Mothers’ Day as a single parent can be tough without that second adult to take charge and make a fuss of you, but here’s why you can and should make a fuss of yourself on Mothers’ Day.
We’ve all seen the TV ads, the magazine features and the Instagram posts about what Mothers’ Day is ‘meant’ to look like – the thoughtful dads organising the kids into making homemade cards, breakfast in bed, an extended lie in – that’s Mothers’ Day right?
For some mothers maybe, but definitely not for all.
Being a single parent on Mothers’ Day doesn’t have to mean missing out though. Here at Frolo we’ve come up with six ideas for nice things to do for yourself this Mothers’ Day.
Send yourself a Mothers’ Day card
Choose a card with an uplifting message or a beautiful picture that you know you’d want to keep, write yourself a little ‘well done’ message and pop it in the post! For just the price of a stamp you get that warm, excited feeling of post that isn’t a bill or a smear test reminder. We love the cards at Ohh Deer.
Plan a romantic evening in
Who are you romancing? Yourself! You are totally worthy of love, especially when that love comes from you. Take some proper time to think about the evening, just as you would for a partner or child on a special occasion – what would you most like to do? What food and drink would you most enjoy? Treat yourself exactly as you would want other people to treat you.
Buy yourself Mothers’ Day flowers
You could just go to the supermarket and pick yourself up a bunch of tulips with the food shop, but wouldn’t it be so much more special to order yourself a bouquet for delivery? Pre-order it in advance to arrive on Mothers’ Day weekend and you might even forget you’ve done it, making it a lovely surprise! If you prefer something longer lasting, we love the letterbox friendly dried flower arrangements from BloomPost – get 10% off with the code FROLO10.*
Take some time to reflect
Being a single parent is such a hectic juggling act, especially in the last year when a lot of us have had homeschooling thrown into the mix. Often we forget to stop and appreciate just what an amazing job we do. On Mothers’ Day this year why not take some time out to think about how far you’ve come? Get the baby photos out and think back over your time as a parent, all the storms you’ve weathered and the good times you’ve enjoyed. You’ve done a pretty good job haven’t you?
Write a letter to your future self
You’ve looked back, so now it’s time to look forward. Writing a letter to your future self is a brilliant way to think about your hopes and dreams for the future, and can be a very effective tool for creating a vision for your life. You could try for example writing to yourself five years in the future and telling yourself about all the wonderful things that have happened to you in those five years. Or maybe you want to write something that you can open on Mothers’ Day next year and make it an ongoing tradition.
Give yourself something to look forward to
One of the hardest things about the last 12 months has been the empty diaries, the not knowing when life might be different, when we can make plans. With the way out beginning now to look clearer, Mothers’ Day is a good opportunity to start planning a trip, whether that’s a family holiday, a weekend away with friends or some time away alone. Having something to look forward to is such a morale boost and there’s even research that suggests that the process of planning a holiday is almost as much fun as going on it! (Which we think is probably even more true when you’re a single parent!)
We hope we’ve given you a few ideas to help you make Mothers’ Day special for yourself this year. We hope you have a wonderful day.
*10% off at BloomPost is valid until March 15th 2021.
Fancy winning your next food shop? We’ve teamed up with Competition Finder to help you save money on food shopping, plus give you the chance to win £100 of supermarket vouchers.
Here are Frolo we know how tough the last 12 months have been for single parents, so we wanted to do a little something to help you save money on food shopping. As browsing the supermarket aisles is one of the only pleasures open to us at the moment, alongside the obligatory walk around the local park of course, we thought we’d share some money saving tips plus give you the chance to win your weekly shop.
That’s right! We’ve teamed up with Competition Finder to offer one of you the chance to win £100 to spend at the supermarket of your choice on whatever you fancy – blow the whole lot on wine and giant Wotsits if you like, we won’t judge.
For those of you who’ve not come across Competition Finder before, it’s a competition site dedicated to bringing you a round up of all the latest giveaways, so you don’t have to trawl the internet looking for them. If you’re reading this post because you like competitions, then do go and check out Competition Finder.
First up though, we got five ways to save money at the supermarket.
Switch to frozen
While frozen food may have had a bit of a bad reputation in the past, there are actually loads of benefits to switching to frozen, not least that it’s often cheaper.
