps for keeping on top of your budget. I’d recommend downloading them all, seeing which interface works for you, and then sticking with that. Often if you feel out of control it’s tempting to flit from one solution to another – but it’s better to pick one and stick to it.

Another part of your digital toolkit should be saving. I’ve always been someone who struggles to save. Often, when you start working on a low salary, you think “I’ll save when I can afford to” – but for me this turned into “I’ll save when I can afford to buy absolutely everything I want.” If you struggle to save and want to save for something big like a deposit, having a standing order that goes into savings as soon as you get paid is much more effective than saving what’s left at the end of the month (as often there’s nothing left). If you just want to put away little bits here and there for Christmas and holidays, incremental savings apps like Chip and Plum are really good. They work by siphoning a little bit off every few days – I’ve been using Plum for a few months and haven’t noticed the money being tucked away. With any app, always check that they’re FCA-approved (as Chip and Plum are) as then you have the same level of security and encryption as you do with your bank.

As well as saving, it’s important to talk about investing. Women – and especially women under 30 – don’t tend to invest their money. With both Chip and Plum you can choose to invest a percentage of your savings and it’s very straightforward. Moneybox is another great, accessible app to learn about investing.

Should I save if I have debt that’s incurring interest?

For me, the value of building something positive, even while you’re getting rid of something negative has immeasurable psychological benefits. Building something, even if it’s something small, while I’m still tackling debt and filling in the foundations of my financial situation has really shifted my relationship with money. As well as the psychological benefits of saving while paying off debt, there are a few practical benefits. If you’re putting all of your disposable income into paying off your debt, you’ll need to put any emergency expenses on a credit card which can be very demotivating. Your creditors can also slash your limit with no notice, which could leave you in a pretty tricky position if your boiler breaks, for example. I’d recommend you build up a small, easily accessible emergency fund.

Stop saying “I’m in debt.”

This phrase conjures up the image that you’re in this deep dark hole with no way out. It’s definitive because you’re saying “I AM in debt.” It makes it sound like it’s a part of who you are. You don’t say “I’m in a mortgage”, you say “I have a mortgage”. For me, that tiny shift in language has been transformative.

Create a realistic meal plan

It can be really easy to set yourself up to fail with a meal plan. If your meal plan says you’re going to make every meal from scratch every day, but you know in your heart that you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to do that, you’re going to buy food that you end up wasting. Since switching to a more realistic meal plan that reflects our actual life, our food waste has gone down massively. It’s natural to be optimistic when making changes in our life, but always remember that you’re the one who’ll have to implement these changes!

Q+A

Can you give any advice on getting a mortgage as a single parent with two children and childcare costs? Are there any lenders sympathetic to single parents? Should I get a broker?

I would definitely recommend you use a specialist broker if you’ve got special circumstances. Vestpod is a fantastic community on Instagram for this kind of question. Halifax are also consistently flagged as one of the more sympathetic lenders. 

Can I get a mortgage if I have credit card debt?

I know lots of people who have got mortgages with a reasonable amount of credit card debt. However, I think lenders are going to be more cautious following the pandemic, so there could be a lower chance of getting a mortgage with credit card debt. It really depends how much debt you have and depends on your salary and affordability in general. It’s worth speaking to an advisor to see whether they think it’s worth using some of your deposit savings to pay off a certain amount or all of the debt and waiting a bit longer to buy.

How can I reduce credit card debt more quickly?

If your credit score is ok, you might be able to get a 0% balance transfer. However, not everyone will be eligible for this (I wasn’t!). Usually there’s a small fee but it’s massively outweighed by the benefit of not paying interest. It involves taking out a new card, transferring the balance, and closing the old card. If you’re not feeling in control of your spending and you haven’t done the groundwork of setting a budget and assessing why you’re in the situation you’re in, you can end up maxing out the 0% card and continuing to spend as before. 

Another thing you can do is call your provider and ask if there’s a lower interest rate available to you, or if they’d be willing to freeze your interest for a few months as a goodwill gesture. If you’re paying a high rate of interest and only paying the minimum repayment, you’re probably just paying off the interest and chipping away a tiny amount off your capital balance every month. If you can reduce the interest or get a reprieve from that it can be a nice bounce in the right direction. 

