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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Talking to kids about sex and relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are there any books you recommend?

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for answering our questions Manolee!

You can follow Manolee on Instagram: @the_sex_talking_mama

You can read more Frolo Q+As here

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

The Frolo Reading List

Book recommendations – whether they’re empowering reads for newly single parents or beautiful picture books that help explain separation to kids – are constantly being swapped on the Frolo app, so we thought we’d gather them all together in one handy list.

Books for adults

Books written by frolos

Frolos are a pretty accomplished bunch – some of them have even written books about their experiences as single parents. Moving, relatable, and insightful – every one of these is well worth a read:

Self-help books

Even if, previously, self-help books weren’t your cup of tea, they can provide real solace and motivations when you’re adjusting to life as a single parent. Here are some frolo favourites:

Books about separation and divorce

Separation and divorce can be a confusing, as well as emotionally difficult, process. If you’re not familiar with the legal terminology and the different stages involved it can seem pretty overwhelming. Frolo recommend these books to guide you through the process emotionally and practically:

You can read our detailed and informative Family Law Q+A with Laura Naser here.

Books about dating and relationships

If you’re thinking about dipping a toe into the waters of dating as a single parent – or you’ve been dating with limited success – consider reading up on the topic:

For advice from an expert, check out our Q+A with dating coach Lydia Davis, where she answers questions from frolos about dating as a single parent.

Parenting books

Transitioning to parenting on your own – while potentially navigating some big feelings and tricky behaviour from your kids – can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Check out one of these books recommended by fellow frolos for sound advice:

We gave frolos the chance to sit down with a child psychologist and get her expert insights on a range of questions – read the full blog post here.

Books for kids

Books about separation and divorce for kids

Books can be a really helpful tool when your family is transitioning to a new normal. These are the books that frolos recommend for helping children understand separation and divorce:

Books for older kids

Books for younger kids

Books about race, racism, and diversity for kids

If you’d like to introduce more diversity into your child’s bookshelf, these books which celebrate diverse families and educate kids on the history of racism are a great place to start:

For more book recommendations and advice on talking to your children about race – check out our Q+A with Uju Asika and Orla McKeating.

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

Family law advice

Award-winning family lawyer Laura Naser joined us to share some family law advice and answer some frequently asked questions from the Frolo community. Here’s what we learned…

Award-winning family law solicitor Laura Naser

Laura’s area of expertise is family law in England and Wales. Lots of family law is based on common sense decisions about what is best for children, so much of Laura’s advice is still relevant to frolos living in Ireland and Scotland, but it’s definitely advisable to seek local family law advice if you don’t live in England or Wales.

Here are the questions we discussed:

How to change a child’s surname

I kept my maiden name when I married, but now that I’m divorced I’d like my children to have my surname too. How can I amend their surname without permission from my ex? He flatly refuses as we aren’t on amicable terms. I have no money for legal fees.

Changing a child’s first name or surname is what is called a “parental responsibility decision”. You should assume and act as though parental responsibility is shared as a default position, unless you know otherwise. Assuming that this is the case for you and your ex – a father acquires parental responsibility for a child if he’s married to the mother at the time of the birth – this is a decision you have to consult with one another and agree on.

You say that he won’t agree, in which case you will have to explain that to the court. You can make an application to court for this specific matter. Hyphenating a child’s name post-separation is a very common request and is something that the courts are likely to agree to. But they will have to consider the change on a welfare basis – this means asking what is in your child’s best interest. Hyphenating a surname is straightforward and probably wouldn’t raise any welfare concerns.

Not having the money to pay for legal fees isn’t a barrier to making an application to court, you can do it as a litigant in person without needing legal representation. You just need to go to the government website, you can get the forms you need to change a child’s surname from there.

Can I stop my ex from taking our child on holiday?

Do I have any legal right to stop my ex taking our child on holiday abroad in the midst of the pandemic? The holiday is to Spain from the UK. It is difficult to tell him ‘no’ when public health guidelines say the trip is ok. He has their passports. 

This is a question that’s coming up a lot at the moment. Just because the government guidelines on Covid-19 say that you’re allowed to travel now, there’s a difference between what’s allowed and what a parent considers safe. No two families are the same and no two children are the same. It might be that in this specific case there’s a reason why you wouldn’t want your child to travel, even though the Foreign Office is technically allowing travel to that country.

It’s really difficult when parents don’t agree on these issues and it’s going to come down to communication. Explain to your co-parent why you don’t feel comfortable with the trip and why you think it’s not in the child’s best interest. However, no matter how well you can communicate, if it’s falling on deaf ears then there is only so much you can do.