Fish and vegetables are fantastic, because they’re often frozen within hours of picking or catching, so can actually be a lot fresher than fresh! When you switch to things like frozen berries, you save an awful lot of waste and money as a single parent, because you can just use small quantities at a time and not have to throw anything away.
Get yourself a shopping buddy
At the moment we can’t actually go shopping together, but do you have a friend or family member locally who you could team up with for an online shop? When you shop with a friend you can take advantage of buy one get one free offers without having to buy more of something than you need, effectively meaning you both get things for half price.
Sign up for supermarket loyalty schemes
Joining things like the Sainsbury’s Nectar card and Tesco Clubcard allows you to earn points back on your shopping, which can be redeemed for some really good offers.
Tesco Clubcard holders currently also get special prices on a lot of products, and the Tesco Clubcard Plus scheme might be worth joining if you tend to do big shops in store – for £7.99 a month you save 10% off two big shops every month, meaning you only have to spend over £80 altogether to make it worthwhile.
We know, you’ve heard this one before, but seriously, it’s one of the best ways to save waste and therefore save money on food shopping. If you’re not sure where to start, get yourself one of these free printable meal planner templates and check out the supermarket websites or the BBC Good Food cheap family meals section for inspiration.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Research from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management shows that hunger can have a massive impact on our propensity to spend, even on non-food items! In one study they compared receipts from shoppers in a department store and asked shoppers questions about how hungry they were. The hungrier shoppers spent on average 64% more than those who weren’t hungry.
Just imagine how this translates in Asda when you get to the crisps aisle.
Win £100 of supermarket vouchers
The ultimate way to save money on your food shopping of course would be to enter our competition and win! We’ve got lots of different ways to enter via the widget below and the more you do, the higher your chances of bagging the prize.
The competition will close at 11.59pm on March 2nd 2021 and is open to UK residents only. Full T&Cs apply.
Getting kids out of the house can be tough, but as a single parent it can be a sanity preserver. Here are some ideas to make a walk with kids more fun.
Getting your children out of the house, especially older kids, can sometimes feel like more trouble than it’s worth and keeping them interested rather than just tolerating the cries of ‘this is boooorrrring!’ can be tough, whatever their age. The benefits of fresh air and exercise though are multiple, especially at the moment – that time outside is important for your own mental health and your children’s.
So how do you keep kids entertained when you’re out and about? How do you make a walk with kids feel like an adventure and not a chore?
We’ve put together eight ideas for things to do on a walk with kids that hopefully will be just as fun for you.
A scavenger hunt
Mindfulness is all about looking for the small things, being aware of our surroundings, and a scavenger hunt is just this. We love this post from Coffee and Carpools – nine different free, printable scavenger hunts on different themes and for kids of different ages, including looking for particular colours, numbers and shapes. There’s also a template to create your own, which is another thing to keep little ones busy!
For a twist on the scavenger hunt, try a sound hunt for pre-school children.
Go in fancy dress
Because who doesn’t love dressing up? Pick a theme for your walk – the circus maybe, or a particular colour – and create costumes for yourself based on the theme. You could even come up with characters for yourself and try to act as your character for the whole walk. Feeling a bit silly is part of the fun!
Have a go at geocaching
Geocaching might seem a little bit daunting, but thanks to our super smart phones you don’t need any fancy GPS equipment any more, just the geocaching app. It will tell you where to find your nearest geocache and then it’s simply a case of following the map to find the hidden treasure. Take a little stash of small toys or trinkets with you to leave behind.
Make a flower crown
Although winter can feel a little bleak when it comes to flowers, you’ll be amazed at what there is to discover once you start looking. To make your own crown you’ll need to find some bendy twigs to make into a crown shape, and then just weave in pretty leaves and plants as you walk. Here’s a fun example.
Set yourself distance goals
While simply counting steps might seem a little tedious, it can actually be really motivational to watch the distance tick by. Even more motivational, especially for children who like a bit of healthy competition, might be to sign up to a monthly walking challenge, with the promise of an actual medal when you hit your goal! With Race at your Pace you can set yourself targets based on steps or distance or The Conqueror challenges are virtual treks of famous places, like Mount Fuji or the Inca Trail. With these you get to learn about the place as you go and the medals are fab!