When I recommended people do this on Instagram, lots of people fed back that they had their interest rates reduced – some from 25% to 6%! If they can’t reduce your interest, it’s worth pushing a bit more and asking what they can do to help you pay off more of your capital balance. Barclaycard have done things like freezing interest for two months or refunding a month of interest.

Are there any especially sympathetic banks you’d recommend?

At one point, I had six different credit cards with different providers, who were all helpful in varying degrees. In my experience, Barclaycard’s customer service has always been top-notch and they always tried to do what they could to help. American Express and Virgin weren’t very helpful. Halifax were quite reasonable – I have my current account with them which sometimes makes banks more willing to help you. It can also depend on the advisor you get. If you feel like the person you’re speaking to doesn’t get your situation or is being a bit judgemental, don’t hesitate to ask to speak to someone else. Going into these conversations, it’s a good idea to write down what you want to say and what you want to get out of the conversation. These conversations can be very emotional so having a plan can be really helpful.

How should I speak to my children about money and ensure they develop good financial habits?

This is something I’m just starting to do with my five year old. It’s really important to me that my children grow up to have a better relationship with money than I did. My parents are fantastic but there was a definite gap in my upbringing in relation to financial education. Pocket money is a great way to teach children about money – it encourages them to save for the things they want and teaches them that they can’t have everything they want immediately. 

How do I stop emotional spending?

This is a huge thing for lots of people and it’s a big section of the book. Spending on credit – whether it’s a credit card or something like Klarna – you separate the pleasure of buying from the pain of spending money. You can end up in dangerous financial territory that way. 

Before you start scrolling online or before you go into a shop, ask yourself “Am I shopping to try and quell a feeling?” Lots of my emotional spending came from a place of anxiety – I was anxious about something I couldn’t fix, so I would look to buy something to fix that problem, or another problem, or a totally made-up problem. Ask yourself how you’re feeling and, if you are trying to solve a feeling, step away and try to solve that feeling first. The next question is: “Is the thing I’m buying now going to solve the problem?” If the answer is no – step away. If the answer is yes, the next question is: “Can i Afford it?” If the answer is no – step away. It’s a cycle – you feel awful so you spend to feel better, you feel momentarily better and then experience the negative effects of that – more debt, less savings, and then you feel terrible again. These questions are circuit-breakers and you can use them to stop you from progressing to the next stage.

I’m worried about getting into debt on my furloughed income. Money was tight before and now I’m really struggling to meet monthly costs. 

Lots of people are feeling bad about themselves for not being prepared for this situation financially. No one knew this was coming so try to move past those feelings of guilt and shame over not having the funds to ride this out – because loads of people don’t. The concern about accruing debt is definitely legitimate, but banks have brought in 0% overdrafts up to £500 for people who need a temporary reprieve, also, if you have to take on a little bit of debt to get through this global pandemic, it’s not the end of the world. You will be able to pay it back when things return to normal. 11 million people have taken on extra debt since the start of this pandemic – you’re not alone.

Recommended resources

  • Money Dashboard – a free budgeting app available on Android and iOS
  • Yolt – a free budgeting app available on Android and iOS
  • Emma – a free budgeting app available on Android and iOS
  • Chip – a free automatic saving app available on Android and iOS
  • Plum – a free automatic saving app available on Android and iOS
  • Moneybox – a free app for saving and investing
  • Vestpod – a community committed to empowering women financially
  • Go Fund Yourself – an Instagram community for all things money-related
  • Make sure you join the Frolo Finances group on the app too!

Thanks for answering our questions Clare!

You can stay up-to-date with all of Clare’s personal finance recommendations by following her on Instagram @myfrugalyear

Her book Real Life Money is also available to buy now.

How to have an amicable separation or divorce

Separating amicably, isn’t easy but it is possible. There are a series of steps you can take to help the process run more smoothly and avoid some of the more dramatic outcomes you may have read about or seen on television

The shift of emphasis could be neatly summed up as going from making small compromises for a harmonious life to an ongoing negotiation, hurdling points of principle and, sometimes, the feeling that the other parent is getting their own way.

It’s quite the adjustment – but defining a new way of communicating with your ex and talking to your children is crucial in giving them stability and maintaining a close relationship.

Here are some pointers for successful co-parenting:

1. Make sure it’s over

According to renowned therapist Dr John Gottman, there are four communication problems that signal if a relationship is failing – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stone walling. An unpleasant cocktail of all of these suggests that it is over. A combination of the first two might be broken down by individual counselling, while the latter two could benefit from couples counselling. However, couples counselling only works if you both recognise that there are problems in the relationship and that there’s some hope or reconciliation. If there’s no hope of this, counselling may have a role in an amicable parting – but you have to be clear that’s what it’s for.

