6 ways to prioritise me time as a single parent

As a single parent it can be hard to make time for yourself and the things that nourish and inspire you, especially if you’re parenting completely solo. Frolo asked Habit Coach Joy Jewell how single parents can make a habit out of self care.

me time as a single parent

Hands up if you’re a single parent and feel like you can’t get a moment of peace in your own home? The demands of single parenting are overwhelming, to say the least. It can feel like you spend your whole day being chased, sometimes quite literally when there are kids involved, and when the kids are finally asleep at the end of the day you need to deal with the carnage they have left in their wake. 

We all know the importance of ‘me time’. We all know that we need it to avoid burnout and take care of our bodies and minds. Yet, how many of us actually carve that time out, shifting the focus from our family, our home, our work… onto ourselves? In my experience, not enough.

Making time for yourself has huge benefits. It allows you time to rest and regroup, which reduces stress levels so that you no longer feel like you are constantly under pressure. While taking time out may be the last thing on your mind when you are feeling swamped, it actually helps with those feelings of overwhelm rather than contributing to them.

Not only does rest reduce stress but it actually helps you to get more done. The brain wasn’t created for long periods of focus. Taking time out for yourself helps your brain reboot, so that you are ultimately more productive.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit of prioritising yourself is that it increases your sense of self worth. When you stop putting everyone else ahead of you and make yourself the number one priority, even just for a moment, you are telling yourself that you are just as worthy and deserving of care as everyone else. Make it a daily ritual and you’ll feel more positive, fulfilled and have a greater sense of wellbeing.

The brain wasn’t created for long periods of focus. Taking time out for yourself helps your brain reboot, so that you are ultimately more productive.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that there isn’t the time, you’re stretched as it is, life is too busy, too manic. For solo parents in particular, it may feel virtually impossible. When you don’t have another parent to take the kids, it’s easy to feel suffocated by non-negotiable parental duties and lack of alone time.

You might find yourself knowing you need a break but unable to see how that can ever be possible.

‘Maybe when the kids are older’.

What if you could find the time and space for yourself now? Today? Why would you wait?

Creating space for yourself doesn’t have to feel like an impossible task. I have a few simple tips that you can start using today, to find that all important me time.

1 – Change your perspective on ‘rest’

First things first, let go of the guilt surrounding resting.

It’s not unusual for people to find it hard to rest. We tend to think of rest as being unproductive, or lazy. The reality couldn’t be further than the truth – rest is a fundamental and important human need.

If you struggle with the idea of resting then try ‘recharging’ instead. When you take time to recharge you are fuelling yourself. By topping up your energy levels you can create more balance in your life, so that you are better equipped to deal with everything that your life and your kids throw at you.

2 – Let things go

To create time for yourself, you might need to let go of other tasks. Take a moment to really consider what activities you could drop, reduce or get support with in order to free up time. Remember that your me time is un-negotiable, so ask yourself what time drains are taking up too much of your life and how can you make a change? 

When it comes to daily chores, remember that you won’t be done unless you say you are. There will always be ‘one more thing’ to do before you take time for yourself. The dishes can wait, you can’t.

Take a moment to really consider what activities you could drop, reduce or get support with in order to free up time.

3 – Delegate, delegate, delegate

If your kids are old enough to get involved with everyday tasks like cooking, tidying, laundry and cleaning then get them involved as soon as you can.

That can be easier said than done, so set them realistic expectations and make it as fun as possible for everyone. I love doing a ‘one song blast’ where everyone gets involved in tidying up at the end of the day for the duration of one good song. It can save ten minutes, which goes straight towards ‘me time’.

4 – Use simple time management techniques

By employing better time management as a single parent, we can consolidate tasks, free up time and feel less hounded by our to do list.

My favourite way to free up time for myself in the evenings is to do what’s called ‘front loading’. Quite simply, it means putting all the worst, most time consuming and least enjoyable tasks at the start of the day or week.

Do any jobs that take two minutes or less as soon as you think of them. No hesitation, just get up and do it straight away.

By getting them done and out the way as soon as possible, you are immediately in a better head space and feel less pressured because you don’t have any dreaded jobs hanging over you. It also ensures that these essential jobs don’t get pushed further and further back, which inevitably means they end up cutting into your evenings and your alone time.

Another way to simply and effortlessly create more time for yourself is to do any jobs that take two minutes or less as soon as you think of them. No hesitation, just get up and do it straight away. This can be a huge game changer for time-starved single parents of small children in particular, because you don’t have to rely on things like nap time to get jobs done. It’s easy, and the time soon adds up. Do it ten times through the day and you’ve found yourself an extra 20 minutes of recharge time when the kids are in bed.

5 – Create a sanctuary

Having a physical space which is free from toys and general kids clutter can be a real life line, particularly for solo parents who are managing the parenting alone. A calm area of the house which is just for you can feel like a tranquil retreat when overwhelm and parenting burnout is at the door.

Consider where you could create space for yourself, it could be your bedroom or a quiet corner of the house with a comfy chair and a cosy blanket to snuggle under. Add creature comforts like a scented candle, stack of books or a journal.

The key to making this work is to communicate with the kids that this is your relaxing space where you can go for some alone time. We can’t create these boundaries if we don’t communicate them, so lovingly let the household know that you have a chill out zone and why it’s important to you.

6 – Show yourself some grace

The most important step in creating time for yourself as a single parent is to practice self compassion. Not every day will be productive, it won’t always be a good day, there will be times when things feel impossible and that your to do list is ganging up on you. That’s when self kindness saves the day.

Allow yourself to take a breath. Give yourself permission to take that break you need, whenever the opportunity arises. Be mindful of quiet moments in the day that you can take advantage of.

Step away from the laundry and sit down with your hot coffee when you can. You owe it to yourself.

Joy Jewell works as a Habit Coach, helping people to build habits that can change their future and that stick around. Find out more about Joy on Instagram at self.hood.

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Single parenting Q&A with Parent Coach Yvonne Smyth

Yvonne Smyth is a single mum and parent coach. She helps parents connect deeply and authentically to their children, to themselves and to life itself. Yvonne joined Frolo recently for a live Q&A and here we’ve pulled out some of the key points from the evening.

single parent tips

Break ups are hard. There’s no getting away from that, yet managing your split successfully and navigating the world of single parenting is absolutely vital for your children’s emotional wellbeing and security.