Tell a story walk or poem
As you walk, take it in turns to make up the next line in a story or poem, based on things you can see around you. For example, one person might start with ‘Once upon a time there was a fluffy cat sat on a fence…’ and another might continue with ‘…who fell splat into a muddy puddle.’ Make it as silly or as serious as you like.
Create a nature photo collage
Let your kids be in charge of the phone or camera and take pictures of interesting things they spot. Encourage them to think a little differently and explore different angles and close up shots to make things look weird and wonderful. When you get home, choose your favourite pictures and print them out. Use your photos, (they can be printed on regular paper), to create a nature collage, cutting out interesting shapes and patterns.
Try to map your walk
Ideal for slightly older children, trying to create a map of your walk as you go can be a fun challenge. You’ll need paper and pens and possible sellotape to add sheets of paper together if your route goes in an unexpected direction! Include fun drawings of interesting things along your route, like a twisted signpost or a cute dog you see. When you get home you could use your sketch map as the basis for creating a treasure map or writing a story.
We hope these ideas will bring a bit of adventure to your walks with kids. If you needsome ideas for when you’re at home, we’ve got a great round up of home learning resources too.
Christmas can be tough for single parents. There’s so much to do and so much pent up excitement to deal with as the big day draws closer and the kids get more and more frantic. Here at Frolo we thought it was about time the grown ups got to have some of the fun, so we’ve put together five Christmas self-care ideas to help you enjoy Christmas as a single parent.
Treat yourself to new pyjamas
Is there anything nicer than that moment at the end, (or perhaps the middle), of the day when you know you don’t have to leave the house again and can change into your pyjamas and get cosy?
Because let’s face it, Father Christmas is unlikely to do it for you. How lovely would it be though to wake up on Christmas morning to a little stocking full of treats just for you? They don’t need to be big things – new underwear maybe, a book you’re had your eye on for ages, or your favourite chocolate – whatever takes your fancy.
To add to the realism, we suggest buying your gifts as early in the year as you can and then wrapping them up straightaway so that by the time Christmas comes around you’ve forgotten what they are.
Meet up with friends
If you’re feeling a bit low then it can be hard to push yourself to socialise but trust us, sometimes it’s exactly what you need, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Just an hour going for a walk with a friend and a thermos can do wonders to lift your day.
You can find single parents near you of course in the Frolo app, or if you can’t face the cold or find it difficult to get out and about, why not join one of our Virtual Meetups? They’ve been massively popular this year, especially our Friday night drinks, and the best bit is that you get to wear your new pyjamas!
Kick back with a puzzle
Is it just us or do jigsaw puzzles seem to be making a comeback this year? Our Instagram feed has been full of them and honestly, we’re not mad about it. There are so many gorgeous designs out there, we’re feeling inspired to clear off the dining table, stick on a Christmas playlist and get stuck in.
Jigsaw puzzles are incredibly relaxing, the ultimate in mindfulness, so perfect for unwinding at the end of a long day. We have a huge jigsaw crush on this beautiful 1,000 piece Herbarium and on this puzzle where all of the pieces are in the shape of cats. And of course the best bit about doing a jigsaw as a single parent is no one to bicker with over where the pieces go.
Mix yourself a Christmas cocktail
Christmas doesn’t have to be just about Baileys after all. There’s actually something really lovely about taking the time to prepare and mix yourself a drink – it shows you value yourself enough to take the time and care to make yourself something special.
We love the sound of mulled gin, made with spiced apple juice, as an alternative to the classic mulled wine or if you like your cocktails to be more of a dessert then you’re going to love the Christmas godfather. Perfect for Friday night drinks online.
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.
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?
Knights Of are a publisher who publish diverse books
Lee and Low are American but should be able to give you lots of ideas
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.
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.
Jo Middleton, also known as Slummy Single Mummy after her brilliantly honest and funny blog, shares her reflections on the way single parenting changes as your kids get older.
I’ve been a single parent on and off for nearly 25 years now, which seems like a crazy thing to say as I’m sure I’m only about 28 myself, but there you go.