2. Breaking the news

Plan what you’re going to tell your partner and tell them at a time when you’re unlikely to be distracted by anything else, e.g. children, mealtimes, etc. Essentially, you are there to say: ‘it’s over, I’m sorry this is so hurtful, but I’m decided, and I won’t change my mind.’ Explain that you hope to discuss, as soon as is next convenient, how best to make arrangements as amicably as possible.

3. Allow a period of adjustment

Rushing things could cost you both time and money. Just because you are ready to move on, that doesn’t mean you partner will be. The person who didn’t make the initial decision to divorce is in a different place. They are still feeling raw emotions like shock, denial and anger. The more the person who started the separation gets impatient, the more their partner digs their heels in, and things grind to a halt. 

4. Don’t assume you need a lawyer

One way that people try and rush things is to immediately hire a solicitor. While you will need to be aware of legal procedure (see below), amicable believe that most people can and should do much of their divorce themselves. A solicitor’s advice tends to focus on what’s best for the individual who is seeking it. This can lead to unrealistic expectations, a lengthy and expensive court process and a toxic atmosphere.

5. Do your homework

Negotiating an amicable divorce or separation is best done from a position of knowledge than one of emotion. Understanding basic legal information (often, as with amicable, freely available) gives you every chance of coming to fair financial split, and also dramatically reduces the possibility that you’ll have to spend thousands of pounds in legal fees. 

6. Prepare for the asset split

The legal starting point for dividing assets is 50/50. This is then adjusted by taking into account a number of factors, including: children’s welfare; earning ability; financial needs; contributions made (both in terms of childcare and finances); marriage length and age and health.

You’ll need to list and agree the value of all the items you own, and you’ll also need to provide any financial commitments you each have. You can do this yourself – or use a tool such as amicable’s app

If you or your partner can’t agree a split the court will order you to fill in a long and complicated document known as a Form E.

7. Create a timeframe

amicable’s divorce coaches often tell us that the longer a divorce goes on the harder it becomes to reach an agreement. The person who asked for the divorce gets frustrated and angry, their ex is left feeling bullied and confused. It’s really important to try and control these strong emotions as they can very quickly derail an otherwise amicable process. An agreed timeline covering emotional, practical and legal tasks will help keep up the momentum.

8. Look to the future

Don’t spend your time, energy or money arguing over the past; look forward to enjoying positive futures apart. Change the conversation from ‘How do we split our stuff?’ to ‘What do we need to do to be happy in future?’ and ‘What we need to do to ensure our kids are happy?’. You can read the Frolo guide to co-parenting amicably here.

Final thoughts

When you prepare you feel happier and more confident about the way forward. This knowledge helps you manage your fear, uncertainty and emotions, as well as those of your partner and kids. 

amicable

This blog post was created for the Frolo Community by amicable.

amicable offer a straightforward, cost-effective and fair service to couples who are separating or divorcing.

If you’d like to learn more about amicable and what they could do for you, head to their website where they are offering frolos an exclusive 20 minutes of free advice over the phone.

amicable.io

Self-care for single parents

We chatted to Zoe Blaskey – founder of Motherkind – about quick, easy, free methods of self-care that busy single parents can fit into their hectic lives

Firstly, if you’re finding parenting hard right now – that’s because it is hard right now. Often, when people are finding parenting hard, they think it’s because they’re doing something wrong and all they need to do is find a tip or a trick to solve things. That’s rarely the case, and certainly isn’t the case at the moment, but accepting that parenting is hard is actually a really powerful tool.

Self-care is an overused term – it’s not all golf trips, spa days and getting your nails done. Self-care means caring for ourselves. It’s so easy to emotionally care for our children and our family, but so difficult to give that same kindness, tenderness and attention to ourselves. These self-care tips don’t require much time or money – it’s just not realistic for parents (especially single parents) to spend loads of time and money on looking after themselves – but they will definitely help you feel better. 

It’s a cliche, but you need to look after yourself in order to take care of your children’s needs. You’re the glue holding it all together – dealing with their emotions, managing co-parenting, your own life, work, and so on. It’s so hard to deal with all of this if you let yourself get depleted.