The number one thing I recommend everyone to do is to go on a self-healing journey. However your relationship has ended, we all have a journey to go on. There’s a common misconception that if you are the person to end a relationship then it must be easy, but the truth is that you’ll likely be plagued with guilt and may still feel a great deal of sadness.

Taking yourself on a journey of self-healing is vital. As a parent we need to be grounded and sturdy, and we do this through taking care of ourselves and our long term emotional wellbeing.

Some places to start the journey are through reading – You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron are both incredibly useful.

How do you deal with kids unleashing emtions after a weekend at a strict parent’s house?

This is so common, and often isn’t just about it being a strict parent’s house, it’s simply being in a different house. The first thing to remember is that if your child feels safe expressing those emotions with you then that’s a fantastic testament to just how safe they feel with you. It’s not a bad thing.

From a practical point of view, simply hold space for those emotions and make space for your child to let them out. Listen, observe, be present, validate their feelings, whatever they may be or however they might present themselves – simply pour love all over them.

If your child feels safe expressing their emotions then that’s a fantastic testament to just how safe they feel with you.

Do you have any tips for good co-parenting?

The single most important thing is the energy of the relationship with your co-parent. Your kids will pick up on that energy. Do you have a shared intention for how you want to show up for your kids and how you want to support them?

You should also ask yourself honestly whether you’re really co-parenting or single parenting with shared custody. Co-parenting is about making joint decisions, planning together, sharing values and agreeing on how you want to raise your kids.

Which decisions are co-parenting decisions and which are not? What are the agreements around what’s okay to just decide yourself and what do you need to agree on? If in doubt, have a discussion.

Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. This may vary depending on where you are in the journey, the age of your kids, your relationship with your ex.

Keep the children in the loop when it comes to arrangements so that you maintain those feelings of being grounded and secure. If they are old enough, ask for their input too. What’s working for them? What’s not working?

How do you support a baby with transitioning between houses?

Go back to your energy around transitions. Babies even more so than older children will pick up on your energy. They don’t understand words, so they will be noticing your energy and that will determine their own state.

Be well prepared so that transistions are very smooth. For example you might have a specific bag that’s packed in advance. This allows you to be really present with your baby before the transistion rather than being distracted by packing or looking for things.

If your baby has a favourite toy or cuddly, taking that with them between homes can help to create a sense of familiarity and stability. Keeping their cuddly or blanket inside your jumper for the hour beforehand so that it smells of you can also be a comfort.

Make sure that when they do go, you have something planned for yourself so that you’re not sitting there for the whole day worrying. Take the time to fill your cup with some single parenting self-care – talk to friend, take a bath, go for a walk – so that when they come home you’re rested and relaxed.

My ex-husband has a new girlfriend – do I meet her? I feel envious that she’s with my children. How do I deal with that?

This is a tricky one as there is really no right or wrong answer and it very much depends on your circumstances and your feelings.

If you are in a place where you are loving yourself, you’re grounded and sturdy, having someone else spend time with your kids has a far lesser impact.

If this is a new girlfriend who isn’t living with your ex-partner, do you really need to meet them? Is it that you think you ‘should’ meet them? Would it be good for you emotionally? You don’t actually have to meet this new person if you don’t want to or if it’s going to be too difficult for you – you certainly don’t owe anyone that.

Keep in mind that it’s hard to hate somebody up close, so if you feel like meeting a new partner could help you to let go of any negative feelings then it might be useful for you.

Dealing with the envy comes through the self-healing. If you are in a place where you are loving yourself, you’re grounded and sturdy, having someone else spend time with your kids has a far lesser impact.

My three year old boy is very physically rough, how do I calm things?

It’s very natural for three year old boys to be physically rough! Make sure he has plenty of outlets for his energy, for example long walks, trampolining, playing tag, tickling etc.

If there’s an element of the roughness that’s anger coming out, that’s also normal. Child led play is a good way to explore this – 15 minutes a day where the child controls what you both do. This is a brilliant way to form a connection with your child and it gives them power. A lot of times anger comes out in young children because they feel powerless, especially in the wake of a separation.

Giving your child choices also helps to negate this anger and help them feel in control, even if it’s something as simple as ‘do you want to put your trousers or your top on first?’

You can also weave in quiet time. This could be something like a back rub, reading stories, guided visualisations or mindfulness activities – anything that helps them to wind down and connect with you.

How do you let go of the family that you thought you had and embrace what you do have?

Again this comes back to the self-healing journey. You have to commit to going on that journey and to not stay in this place. While of course you want to allow yourself time to grieve, you need to be proactive and focussed on moving forward.

Practice gratitude. Keep a journal by the bed and every night write down three things that you’re grateful for – specific things that have happened in that day.

Do something for yourself, something that you’ve always wanted to do but never have done. Everything is available to us so easily now, the world is your oyster! Take a course on somewhere like Udemy to develop an interest that’s always taken a backseat. Reconnect with yourself and something that you love to do.

How do you deal with inconsistency with regards to routines from home to home?

Imagine you have two jobs and for half the week you work in an environment that’s very strict and for the other half you go to work at Google and play ping pong and get to come and go as you please.

The first thing is to have empathy for the child because this is hard. It’s not their choice and they are just adapting to the environment that they’re in.

What sort of relationship do you have with your ex? Can you have a conversation about shared values and how the boundaries we put in place are there to help our children? Ultimately while you can have the conversations, you have to let go of what you can’t control. Don’t waste your energy trying to control anything other than what happens under your own roof.

When you go on you healing and self-love journey it becomes about what you do and your own relationship with your children and unless there is actually a serious safety concern then you have to let it go. When your child comes back into the different environment, come back to that idea of holding space for their emotions. Validate their feelings, acknowledge that it’s difficult for them, but maintain your boundaries.

This post is just a summary of a live Q&A with Yvonne Smyth for Frolo. You can watch back the full session on YouTube.

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This post contains affiliate links.