I first became a single parent aged 19, when my eldest daughter Bee was two years old. It was tricky, especially financially, but I had a wonderfully supportive family who took care of Bee while I drove up and back to university, and we lived a simple but quite happy life, despite lacking some of the basics. (We only went without a fridge during the winter, which just meant leaving the milk outside on the back step.) I do remember it being tough, but I also remember a strong sense of freedom and autonomy, of being in charge of my own life.
My second daughter, Belle, was born five years later, when I was 24. I was in a relationship with her dad for nine years, but part of me wonders how much I really let the single parent mentality leave me. How much of his apparent hopelessness was actually down to him, and how much was enabled by me, not wanting to relinquish control after having had to manage alone?
We separated over 12 years ago now and although I’ve had long term relationships in that time, I’ve never felt like I was able to share the role of parent, I have always been a single parent in my heart and practically too, even when I’ve lived with a partner. Perhaps I’ve always chosen badly (I absolutely have) but it’s always felt more like having an extra child to look after than an equal that I could depend on. I’ve always known that the buck stopped with me.
What I’ve found most interesting over the years as a single parent is how children present new and different challenges at every age. When my girls were little I was convinced, naively, that the older they got, the easier parenting would become. I counted down the weeks and months until they started school, ticked off milestones as they grew up, all the while waiting for that tipping point where the sense of responsibility started to fall away.
Spoiler alert: it still hasn’t.
They have ever-changing, complex emotional needs, needs that aren’t easily met any more by a firm hug and the offer of chocolate buttons.
Although the physical demands are different – (sleepless nights and early mornings are far less common, although not unheard of) – their emotional needs have grown. They don’t have tantrums in supermarkets any more, but they do have ever changing complex emotional needs, needs that aren’t easily met any more by a firm hug and the offer of chocolate buttons. Toddlers are intense for sure, but they are much more straightforward and although their tears are exhausting, there is a satisfaction in being able to easily put a smile back on their faces.
Parenting teenagers and young adults is a completely different ball game and one that I’ve found much harder to deal with as a single parent. I felt the lack of another adult much more strongly as they’ve grown up and the challenges they face have become more complicated.
More and more often I’ve found myself longing for another parent to share that responsibility with – someone to talk to, share ideas with, someone to reassure me that I’m doing the right thing and that everything is going to be okay.
Everything WILL be okay, I know that on one level, but sometimes it would be nice to hear someone say it.
About Jo Middleton
Jo lives in Somerset with her 18-year-old daughter Belle and her three cats.
She’s also written a novel – Playgroups & Prosecco – which you can check out here.
The process of separation and divorce is daunting, but it can be amicable. Perhaps the hardest part of it is embarking on the journey of co-parenting.
It’s not what you expected or hoped for, but you can make it work.
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.
This air travel analogy is particularly appropriate here. You can’t be effective in helping others – i.e. your children – unless you are in a place of security yourself. Make sure you have what you need. If this means therapy, get some professional support from a therapist who specialises in divorce.
2. Define the new co-parenting relationship
Your dealings with your partner have to transform from familiar and emotional to courteous, polite, calm and respectful. Make proposals not demands and start conversations positively by asking for your co-parent’s opinions.
3. Be flexible. Plan ahead. Be consistent
Total control is not an option. Your ex will do things differently to you. So, set aside some time to agree on some basic ‘house rules’ and shared hopes and visions, and find some consistency.
When you have agreed on a way forward, you’ll need to revisit arrangements every 6-12 months to make sure that your kids are getting the most out of them. It would also be useful to think about longer term plans too – how are things going to look in 10 or 20 years?
4. Technology is your friend
Anything minimising the possibility of miscommunication, and therefore conflict, should be embraced. Apps and communication tools, such as shared calendars, can be invaluable for time management: helping everyone to remember doctor’s appointments, piano lessons and so on.
5. Talk to your kids
Striking a balance in communicating with your children can seem challenging. If you keep things simple, age appropriate and avoid placing blame, you’re half-way there. Be truthful but not explicit (after all, your private life remains your private life) and, most importantly, listen. Giving your children your full attention while they express themselves is vital. They may not be making the final decisions, but they should know that they have been heard.
6. Have each others’ backs
Separated partners should always back each other up in front of their children, even when one of them might not understand the reason behind a decision their ex-partner has made. Children need and value consistency from both parents. Issues such as use of mobile phones, tablets and screen time generally are particularly challenging ones. Talk to each other to try and arrive at an approach that works.