If we don’t take care of our emotional needs they come out sideways in different forms – that might be anger for you, or resentment, snapping, or numbing yourself. Often, like a dripping tap, you can feel that you’re slowly getting tired and overwhelmed, but you think you don’t have time to deal with it because you’re too busy doing pick-up, drop-off, or making dinner. But, if you ignore it, that dripping tap can soon become a flood.

30-Second Check In

Close your eyes and just think. Notice how it feels to be in your body. This might be the first time today that you’ve remembered that you’re a breathing, heart-beating human.

Maybe notice your breath and take a deep breath in. Ask yourself how you’re feeling right now – you might feel calm, you might feel anxious, or you might have thoughts pinging all around as you do this.

Then ask yourself: What do I need right now? You might need some breakfast, a drink of water, or even a good cry. Just notice how it feels to connect with yourself.

When people say “I don’t have time to look after myself” I really challenge that, as everyone has 30 seconds. We don’t normally ask ourselves what our needs are, so doing this a few times a week will be a game-changer – you can do it with your kids too!

Boundaries

I always do a lot of work with single and solo parents around boundaries. If you’re co-parenting, boundaries are really important.

Without boundaries, even with all the self-care in the world, you’re just going to leak energy. We tend to think we have limitless energy and that we can give, and give, and give – but that’s not the case. You need to think of your energy as finite.

What are your boundaries? What do you say yes to that you’d actually like to say no to? If there are areas in your life where you have needs, but you’re not expressing them, they build up. Where are you keeping quiet when you actually need to speak up? What drains your energy? What gives you energy?

As parents, our time and energy is so limited, so you want to make sure that the things you’re doing are filling you up and not draining you. If you as a parent set boundaries and only say yes when you want to say yes, your children will naturally learn how to protect their own energy and boundaries.

Overwhelm

 The external world feels really overwhelming at the moment and, if you don’t have the internal tools to deal with that, it can be an incredible weight to carry and you can end up feeling very drained.

Overwhelm is a different feeling for everyone – for some people their chest feels tight, for others their mind fizzes with thoughts. We tend to want to deal with overwhelm by sticking our head in the sand – putting the TV on, grabbing our phones, and numbing it. That approach doesn’t help and is only going to make things harder. The best way to tackle overwhelm – like most things in life – is head on.

Here’s a really simple exercise: write down everything you feel overwhelmed about. Then create two columns; one titled “What I can control” and the other one titled “What I have no control over”. It’s about separating the things that you can do nothing about from the things that you can do something about. Then, out of the things you can do something about, what is one tiny – and I mean tiny – action that you can take to move you forwards? Do that.

Essential listening for single parents

Zoe recommends frolos listen to the following episodes of The Motherkind Podcast which feature inspiring guests and topics which are especially relevant to single parents:

Thanks for chatting to us Zoe!

Zoe Blaskey is a blogger, podcaster, and founder of Motherkind – a self-empowerment platform for modern parents. 

Her mission is to share the skills she has developed through years of practicing as a meditation teacher, coach and a Kundalini yoga teacher with parents in order to help them reconnect with their true selves and live a happy, confident and guilt-free life. 

@motherkind_zoe

https://www.motherkind.co

Child psychology Q+A

Dr Martha Deiros Collado, a paediatric psychologist answers questions from the Frolo Community on everything from separation anxiety to helping your child cope with an absent parent

How can I help my three-year-old play independently? She always wants adult interaction in pretend play and struggles to play by herself.

The first thing I’d suggest you try is taking more of an observer role in play, rather than directing the play. The idea is that you sit with your child while they play and comment on what you see them doing with their toys, but you don’t make suggestions or direct the play. You just watch. By watching, you’re validating their play and this encourages them to keep playing and develop their play without you.

As your child gets more comfortable with that, you can step back, move away, and comment less on the play. Independent play means you’re in the same room but your child is playing on their own – it doesn’t mean you can leave the room and do something else. Small children often need to be able to look up and make eye contact with you for reassurance before returning to play on their own.

How should I talk to my eight and ten-year-old boys about divorce? They don’t seem to want to discuss it much, but maybe I should encourage them to open up more?