Co-parenting and money – how a Junior ISA can make things easier

Co-parenting and finances aren’t always easy to manage, especially when it comes to long term savings and big ticket items. We asked the team at Hapi how Junior ISAs can make co-parenting easier.

Junior ISA co-parents

Co-parenting and money isn’t always the easiest thing to juggle. The short term day to day costs are sometimes a little easier to handle but what about the bigger costs? School fees, uni fees, their first car, their first house. How do you handle those?

Agreeing on who pays for these larger, long term costs can be difficult and sometimes needs some forward planning. Luckily there’s a product out there that removes some of the difficulty with co-parenting and long term savings for your child – a Junior ISA.

What is a Junior ISA?

A Junior ISA (JISA) is a tax-free way to save or invest up to £9,000 a year (current limit for 2020/21 tax year) for children’s long term futures. The money is locked up until the child turns 18 and at that age they have full access to it to use as they like.

The tax-free nature of this product means that you don’t need to pay any income tax (on interest earned from savings), dividends tax (on any dividends received from stocks & shares) and capital gains tax (on any profit made) on your savings or investments.

There are two types of JISAs, cash JISAs and stocks & shares JISAs. You are allowed to have a cash JISA and a stocks & shares JISA for your child but you’re not allowed more than one of each type. This means if you’ve already got a stocks & shares JISA with one provider, you can’t open up a new one with another provider (you can transfer though).

A cash JISA is normally provided by a bank or building society and works in a very similar way to savings accounts. You deposit cash and the Junior ISA pays a fixed interest rate back to you (this rate can vary so worth always making sure you’re on the highest possible rate).

A stocks & shares JISA is an investment account. This means that the money you put in buys stocks, shares and other investments. Because of this, the return isn’t guaranteed and whilst they tend to perform better than cash JISAs over the longer term, the value of the investments can sometimes go down as well as up.

If you’re unsure about saving vs investing for your child’s future, this post may help you decide.

Here are three reasons why a Junior ISA may be a good approach for co-parents looking to save or invest for their child’s long term future.

It’s in the child’s name and is locked till 18

This means that at the age of 18 the money is theirs and it can’t be withdrawn by either parent before they reach 18. This can be really useful as it gives both parents the comfort of knowing that the money won’t be touched by anyone else other than the child.

Anyone can contribute directly to the JISA

Most providers allow anyone to contribute directly to the JISA. This means you don’t need to transfer the money to the other parent (or anyone else first), you can contribute it directly to the Junior ISA. This is also a really useful feature if any grandparents, godparents, aunts or uncles (or anyone else) want to contribute too.

Hapi also allows anyone who contributes to leave a message and a picture. This builds up a digital scrapbook to be given to the child when they turn 18, showing everyone who contributed to their money pot along with the messages and pictures they left.

Both parents can log in to monitor how the Junior ISA is growing

While nearly every provider only allows one parent to log in and monitor the Junior ISA, Hapi allows both parents to have access to the app (note: only one parent will be allowed to pick the investments within the Junior ISA). This helps ensure the child’s financial future is completely transparent for both parents.

How do you open a Junior ISA?

If you’ve decided to open a Junior ISA then the first thing you need to do is decide between a Junior cash ISA and a Junior stocks & shares ISA (although you could have one of each type if you wish).

For Junior cash ISAs, the decision process is fairly easy as you can look for the one with the highest interest rate. This is Coventry Building society at the moment with 2.95% but you can only apply for an account by phone or post (or in branch).

It’s a little harder to decide between Junior stocks & shares ISAs as they don’t offer a guaranteed rate of return (with stocks your value you can go up and down). So instead you should consider what your requirements are and find a provider that meets them. Here is a list of things that we think are important when selecting a stocks & shares JISA provider.

Access for both parents – A very important aspect for co-parents. Given that this is your child’s money, do both parents want to be able to login and view the balance / manage the account as well without sharing the same credentials? Very few providers offer this option so make sure you find out if they do before signing up.

Fees – this is one of the most important ones as they can add up over a long period of time. In general 0.5% to 1.0% (all-in pricing including fund charges) tends to be the market average at the moment so make sure you’re not overpaying.

Involvement – How involved do you want to be when selecting the investments. Do you want to pick the stocks and funds yourself (sometimes you have over 2,000 options to pick from) or do you want the provider to do that for you based on your preferred risk level?

Active vs. Passive – Do you want a human (or software) to actively decide when to buy and sell certain companies based on their views? Or do you want an investment that tracks a specific index (e.g. the 100 largest companies in the UK). Actively managed investments tend to charge higher fees.

Sustainable investing How important is it that your money is invested in companies that care about the environment, social and corporate governance (ESG) as well as profits?

Non parent contributions – Will grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles etc. be contributing? Most providers allow this but a few don’t so be careful when selecting a provider if this is important to you.

Minimum contributions – Is there a minimum amount that you have to contribute every month? Are you happy committing to that?

What is Hapi?

This blog was created for the Frolo Community by Hapi.

Hapi is an app that helps parents plan and invest for their children’s futures by giving them access to the same products that a financial adviser would in a more accessible and cost-effect method.

They’re currently allowing users to sign up to their waiting list but have offered Frolos the chance to skip the waiting list and get early access to the app (and their Junior stocks & shares ISA) by completing this form and entering Frolo as the referrer. Hapiplan.com

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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are just intended to provide guidance and general information and should not be taken as financial advice. When investing your capital is at risk and the value of your investments may go down as well as up. Tax treatment depends on your unique circumstances and may be subject to change in the future. If in doubt you should speak to a financial adviser or tax specialist.

Everything I’ve learned about motherhood (from my single parent Dad)

Where has your parenting wisdom come from? For author Zeena Moolla it came from her single parent Dad, who raised her and her two siblings on his own. Here Zeena shares some of their story with Frolo.

Single parent dad Zeena Moolla

“You know, Zeena, I raised three children – by myself – without any ‘fancy pants’ books!” I remember my single parent dad chuckling, when I was a new mum and he’d spied yet another parenting book I’d ordered online at some desperate, ungodly hour. “I cooked, cleaned, washed, ironed, shopped – everything! Alone! You can’t learn from a book how to find the energy to work full time, come home from work, make a meal, help with homework, wash PE kits, iron school uniform… And then hope your children sleep well that night, because you have to do it all over again the next day!”