The alternative option would be to make an application to court for what is called a Prohibited Steps Order, to prohibit that action being taken. This can be quite expensive if you do it with legal advice and it’s not a quick process – you would probably need to submit this as an urgent application if it’s a holiday taking place this summer.

There are other routes available: you can invite your ex to mediation with you, but that’s not compulsory, so if they refuse you are only left with the option of making an application to court. You’ll then have to explain to the judge why you think it’s not in the best interests of your child to make this trip, and the other parent would have to present their reasoning for wanting to take the trip and why it’s in the child’s best interest to go.

Child maintenance arrangements

My ex lives abroad and currently pays no maintenance. We had a verbal agreement but it went out of the window after one month (it’s now been 15 months). If I go to court now for maintenance payments going forward, will I be able to get a costs order against him? I feel like I have no options left regarding the Child Maintenance Service and mediation. He is on a six-figure salary.

I encounter this situation quite a lot. If the non-resident parent and, in the view of the Child Maintenance Service, the paying parent, lives in a foreign country then the route you can take depends on the circumstances.

If they work for a British company and are in employed through England even though they work, for example, in Dubai, then you might still be able to pursue maintenance through the CMS. The same would apply if they were a member of the armed forces and stationed abroad. If you’ve got a child maintenance award here, go through the CMS and see if they can enforce it.

If the CMS say that the case is out of their domain, then you need to reach some sort of enforceable agreement with the other parent that you can then take to the other country’s courts. Or you can go through something called REMO. REMO is an agreement that the UK has with more than 100 other countries around the world and it is specifically designed to allow the UK to enforce maintenance orders abroad. If your ex lives in a REMO country then, as long as you have an order or binding agreement for maintenance in place, you can go through REMO to enforce it. If REMO doesn’t apply, then you’ll have to go through that country’s local courts and hope that they enforce it, but that can be very difficult.

As your ex is on a six-figure salary, they could take specific legal advice to see what agreement can be reached and try to get a binding agreement in place for maintenance to be paid. If they still won’t pay it, then you can look at how to enforce it in that foreign country. It can be difficult, but that shouldn’t mean there’s no responsibility. It just means that, unfortunately, the onus is on you as the awaiting recipient parent to pursue payment.

If your ex is being unreasonable and forcing you to pursue maintenance through the courts, you can apply for costs. It is a risk because it’s not automatically awarded. If your ex is particularly wealthy, you can also make a claim under Schedule One of the Children Act, so you might be able to apply for some money under that to fund your legal fees. It’s very much determined on a case-by-case basis though.

I am divorced and have a court order which awards maintenance on a sliding scale, with the amount decreasing every year. However, Coronavirus has really affected me financially and I was wondering whether it was worth making an application to court as I am in financial distress? My ex is due to have a baby soon with his new wife, would that affect my application?

Coronavirus is a really common people for people to vary maintenance at the moment – both up and down. Maintenance orders are always variable, particularly if it’s part of a financial order following a divorce. The CMS will only adjust maintenance if there’s been an adjustment of 25% or more in the payer’s income. As your maintenance is determined by a financial order obtained in a divorce you can apply to court and ask them to vary it based on your needs. Coronavirus is an accepted impact on your finances. I would advise you to try and reach an agreement with your ex directly first. If he won’t discuss it with you, invite him to mediation and, if he refuses mediation, you can then consider making an application to court.

The fact that he is having another baby would be taken into account as it will impact his affordability, but it doesn’t automatically mean that he won’t have to pay you anymore if you need it and he can afford it.

Can my ex move house without my permission?

Before we split, my ex and I had made plans to move 120 miles away to be closer to her family. After the split, I was still willing to move to be near my kids, but my ex decided she’d like to stay where we are to be with her new boyfriend. I’m now worried about buying a house of my own and putting down roots in this area in case the original move goes ahead – I’m scared I’ll have to drop everything and move 120 miles away at the drop of a hat. We co-parent 50:50 – what are my options if she decides to move as I don’t feel like I’ll get any say in the matter?

This comes back to parental responsibility – you are equal parents. In this case, you are precisely equal parents as you share care 50:50 but, regardless of whether your coparenting situation is exactly 50:50, you have equal status as parents. One parent cannot just decide to move the children to a new location without consultation – particularly if that means the children will have to change school, doctor etc. This is a very significant move and is a parental responsibility decision, which parents must consult with each other over.