At eight and ten, they’re probably old enough to understand that divorce is permanent, but they might not really understand what it means. Divorce is an adult term and for children it can be confusing. If you think it’s important to discuss this with them, try to find a space and time that works for all of you. Sitting children down on the sofa to have a serious conversation doesn’t really work, instead, find a quiet, calm activity that they enjoy – I always suggest things like drawing or building Lego – and then start the conversation. 

Start slow and succinct. You could say “You know mummy and daddy are having a divorce, right?” And they might answer yes or no – make sure you  are taking your cues from them – and then you might follow up with:

“What do you think about that?”

“What does that mean to you?”

“What do you think is going to happen?”

“Is it ok that we’re talking about this?”

You’re not telling them about the situation, you’re asking them questions about it. This will give you a window into how your children are thinking and talking about it.

I would also recommend talking to siblings about divorce together. Parents often opt to discuss things with the eldest first and then talk to the youngest, but I always encourage parents to talk to siblings together and tell the same story to both of them, in language that the youngest child can understand. Telling them at the same time helps them feel like they’re not missing out on information and they might feel more secure together. 

If they’re not ready to talk, that’s fine. Children will find their own time and, as long as you’re giving them the opportunity to talk by asking lots of questions and bringing it up regularly, then your children will know that they’ve got permission to talk about it when they’re ready.

My child, aged four, keeps drawing fire – should I be concerned?

If you’re worried, talk to your child about it. That’s always the best policy. And stay curious with it – rather than reacting or telling them not to draw fire, ask questions like “Where did you get this idea from?” or “Where did you see fire?” Keep an open mind and explore it with them – it might just be from a cartoon!

Would changing a contact schedule after three years of solid routine be detrimental to the child?

I think this is more about the reason why the contact arrangements are changing, rather than contact time either increasing or decreasing. Children are very adaptable. They love routine because routine is safe, but children’s routines change all the time and they adapt. 

It’s more about how you prepare them for this change and why the change is happening. Will the change be beneficial in the long-run? The most important factors affecting their wellbeing will be how you manage the situation and the support you give them as a parent. If their routine is changing and you’re setting up a new routine, you need to help them through that transition.

My three-year-old daughter has started drawing pictures of me and her dad, with her as a baby in the middle. We separated in September and she was quite upset for a few months and even now asks when Daddy is coming home. Do you have any advice on how I can help her understand?

She’s only three so, when you separated, she didn’t understand what that meant – and she’s not going to understand what separation means until she’s about seven. This is to do with her brain development. Separation is quite an abstract concept for children – especially when they’re still seeing both parents – so she is going to keep asking those questions for a while. It might feel sad for you as a parent to see those drawings, but the meaning your child is attributing to them is completely different. She’s saying: “I love my mummy and I love my daddy and I’m a baby.”

Keep filtering small bits of information as and when the topic of separation comes up. When she draws these pictures, ask her questions and answer any questions that she asks you clearly and honestly. I would say: “Daddy will come and see you, but he’s not coming back to live with us.” Use concrete language when answering her questions – the clearer the better – and expect that she might ask you the same question again tomorrow.

I have been self-isolating with my four-year-old for 80 days. I’m a solo parent and we haven’t seen anyone else during this time. We’ve been home schooling and she has seemed very happy throughout. Any advice on how to ease her back into school? Will isolation have done any psychological damage?

 I get this question a lot. Lockdown won’t have done your child any damage – especially if you’ve been present and engaging with her. If you’re worried about the unfamiliarity of the safety measures that will have to be in place when she returns to school, prepare her by talking about what will be different and ask her questions to see if she’s worried about anything. 

Young children don’t need socialisation with other children, believe it or not. They just need connection with somebody and, if your child has had connection with you as an adult, that is absolutely fine.

Any advice on helping children cope with an increasingly absent father? My son’s dad doesn’t make telephone contact and has supervised visits about three or four times per year. My son gets anxious and feels down after a visit due to the lack of predictability. Have you got any guidance on how to handle the impact on my son and the best way to deal with this as a parent?

This is such a difficult situation. You cannot make his dad predictable – so don’t fight that battle. It’s not your job to make him a better parent, so give that up (as difficult as that is). Focus on your child. Don’t tell him that daddy is going to come and visit until the last minute because you don’t want to disappoint your child. Protect your child by arranging the meetups and remind the other parent that if they don’t come, they won’t be able to see their child. You know this person is likely to disappoint your child so you need to try to protect your child from that. With children, if you make a promise you have to follow it through, so make no promises and try to keep things as predictable as possible on your end.