I won’t lie, I’ve heard this sort of speech many times from my pop (particularly since becoming a parent and often, quite defensively when I’ve asked that he adhere to some routine I was attempting or suggest giving my kids ice cream right before their lunch is not the best idea). But every well-worn word of that monologue, and its many variations, is true.

Since I was eight, the middle kid of his three children, my dad has been a single parent dad and an amazing one at that. He’s South African-Indian, of a Muslim background, and, as he’s told me on many occasions, he arrived in the UK in 1957 unable to do much for himself. “You know, Zeena, I couldn’t even make a cup of tea!” he’ll proudly tell me as he whips up his incredible prawn curry, yet to be surpassed by any other I’ve had.

His own upbringing, one of fifteen siblings, was much stricter than my own (although my fourteen-year-old self probably wouldn’t have agreed when I was sulkily heading home on a Friday night for a 9.30 p.m. curfew). His home life saw largely all domesticity assigned to women, while the men in his family were expected to bring home the roti.

“Your father does all the cooking?” one of my many aunties in South Africa would ask incredulously on every holiday there. “He can make chana dahl? Really? He can’t make chicken curry, though? He can? Ooh, Al-laah! Your daddy is good.”

The parenting legacy my pop has passed to me is, without doubt, about unconditional, selfless, devoted love. The kind of love that makes a child feel safe and strong.

Their faces were agog in awe, and, I could see, some pity too. This life, especially for a man of his world, was unheard of. There was usually some female relative – a sister or cousin, maybe – to step in and help. Truth is though, even if we’d have had any family nearby to offer support, I’m not sure he would have accepted it. My dad has always been entirely his own person, fiercely independent and a natural nonconformist.

Papa is so exceptional that when I decided to write a funny nonfiction book about my experiences with motherhood, featuring him in some capacity was an absolute given. But it was the publisher who really recognised that my dad had to be more than a chapter in a book. He had to be the heart and soul of it.

“It’s such a rare thing to be brought up entirely by a dad, particularly of his background, that it would be lovely to explore this throughout,” she explained. “How do you think being raised by your single parent dad has shaped you as a mother?” It was such a shrewd question, and one that flooded my mind with a mixed bag of memories…

The nights when I was about nine and he’d cuddle me back to sleep after a nightmare had me scurrying in for a hug; his big brown arm encasing me like a mother hen’s wing. The weekends he’d pack out with trips to the local pebble beach, the nearby water-themed park, strawberry picking, swimming, among countless other kid-orientated activities. The parents’ evenings he’d dash to as soon as he’d finish work to make sure he didn’t miss a single one. The shopping trips to the local outdoor market he endured to buy the pixie boots or batwing jumper I simply had to have. The many childhood illnesses he’d tended to, dishing out cuddles and kisses with every temperature check and necessary dose of medicine. The words ‘love you Zee’ that he has always ended our daily phone conversation with.

The parenting legacy my pop has passed to me is, without doubt, about unconditional, selfless, devoted love. The kind of love that makes a child feel safe and strong. This is how Papa has shaped me as a mother. Because, there’s no doubt about it, single-parent families can face huge challenges. And yes, it can be so hard for a single parent dad, much like a single parent mum, to become the sole provider of all a child’s needs. But I can tell you first-hand, a happy family, whatever its make-up, is quite simply driven by love. And this has always been in overflowing abundance from Papa.

Everything I've learned about motherhood from my single parent dad

Everything I’ve Learned About Motherhood (From My Single-Parent Dad), by Zeena Moolla is out now. (Thread Books, £8.99)

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How to manage long car journeys with kids

Single dad Simon Newby has been on some epic long car journeys with his three children, including over 30 1,100 mile drives across the UK and Europe. Here he shares his tips for long car journeys with kids.

Long care journeys with kids

Step 1: Where do you want to go?

The first step of any kind of trip planning is of course to decide where you want to go. You might already have some ideas on your bucket list, or, if you’re looking for inspiration you could try asking the Frolo community for ideas. There are a few questions to consider before you embark on long car journeys with kids:

How many days do you have?

This is such an important question because a trip is as much about the journey as it is about the destination. You’ll want to make time to investigate those intriguing roadside attractions and weird museums along the way.

How many hours do you want to spend driving?

If you’re a beginner to long car journeys with kids, err on the side of fewer hours in the car, especially if you have younger kids who need to get up and move about. Four or five hours in the car, with stops every two hours to let the kiddos out of their car seats can be plenty. If you only have a few days for your holiday and you only want to drive a few hours, that sets the parameters for choosing a destination.

Get out a map.

Look online or use a paper map for more of a sense of adventure!

Discuss the options that are within the family budget. As long as social distancing rules are in place, look for spots that are likely to be less popular.

Check local requirements.

Closings, openings and Covid-19 restrictions are changing fast these days — sometimes changing from hour to hour – so make sure you’re aware of any local restrictions.

Don’t forget to check your car.

Now this may sound like an obvious one, but sometimes in the rush of packing and planning it slips your mind! If you have roadside assistance, make sure to keep that number handy – and if you don’t, it might be worth looking into!

The RAC has a good guide to basic car checks.

Step 2: Plan the Route

Now you’ve probably already got a basic route planned out, but make sure you’re familiar with where you’re going and any directions needed. As a single parent you can’t rely on another adult to help navigate.

Every time we stop, whether for a comfort break or overnight, I try to look ahead at the route for the next section of our trip. Even with GPS, I find it easier if I’m familiar with the general route. Many cars come with a GPS now, but if not, maps.me or google maps are great and you can even download your route on google maps so that you can use it offline.

Step 3: Along the Route

You finished the route planner, now you need to figure out if you and the kids will break the journey along the way. Are you a camping family? If so, you’ll want to research campsites along the way. Are you happy to put up and take down the tent for one night? Do you prefer hotels? Airbnbs? Or does spontaneity work? 

Step 4: Pack Right

This is the getting-ready phase. It’s when you do things like make sure the family car is up to the task, the bags are packed, any essential apps are downloaded and the snacks are bought or made. Make sure you check the weather forecast too – sun cream and sun hats should be packed just in case, as well as wet weather gear!