7. Keep your children away from any conflict
Research shows that divorce is most damaging for children when they are caught up in conflict between their parents. If you do have disagreements or arguments, avoid discussing those with the children.
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.
Carmen Campbell, a coach and advocate in wellness for single parents, shares her thoughts on co-parenting during lockdown and managing your co-parenting relationship when everything around you is in flux.
Being a single parent during a pandemic is pretty challenging, right? You might be feeling anxious about the state of the world at the moment. Are you left spinning with scenarios of how to manage shared care?
Never in our lifetime have we co-parented through a pandemic.
Maybe you’re wondering who is going to take care of the kids if you get sick? Or how to protect your children from infection when they’re moving between two homes? Maybe, the thought of social isolation is scarier than anything?
All this heightened anxiety is the perfect foundation for conflict with your co-parent. Let’s look at a few ways to smooth the ride as we navigate these unprecedented times.
Embrace the fluidity of change
It can be helpful to think of your co-parenting relationship as an ever-evolving dynamic. Like any other relationship, it changes day by day. Sometimes we’re nice, sometimes we’re frustrated and we forget. But regardless, there is a space where our lives still meet in the middle – a space where we are parents. It’s in this space where the decisions are made together – from the mundane to the super sensitive. And in times like these, it’s even more important to align on that space and be flexible to making change.
Communication is vital
It’s not always easy, right?
But right now we need to move past this. It’s time to take the lead, be an adult and lead by example. Start the conversation you need to have. Voice your concerns. Think through what you need to talk about.
What values do you align on when it comes to social distancing? What are your views on pulling the kids out of school? What happens if you both lose your jobs? Having these conversations is not always easy but they are important. In starting the conversation you can start working towards the right solution.
Live the mantra: kindness first, boundaries always
It might sound dramatic, but life as we know it is over. All of us can expect change in the coming months – be it economic, psychological, physical or social change.
In short, we’re all holding a lot right now. And having empathy for yourself and your co-parent is the human thing to do. Check in on each other and offer to help out when you see they are in need. Choosing kindness doesn’t mean sacrificing your values or tolerating inappropriate behaviour. The end goal is not always to be friends – that’s not a possibility for some people – but it’s not unreasonable to aim for friendly.
Create new rituals to deepen the connection between your children and your co-parent
We all find it challenging right now. Who thought this could happen? But there is so much good coming from this time too, and deeper connections between people are one of the biggest benefits. Think about all the opportunities to deepen connections as a family unit. In my experience, my co-parent does virtual story time most nights – a comforting ritual that’s deepening my daughter’s relationship with her dad.
Know when you need a back-up plan
Even with the best intentions, there is no guarantee our co-parents hold the same values as we do. The truth is often they don’t. And in this case, if aligning on a plan is not going to happen, move on. Turn your attention to building a support team elsewhere.
What are your needs? And who can you lean on to get support? You might need to have a conversation with a friend, or think about how your wider community can support you.
To thrive in your co-parenting relationship takes a lot of energy. And, of course, investing that energy is the right thing to do for your children.
Yet, no relationship is more important than the relationship you have with yourself. Invest as much energy into this relationship as any other. Embrace your own personal development. I can’t stress this enough. Date yourself, nourish your soul and nurture your future.
And, as much as self care in the form of a bubble bath is lovely, I’d invite you to answer some deeper questions. Like, how are you speaking to yourself today? What are you doing to take care of the future you? Who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you eating well? Are you getting the rest that you need, and listening to what you need today and every day?
About Carmen Campbell
Prior to being a single parent herself, Carmen indulged in 40 minutes of meditation a day, yoga a few times a week and annual meditation retreats in Bali. And then she had a baby, followed closely by a relationship breakdown, and her life was turned well and truly upside down. She realised pretty quickly that wellness for a single parent was a lot more of a challenge than she anticipated.
Ever since, Carmen has been on a mission to find her own personal wellness again – and in the process is redefining wellness for single parents.
She coaches clients to regain their emotional freedom, find their financial flow and develop respectful co parenting relationships – however bad the situation might be.
Carmen has a BA in psychology and is a certified Conscious Uncoupling Coach. She finds great purpose in coaching her clients to feel calm, connected and empowered in the life that they create.