My daughter is unsettled and acts out when she gets back from her dad’s house. He says she is well-behaved at his house and I feel like I am telling her off all the time when she’s with me.

Comparison is really difficult. Children are different in different contexts – some parents find their child comes home after school in complete chaos but teachers say they’re very well behaved when at school. Children act out and show their big feelings with the parent they feel safest with. It’s hard to deal with, but, if your child comes home and explodes with emotion, they’re saying “I feel safe here and I can show you how I’m feeling.” Your ex-partner is probably telling the truth, but your child isn’t exploding with you because you’re a bad parent – they’re doing it because they feel safe to do so with you.

Hold back from telling them off. When your children explode – especially if they’re below the age of seven – it’s really important that what you give them is connection, not punishment. This is hard because it’s a real behavioural shift for us as a society. Their brain only understands feelings when they’re worked up, so if you try to give them logic they won’t understand. Connect with them, give them the space, and hold your calm. If you can do that now, as they get older, they might start to talk and explain how they’re feeling instead of exploding.

How do I stay calm when my child is having a complete meltdown and I feel like I’m reaching the end of my tether?

Take a long, deep breath. Think of a word, mantra, or sentence that connects you with the behaviour you have to do. It might just be: “Calm”. And if you repeat this word or phrase to yourself, it helps remind you of the behaviour you want to model. You only want your child to see calm behaviour – you don’t want to join their chaos because that’s frightening for children. If you lose your cool, that will escalate their behaviour – so the one thing you need to do is stay calm and just sit with them. You can validate their feelings – “I know you feel angry. I’m here. I’m going to keep you safe. It’s ok that you feel angry.” Give them calm and be patient. Your calmness will get inside them and they will become adults who can self-regulate and soothe themselves. Most of us aren’t like this as adults because we weren’t taught how to do this! 

Remember: your child is supposed to have big feelings – that’s what children are supposed to do. Our job as parents is to help them through it – we’re not supposed to fix it and make them happy. Just stay calm and the feeling will pass.

My ex remarried in secret and is now expecting another child. When our children found out they were very upset. My ex refuses to discuss the situation with me. How do I support my children through this difficult transition?

Focus on your children. You can’t do anything about your ex-partner. Explore the questions your children would like to ask their dad and what it is about the situation that is making them upset, because it might not be exactly what you think. 

Also, be honest with them. Explain that you don’t know the answers to their questions and that their dad doesn’t talk to you about these things because you lead separate, private lives. Offer to pass on any questions that they have about the situation – I would do this in writing rather than face-to-face or over the phone. If he’s not ready to talk to them about it, he needs to explain that to his children and acknowledge their questions. You might need to comfort them afterwards, but you can only do what you can do.

My son, who has just turned four, is really worried about the fact that he’s going to die, or I’m going to die, or his dad is going to die. No one has died in our family recently so I don’t know where it’s come from.

Four-year-olds don’t understand death. They don’t understand the permanence of death. I’m curious about where he’s got this idea from – he must have come across it somewhere – so I would ask him about that. His idea of what death is not that same as an adult’s understanding. It’s too abstract as a concept for four-year-olds to grasp. I would ask lots of questions like “What does dying mean? What do you think will happen to you? What do you think will happen to me?”

My daughter is three and is experiencing separation anxiety. When I pick her up from her mum’s house, she gets upset and asks if mummy can come to my house. She also requests that we all hold hands and do a group hug at handover. Is this something I need to worry about?

Three is the peak age for separation anxiety and attachment in children. I wouldn’t worry, I would just be giving her a lot of comfort. She’s probably wishing, as children do, that she could have all of you together all the time. It’s not something to worry about – it’s just a reflection of how much she loves you both. Comfort her and give her permission to be sad about the fact that mummy isn’t here all the time. If a child is connected to both parents – which is what you want – it’s normal that they would miss you when they’re not with you. But don’t feel guilty because you don’t love or want to be with your ex-partner. Your child just needs to know that you are a family, which you are, because you will always be a family to your child.

Thanks for answering our questions Martha!

For more words of wisdom and bite-sized child psychology insights you can follow Martha’s Instagram @drmdc_paediatric_psychologist

Martha also offers 20-minute phone consultations for £35 if you’d like an initial consultation or have a specific problem you’d like to discuss in brief.

https://www.drmdc.co.uk