Healthy, dry snacks like rice cakes, granola bars and cereal are some of my go-to options but stick to favourites – halfway down the motorway is NOT the time to be introducing something new! Fresh fruit and vegetables are good too, if they can be eaten without too much of a mess.

As a single parent, you don’t have an extra set of hands to help pass things to kids in the back, but you probably DO have the front seat empty. This is a great place to set up anything you need access to on long car journeys with kids. Keep a few snacks handy, Kleenex or napkins, water bottles and anything else that you may need. If you have a older child who is sitting in the front seat they will have this in the footwell in a bag.

We’re not a screen-free family, but we don’t rely on screens, whether in the car or for other travel. But whether or not you use screens, be sure to pack some other activities as well! Small toys like dolls, hot wheels or trains are safe and will amuse kids for awhile. My kids also love books and will also happily play magnetic games, Road Trip Bingo or do some drawing with Mess Free Markers.

Depending on the ages of your kids, there are loads of DIY car games or busy bags that you can find online, so you can make up your own.

Some final road trip tips

If you’re doing long car journeys with kids, here are a few quick tips to help the drive go as smoothly as possible:

  • Have a first aid kit in the car and fluorescent jackets for everyone just in case.
  • If you spy a designated rest area, take advantage of it! We’ve stopped at some that have picnic benches and play equipment, which is a bonus when you’re travelling with kids. 
  • Have a spill kit for the inevitable spill – wet wipes, kitchen towel and nappy sacks to gather up the rubbish.
  • Carry a spare clothes bag – no matter what age your kids! 
  • Carry a robust torch – you would be surprised how many AirBnbs use unlit key boxes.
  • Pack an overnight stop bag and pack it somewhere in the car that’s accessible, so you don’t have to unpack the whole car or huge suitcases just to get your essentials.
  • Make coats easy to find – not buried at the bottom of the boot.
  • If you’re going into self catering accommodation or camping, pack a quick and easy meal that you can make as soon as you arrive if needs be.
  • Emergency wine! I tend to have my bottle of wine available when I am not going to be driving any further that day – deep breath, kids fed, kids clothes sorted and relax!

5 ways to protect your mental health as a single parent during lockdown

Are you struggling to cope with lockdown as a single parent? Overwhelmed by the relentless and the isolation? Orla McKeating has some advice.

self care for single parents during lockdown

“Night! Love you. Love you more, yes, love, ok. Yup bye. Night. Bye, bye, bye…” I close the door gently, tip toe away like he suddenly has hyper hearing abilities now he’s in his room. Then it’s silence. Breathe in. And breathe out again.  The moment I’ve been waiting for all day. Silence. 

Some nights this is filled with motivation to get all the work done during these quiet hours of the evening, some nights it’s a book in the bath night, some straight into bed and some nights it’s deafening silence. Isolating. And a bit shit. You see, we are all superheroes with superpowers us single parents. We wear ALL the hats and take ALL the credit and it’s amazeballs. Then there’s the co-parenting, all the two house admin, the stuff that comes along with that.

And sometimes it’s just silence. 

I often think, wouldn’t it just be so super lovely to be looked after for a while?! For someone else to make the dinner, give you the chance to get out for essential exercise and parent you for once?! Well, hold that thought for a sec, or for another few months anyway because LOCKDOWN. So for the next while, we are going to be focussing on having that person parent us but it’s going to be you. Hear me out. You read the part about superheroes. You got this. 

You know the way you listen to your little one when they’re sad? And you comfort and tell them it’s ok to be sad and they don’t have to be happy all the time? And you know the way when the little ones are tired, you put them to bed, you cancel all the things that don’t matter, and you just know that sleep is what is going to make things better? And when the older children are struggling? Those really kind, empathetic words you use to them for comfort, for connection and to let them know they’re not alone? Flip that around.

What would happen if, when you feel all of those things you comfort others about, you were able to just sit with yourself, your feelings and did things for you? Things would change massively. Mindset would change. Magic would happen. Not as in the magic that sends you off on an all you can drink champagne cruise along the River Seine in Paris for the evening, but long term, life changing magic. Learning to accept your feelings, to accept you just as you are, that you are alive. You have feelings and needs and that’s okay. Throw a global pandemic in the mix, uncertainty with jobs, home schooling, isolation and the world just seems a bit flat.

What would happen if, when you feel all of those things you comfort others about, you were able to just sit with yourself, your feelings and did things for you?

Here are some things that have really helped me the last few months.

Find joy in the little things

This may look like instead of scrolling through Instagram for half an hour, lying in the bath with a book. It could be as little as putting your clothes on the radiator to heat them up before you put them on (this feels like a big warm hug I promise!). Or just clean bed sheets and an early night. Do you.

Avoid Fast Fun

We are all so aware of the quick fixes. Alcohol, food, online dating, social media. Avoid finding short term comfort in these places. Focus on things that make you feel good mentally and physically. Like eating beautiful healthy, fresh food, movement or getting up half an hour earlier for a quiet coffee alone.

Reach Out to Others

Leave a voice note or message for someone you’re missing. Arrange a call or a virtual night out on Zoom. If this isn’t your bag, send a meme or a throwback photo that might bring them some joy. Tell them you miss them and are thinking about them or just have banter. Connect. You’ll feel better for it. 

Leave a voice note or message for someone you’re missing.

Give Thanks

Practise gratitude. This may look like writing a list of three things you’re grateful for in the morning or evening, but this will massively change your mindset and bring you on the journey of appreciating the positives during these tough times.

One of my personal heroes Arianna Huffington says in her book Thrive, “Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.” Gratitude also lowers stress levels, allows you to gain a new perspective and focus on what really matters and is your own personal safe zone where you can really unpack. 

Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul.

Be kind to you!

Remember to look after you. You can’t pour from an empty cup. 

It takes 66 days to create a new habit. What is hard now will be easier tomorrow. You can do this, and you will. 

Remember you have 100% success rate so far. You are loved. You are enough and you are worthy. 

Someday you’ll look back at this time and wonder how the hell you did it and look at yourself in awe. Keep going superhero!

Read more from Orla on her Instagram channel.