If there is a dispute, you could make an application to court – it’s called a Prohibited Steps Order – and you would tell the court that you don’t give permission for the move and the reasons why you object. The other parent would have to apply for a Specific Issue Order which says that, in the absence of the other parent’s agreement, they seek the court’s consent to allow them to move. You could try mediation, you could try solicitor’s correspondence, you could even try arbitration now. But, fundamentally, if there’s no agreement, you’d be asking a judge to decide on this issue.

What happens to the family home after divorce?

My lawyer said that I could stay in the house after my divorce and my ex would still have to pay his half of the mortgage. Does that mean he is still allowed to live in the house? Is there a way to make him move out? I would struggle to offer the same lifestyle for my child if I had to rent, as I went part-time to look after our child and have poor mental health. I don’t want to continue to live with my ex.

If, as a consequence of your financial separation on divorce, it is agreed that one parent would stay in the family home with the children until a set date in the future (for example, until the youngest child finishes secondary education) and that the other parent must pay an element of maintenance – in this case half of the mortgage paid every month – that would all be put into a court order.

It would not mean that the paying spouse gets to stay in the house as well. The agreement would be that she gets to stay in the house until a set date and he has to pay maintenance at a set rate (half the mortgage). The court order would also make it clear that you have sole rights of occupation.

Can my ex make me give him equity from the home and/or sell the house, when that would mean I wouldn’t be able to afford the higher mortgage and I also don’t earn enough for a mortgage on my own.

This depends whether you’re married or unmarried. If your married, you have claims against each other as well as ensuring that the children’s needs are met. If you’re unmarried, you don’t have any claims against each other based on your relationship, so it comes down to property law or any financial claims you can make on behalf of your child under Schedule One of the Children Act.

In this case, it would depend who owns the house. If you were married, it doesn’t matter. If you’re unmarried, it comes down to property law – who owns the house, whether the other party put any money in and can show that they have a financial interest in the house, or whether they have a potential claim under Schedule One of the Children Act for housing to be provided for the benefit of the child. The house would not be transferred outright, nor would it be available to you indefinitely, it would always be on a temporary basis, like a loan of a property. When the child reaches majority, or the agreed upon date, the house then reverts back to the actual owner. So there’s a real difference in those situations if you’re unmarried.

Making a will as a solo parent

I’m a single mum-to-be (I used donor sperm) and I would like to make my sister who lives in Brazil the legal guardian of my son in case anything happens to me. Can a solicitor draw up a document stating this? I live in Ireland.

This is usually something you would put in a will. Although it wouldn’t be automatically binding, as she specifies that she conceived via a donor and there isn’t another parent involved on a day-to-day basis, it’s likely that this would be upheld without any contention.

In cases with separated parents who have opposing views on who should be the guardian of the child, again, you should put your indication in your will – what you would like to happen – but it’s not binding. If there was a dispute after your death it would be up to the court’s to decide what would be in the best interest of your child.

Due to domestic violence, my child only has supervised access with her father. All my family and her godmother live abroad. If I choose her godmother as her caregiver in my will, what would happen to my child if I died? Would she be able to go and live with her godmother abroad or would she stay with foster families in the UK?

That’s a really difficult one to predict. It would come down to what is determined to be in the child’s best interests at the time of your death. Nominating someone as a legal guardian is not automatically legally binding, although it is a good indication of what you view to be in the child’s best interest. It could be that you need to embellish that with a letter attached to your will, explaining what your view is, so you know that your voice is still going to be heard.

Also, make sure that your child has a strong relationship with the person that you want to nominate, because if you were to nominate them and then drift apart they may no longer be viewed as a good candidate.

Financial separation

What are the implications on finances after a decree absolute (end of marriage) if financial proceedings have not been conducted and remain outstanding? How are they different from when you fulfil them between Nisi and Absolute, which is what is usually recommended? 

We usually advise that you look at your financial separation when you’re going through a divorce and, when you’ve reached agreement on your financial separation, you should have those terms reflected in a court order. A court order makes that agreement legally binding and enforceable if one of you tries to renege on the terms.

Usually you do all of this at the same time because it makes sense practically. You can do it between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute. Nisi is the middle stage of the divorce and the earliest stage at which you can submit a court order to the court showing what you’ve agreed. If you can’t agree, you have to make a court application for the finances as well as the divorce proceedings. Decree Nisi is the earliest point a final court order can be made about your finances.