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How to deal with grief as a single parent – Q&A with Karen Sutton

Karen Sutton, The Widow Coach, is one of the first grief coaches in the UK specialising in supporting people widowed early in life. Karen’s own husband Simon died suddenly a few years ago when her daughters were still young, and as you might imagine, it was catastrophic. Two and a half years on, still feeling lost, Karen started working with a life coach. This experience changed her life and started her on the journey to where she is now.

Here are a few of the things we talked to Karen about during her Q&A with the Frolo community.

What are the foundations for a new widow to help move forward through grief and to go from simply surviving to thriving?

The one thing you need above all else is patience.

We all want everything yesterday and when we are suffering we want it to go away, of course we do. Heartache is awful. You can’t get through something traumatic in life in months though, it’s a long process. Give grief the space that it deserves without distracting yourself too much from it, learn to sit with it, to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable.

The worry is that if we give in to it, and really feel it, that we will never stop crying, that we’ll never get back up again, but you will. We can’t cry forever.

Patience and understanding are the foundations for our healing, as well as taking responsibility for these feelings for ourselves. As much as you want someone else to rush in and save you, it’s up to you. Accepting that enables you to move forward.

This doesn’t mean not asking for help or not talking to other people about your pain, but it does mean understanding what you need from other people, what they can do to help, and asking for it.

How do I take care of myself throughout the process?

As we go through the process of grief as a single parent, it’s important that we take care of ourselves. One way of doing this is to be mindful about what you consume. This can literally mean food, nourishment, giving our body the things it needs to function well. As much as you might want to live off rubbish, eating rubbish makes you feel rubbish.

Focus not on what you’ve not done, but on the things you have achieved.

Think too about what your mind is consuming – TV, social media and news can all be a negative influence unless you’re carefully curating what you watch and read. Are these things serving you and bringing value to your life or are they just bad habits?

Being kind to ourselves is key. We set high expectations and push ourselves hard, but often we’re setting ourselves up for failure and for never feeling good enough. Lower your expectations. Be realistic about the things you really need to do versus the things we feel we ‘should’ do. Lean on other people and ask for help. Focus not on what you’ve not done, but on the things you have achieved.

What advice do you have for someone navigating the loss of a parent?

Firstly don’t put pressure on yourself to overcome it. Listen to your body, your mind and your soul. You instinctively know what you need but often we push those instincts to one side and instead listen to what we think society or other people think is best for us.

Grief is a very individual journey and there is no value in comparing your loss to someone else’s. This is about you and what you need. Give yourself the time and the space to sit with your loss, to cry, to feel sad.

This is not wallowing. This is grieving.

Find a way of releaasing your grief. Exercise for example is brilliant for grief as it brings down stress and cortisol levels and releases feel good hormones instead. Even just a power walk around the block is valuable.

This is not wallowing. This is grieving.

My sister is angry with me – she says I didn’t do enough to help before my mum died and I feel guilty, although I felt like I was doing my best. How do I deal with those feelings?

Grief can throw up all kinds of emotions, including guilt or anger.

Family situations can be complex at the best of times and the death of a loved one is often a trigger for underlying issues. If a family member has issues or concerns that they’ve not dealt with, often they project these onto the people closest to them, wanting them to feel the hurt that they are experiencing.

Remember that this isn’t about you, it’s about her. When she’s lashing out at you it’s about what she’s trying to deal with, rather than a reflection on you. She could be crying out for help in some way, but doesn’t know how to express that.

We all have choices in life and this is where we have to take responsibility for our own decisions. Some people live in a victim mindset, blaming everyone else but themselves for how their life has turned out.

In terms of guilt, just remember that you did your best with the knowledge and resources that you had at the time. We can all look back in hindsight and wish things were different, but we make choices based on what we know and how we feel in the moment. You did the best you could.

If you’re experiencing loss and would like to find out more about how Karen can help, visit her website or follow her on Instagram.

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15 minute parenting with Joanna Fortune

Joanna Fortune is a psychotherapist and author of the 15-Minute Parenting series. Joanna joined us for a live chat with the Frolo community to talk about how to build stronger connections through play with our children from babies through to teenagers. Here’s what we learned from Joanna about the stages of play in early childhood.

Joanna Fortune 15-Minute parenting

The journey really begins with us. It begins when we learn to rely on our own parenting wisdom, to look within, and to consider our ‘own stuff’. We all have stuff of course – things that push our buttons, things that trigger us. It’s a journey of going inwards in order to parent outwards. It all about how to secure and strengthen connection with your child in order to bring about a correction in their behaviour.

You can’t have correction without a connection.

So many difficult behaviours in children are simply them trying to communicate something to us. They are often trying to tell us that something isn’t right, that they feel off about something, but they don’t have the emotional fluency to explain it. While they may not have the emotional literacy to communicate difficult feelings, one thing children DO have is play.

You can’t have correction without a connection.

Play can be an invaluable communication tool for us as parents and is a very effective way for children to learn. Shifting our understanding of play from being a box of toys in the corner of the room to a state of mind and a way of being is key – parenting is about connection and play fuels connection.

At the moment many of us are finding ourselves responsible for supporting our children to learn at home, and play is a fantastic way into this. Every day, try beginning with 15 minutes of play to really engage and connect with your child before moving into more structured learning with, of course, the promise of more play to come!

How does a child understand what 15 minutes means?

For young children especially, time can be a very abstract concept, so a visual structure such as a sand timer is perfect to help them understand the amount of time they have for each task. Telling a small child ‘we are going to play until all the sand has gone and then we are going to do some maths’ gives them far more control – the time is moving WITH them rather than happening TO them.

Sensory play ideas for childen

What exactly do we mean by play?

One way to understand what we mean by play is to think about how we experienced play when we were young and how this has impacted the way we play with our own children. Again, this is about looking inwards to better understand ourselves and how we parent.

Parenting is about connection and play fuels connection.

Joanna challenges us to ask ourselves some questions and, more importantly, to take the time to think about them and answer them! (You’ve read a book before and skipped over the questions to the next part right? We’ve all done it!)

Who played with you as a child? Who sung to you? Do you recall a game you played? How did that feel at the time and how does it make you feel on reflection? Answering these questions is so valuable – from this we can consider if there are things we wish had been done differently, if a different approach might have made us feel more positive about the experience, and this can then feed into what we do with our own children.

Is play only relevant for young children?

No. As Joanna explained, play is not just valuable for small children, it’s useful for children of all ages. It’s also important as a parent to consider whether or not your child experienced the different developmental stages of play as a young child and, if not, how you might go about closing these gaps. This doesn’t mean getting out the PlayDoh for a 15 year old, it simply means finding a way of meeting those developmental needs, but in an age appropriate way.

What are the different developmental stages of play?

The first stage of play is all about the senses. The sensory play stage is from infancy up to about age four, although if your older child still enjoys sensory play then that’s okay! The stages are approximate and there is no such thing as too much play at any age.

Sensory play is messy, tactile, exploratory play. It’s sand, water and dried pasta. It’s banging pots with a wooden spoon, anything that makes a noise. There are lots of ways to enjoy sensory play with things that you have at home – it’s not about having to buy any specialist equipement.

If you are mess averse, you need to own it about yourself, but do it anyway. Sensory play is not just something that’s fun for kids – it’s essential to help them learn about themselves, the difference between the external and the internal, and about boundaries and limits. If we don’t show are children that we can contain and manage their external mess, how will they feel safe to come to us with their internal mess? How do they know that we can help them contain and make sense of that?

Sensory play is not just something that’s fun for kids – it’s essential.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy sensory play without our walls ending up covered in paint, so don’t worry, you just need to be a bit creative. For example, buy cheap rolls of lining paper and use it to completely cover your painting table, taping it into place. Let your child loose with the finger paints and then at the end simply fold up all the paper and throw it away – no mess.

What comes after sensory play?

The second developmental stage of play is more narrative play. This is the sort of play where a child takes two characters and mimics a conversation between them. This type of play is key in helping a child learn to see something from another perspective. Creating a conversation between two teddies, trains, or whatever it may be, helps your child to problem solve, and to learn about critical thinking, turn taking and empathy.

This is the stage of play where they really learn to step out of their own experiences and feel it from someone else’s perspective, and this is the foundation for empathy. Watching two characters on a TV show working something out between them is not the same as doing it themselves, and this stage of play is often the one that gets missed.

What about role play?

The third stage, which is roughly between the ages of five and seven, is role play. Stage three builds on the first two stages – in this stage the child BECOMES the character they created in stage two. It’s a dramatic stage of play where they really get to test the bounddaries and think about what might be possible within any role.

Don’t worry if some of this role play involves them lining up their toys and shouting at them in the role of parent or teacher, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong or need to pay a visit to school! This stage is all about exploring possibilities and pushing boundaries and is all part of the learning journey.

It’s only after this third stage that children become capable of self-regulation. Don’t forget, this milestone might not correspond to a particular age – it’s about developmental age rather than a number on the calendar. Every child is an individual and develops at their own pace, just as we, as parents, are all unique too.

Sensory play for babies

This is just a part of the conversation we had with Joanna. You can watch the full session, where we talk about play with teenagers and supporting children through transitions, among other things, on the Frolo YouTube channel.

Find out more about Joanna on Instagram or visit her website.

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Healing from narcissistic abuse – Q&A with Annie Kaszina

Getting over a narcissist is something a lot of single parents find themselves having to do. It’s not easy for anybody, but if you have children together it’s even harder as you can never completely sever ties. So how do you co-parent with a narcissist, and what can you do to help yourself move on from narcissistic abuse?

Getting over a narcissist

Annie Kaszina PhD is an Abuse Recovery Coach and joined us recently for a Q&A with the Frolo community. We had such a lot of questions in advance from single parents struggling to deal with the aftermath of narcissistic abuse on a variety of topics such as co-parenting with a narcissistic ex, learning to trust again and rebuilding confidence after a narcissistic relationship.

Here we’ve pulled together some of the discussion highlights to give you a starting point if you’re wondering ‘how do you get over a narcissistic relationship?’

How do you know if your ex is a narcissist?

Whether they are on whether they aren’t a narcissist in the end probably doesn’t really matter. The fact is that you have come up against a brick wall in your relationship and it had to end. You felt rejected, betrayed, disregarded, invalidated. It was a relationship that was dead in the water because you were working at it and they weren’t.

They may be able to read your feelings really well, but they don’t actually care about your feelings and if they know something hurts you they will do it again and again.

If you are a normal loving parent you do not walk away from a relationship with your child’s other parent without a great deal of soul searching. You leave someone because they are toxic for you. You don’t have to pin the narcissist label on it to be able to say it was a relationship that wasn’t working.

There are some signs however that you can look for to help you identify a narcissist:

  • They have an exaggerated sense of their own importance and can be very rude to people they think don’t matter. Notice how they behave when you go out to dinner and how they interact with waiting staff.
  • They tend to have a good ‘hero’ story or a good ‘victim’ story – sometimes both.
  • They have a huge sense of entitlement and that your life is there to serve them.
  • They will always tell you what a wonderful and special person they are, just for doing something that everyone does.
  • They may be able to read your feelings really well, but they don’t actually care about your feelings and if they know something hurts you they will do it again and again.

Can a narcissist ever change and do they even know what they are?

Yes, they absolutely can change their behaviour, but only when for as long as it serves them. Is this fundamental change? Absolutely not. 

A narcissist can pull it out of the bag for a while but they DO NOT CHANGE. Even if they are showing their ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ behaviour they do not change. Being a narcissist feels to them like a super power. They can understand and charm and manipulate people.

How do you move forward with co-parenting when your ex is a narcissist?

I’ll start by saying that you will never truly co-parent with a narcissist. Yes, they are the other parent in one sense, but they don’t parent. Narcissists will use their children to get your attention, to exercise power and control over you, and their children will really be more of a public prop. In public they will appear to be the perfect parent, but they will never properly parent. You have to let go of the belief that they will do their part effectively.

This brings you onto the next questions – how do I manage damage limitation with my children, and how I do manage my own feelings about the narcissist?