If you wait until after Decree Absolute there is a very minor difference. We normally advise clients not to finalise their financial court order until after they’ve got their Decree Absolute as, if you have pensions and life insurance policies and one of you dies before you reach agreement on your finances, you’re likely to do better financially as a widow than as a divorcee. So, while you’re still trying to agree your financial situation, it’s better to hold off finalising your divorce so that, should anything happen to one of you, you’re in a better position financially. If you’ve reached financial separation or you don’t have life insurance policies or pensions that would provide you with a benefit then it doesn’t really matter – you can reach agreement on your finances before or after Decreee Absolute.

Changing contact arrangements

My children are six and four and have never lived with their dad. I’ve been their main carer since they were born and he currently has them four nights per month (we tried more and they were very unsettled). I’ve received a solicitor’s letter saying he will take me to court if I don’t give him 50:50 custody. I have offered alternate weekends, one night per week for tea and two weeks of holiday. Am I being reasonable?

This is a difficult one to answer without knowing more about the family and children involved. Why is it the children are unsettled? What could we do to help this? There’s no general rule that can be applied here and I’d have to know a bit more about your circumstances before I could decide if you were being reasonable or not.

In situations where children haven’t had much contact with one parent and they’d like to increase the time they spend together, my general advice is to take it slowly, build it up and gradually embed it into the children’s routine. This also gives you the chance to prove that you’re reliable and trustworthy to the primary caregiver. If one parent has had very little contact and suddenly asks for 50:50, that’s rushed and doesn’t feel child-focussed. That’s the best advice I can give without knowing more about the specific case!

One of the great things about Frolo is that you have access to such a spread of opinions, from frolos from all walks of life, within the community. In situations like this, your family and best friends are likely to just agree with you and think that you’re right, so having access to a group of single parents who can give you a more impartial assessment of whether you’re being reasonable is so valuable.

My ex-husband refuses to admit that there are any safeguarding issues with a member of his family. Does the family court recognise gaslighting in these kind of situations, and how does the family court advise mothers who don’t have financial security vs unreasonable characters who have access to funds?

Yes, gaslighting and all allegations of abuse are taken seriously by the court in these situations. However, it is up to the individual making these allegations to a) raise them and b) prove them. Proving it can be difficult, but it is up to you to communicate your situation to the court and give examples. Usually in children’s proceedings where there’s contested court hearings, you’re give the chance to give statements and that’s your chance to record everything you have experienced and anything you have concerns about.

Where there’s a disparity in access to legal advice, again, you can look at making an application for a Legal Services Order where, if one parent is significantly wealthier than the other and can afford top lawyers, and the other has far fewer resources at their disposal, they can apply for the other parent to give them money to access legal advice. Legal aid is also available in some circumstances, particularly where domestic violence is alleged.

Thank you so much for answering our questions, Laura!

About Laura

Laura Naser is an award-winning family lawyer and author of The Family Lawyer’s Guide to Separation and Divorce. Laura has been a champion of the Frolo community from the start and she regularly shares invaluable snippets of family law advice on her Instagram page @thefamilylawyer.

You can read more Frolo Q+As here

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

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

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

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

Furlough

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

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

Why did they pick me for redundancy?

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

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

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

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

Redundancy Rehab

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

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

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

Dating as a single parent

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

Single parents dating

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

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

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

Are there any dating apps single parents should avoid?

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

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

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

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

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

Any advice on boosting confidence before a date?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can I meet someone if I have limited childcare?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books about dating

Thanks for answering our questions Lydia!

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

You can read more Frolo Q+As here

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

Talking to your children about race

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

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

Here are the questions we discussed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking about race with children with learning disabilities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Uju and Orla!

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

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

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

How to get the most out of Frolo

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

There are four main sections to the Frolo app:

Feed

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

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

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

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

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

Meetups

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

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

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

Connections

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

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

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

Discovery

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

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

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

Key features

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

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

Personal finance Q+A

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

Clare’s personal finance journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A budget is not a diet

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

Create a digital toolkit

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

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

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

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

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

Stop saying “I’m in debt.”

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

Create a realistic meal plan

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

Q+A

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

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

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

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

How can I reduce credit card debt more quickly?

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

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

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

Are there any especially sympathetic banks you’d recommend?

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

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

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

How do I stop emotional spending?

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

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

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

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

Recommended resources

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

Thanks for answering our questions Clare!

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

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

Self-care for single parents

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

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

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

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

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

30-Second Check In

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

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

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

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

Boundaries

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

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

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

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

Overwhelm

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

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

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

Essential listening for single parents

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

Thanks for chatting to us Zoe!

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

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

@motherkind_zoe

https://www.motherkind.co