You may hate them and still be struggling with the feelings of gross injustice. You may also feel intimidated by them. In both cases you have to work on your own healing and rebuilding your sense of self, which you have lost, and stop reading the narcissist’s subtext. Shut down all communication with them that you don’t need to have, aside from the essential communication about your child.

A narcissist will use every opportunity that they can to manipulate you. Keep communication to text or email if you can rather than phone calls or face to face. Do not engage with them and give them the opportunity to make you feel bad. Focus on the fact that they are out of your life and you can start to heal.

Understand that they will play you every way they can. This might involve them seeming almost reasonable for a time, but it’s never going to be lasting. It’s part of setting you up and knocking you down again. The more you limit your communication and the less attached you can be, the better it will be for you. Keep communications factual and don’t show emotions – simply grey rock them.

What is grey rocking?

Grey rocking is a technique that’s really useful when you’re getting over a narcissist, where you give them as little emotional feedback as you can. Narcissists feed on your emotions, particularly stress, so keep essential communications as unemotional as possible.

An almost idiotic seeming response is effective. Completely shut them down and give them nothing that they can engage with. The art is to bore them so much that they don’t even bother to engage with you! Change the subject, let things bounce off you, refuse to acknowledge any feeling.

Once you get into the knack of grey rocking it can even be quite amusing for you! Understand that you have complete freedom – you don’t have to engage, you have the power over how you choose to react. 

Narcissists feed on your emotions, particularly stress, so keep essential communications as unemotional as possible.

How do you emotionally deal with everything when even after leaving them they appear to have control over your life?

Firstly, consider – is this actually true or is it the narrative you are telling yourself? You may still feel that they are in control of your life and that you feel in their power but if you are separated, it’s unlikely that they actually have control over your life, it just feels that way. The work that you have to do therefore is how you challenge that belief in yourself and how you take back that power.

Of course they WANT to be controlling, but you have to make a space in your mind where they can’t do that. Redefine them – they are actually pathetic, spiteful, emotional toddlers. They are cunning in that they can use adult intellectual resources to get at you but they are still nasty little toddlers.

Here’s a technique to help you with this.

Close your eyes and visualse yourself with your narcissist. You’re behind a glass screen so you feel safe but you can see them and feel how intimidating they are. Keep your eyes closed and visualise shrinking them to about the size of a small dog. Realise that you can tower over them now. Now dress them in a different way – visualise them wearing something quite inappropriate, like an animal costume, underwear – something silly that will make them indignant. Then you visualise putting them on a shelf and changing their voice. Make them squeaky and high-pitched. Look at them ranting on the shelf and think ‘look at how pathetic you really are.’ See them for what they are – ranting, small and ridiculous.

And then let it go. They can’t harm you anymore.

My ex is favouring one child over another – how do I manage that?

Your narcissist will use your children against you because they know they are leverage. Grey rock initially to keep communication to a minimum and understand that they are not parenting. Your children will normally have to spend a certain amount of time with the other parent, which is difficult for you, but you have to do your best to manage that situation in whatever way you can.

Establish ground rules with your own children so that they don’t bring home to you the annoying aspects of your ex. You need to know they’ve been safe but you don’t need to hear anything they have talked about or things that have been said about you.

REMEMBER: You have to work on the basis that your narcissist is not parenting. You are the only competent parent. You have to trust that you are a good enough parent and that you can provide the safety and stability in your child’s life. That’s the best you can do. It may not be perfect, but children have grown up well without even one good parent. You can’t offer them two good parents but you can offer them one loving, supportive parent and that has to be enough.

You have to work on the basis that your narcissist is not parenting. You are the only competent parent.

If your child is old enough to articulate that the other parent is difficult, sometimes rejecting and problematic, you can’t deny it, because then you’re gaslighting your own child. Instead acknowledge that that is just how they are, and that you know it may not be what the child needs. You have to acknowledge the child’s truth but in a useful and compassionate way. If they have you rock solid behind them, they will come through this.

Are there any specific techniques to help with bringing down the walls, to learn to trust and love again?

The truth is that you can’t just go out and date again if you are still getting over a narcissist. If you start dating too soon, all the narcissists from miles around will smell blood and start circling like sharks. 

You have to get yourself relationship ready. That doesn’t mean a makeover, losing weight, or going to the gym. It means finding out what you really want from a partner. This doesn’t just mean the baseline ‘washes every day and dresses nicely’, it means what do you want to feel when you are with this person? What values are important to you? How do you want to be treated?

In order to do this you need to rebuild your self worth. 

When it comes to trust, don’t confuse building trust with needing to be more open and more vulnerable. You have been incredibly vulnerable already. Your first duty is to keep yourself safe. A partner has to earn your trust and they have to earn it incrementally. This time around you want to get it right, so rather than diving head first into falling in love, move forward slowly and make sure they are worthy of getting closer to you. Check that their actions match their words and take things slowly. Narcissist love speed – they love to fall in love quickly, knock you off kilter and commit you to a relationship before you know what’s going on.

A nice person is prepared to take the relationship at a pace to suit you if they think you’re someone special. You need to get into the headspace where you know you’re a special person.

REMEMBER: You have been completely programmed by a narcissist into thinking bad things about yourself and your value, so it takes time to unpick those toxic beliefs. 

A nice person is prepared to take the relationship at a pace to suit you.

You are incredibly resourceful, otherwise you wouldn’t have got out of the relationship. You are incredibly strong, otherwise you wouldn’t still be standing. You’re a valuable, loveable person with a lot ot give. You have to do the emotional work to believe that for yourself before you can go out dating.

How can I avoid being a victim of another narcissist?

First, spot the signs. A narcissist will likely come on too strong, too fast and push you that bit further than you want to be pushed. You feel just a little bit smothered by them, they don’t quite add up. They have collections of ‘crazy’ ex partners and few long term friends. 

You want someone who is gentle, sweet natured and generous hearted.

You also need to know about yourself. You need to trust yourself to abort the relationship at the very first red flag. So many of us see red flags and we choose to ignore them. Red flags do not come singly. When there is one red flag it is an outlier for hundreds of other red flags.

You also need to be able to trust that you will be able to pick yourself up again should you mess up. 

Annie Kaszina PhD is an Abuse Recovery Coach. Find out more about her here.

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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.”

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