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One Family’s Christmas guide for one-parent families

Christmas can be a wonderful time. It can be a time when we come together to celebrate the passing of another year and to look forward to beginning a new year full of potential and possibility. It can be a time of re-connecting with our family and friends and remembering those who are no longer with us. Yet for all that, it can be a time of enormous stress and for some people tremendous loneliness. Images of happy faces and perfect families in media ads may not match the sadness and pain we may be feeling inside.

For some one-parent families, Christmas can be particularly difficult. It can be a time when painful feelings are magnified. Financial strain, complicated access arrangements, and spending lots of time with relatives can further add to feelings of anxiety and distress.

Becoming aware of and acknowledging the immense pressure you may be feeling during the run up to Christmas is an important step in managing. Planning ahead is critical. Above all, remembering your own values and remembering what’s most important to you and your family is probably the ultimate stress buster for the season.

Some general points to consider

  • Abandon perfectionism! There is no such thing as the perfect Christmas
  • Plan Christmas as early as possible. You may find yourself resisting this idea, however, planning early means you can foresee any potential problems, organise your finances more effectively and ultimately lessen the stress. It may also mean that you have more time to find enjoyment in the season itself when it finally does come
  • Keep things simple
  • Negotiate and finalise access arrangements as early as possible. This will help avoid last minute confusion, stress and fighting
  • Remember, Christmas is often not the time to challenge a person’s behaviour. Christmas is too emotionally charged. If a behaviour is tolerable and does not endanger another person’s wellbeing then it may be better to wait until the Christmas period is over
  • Parents should avoid competing with each other through giving expensive presents. Expensive presents are a poor substitute for telling your child you love them and spending time with them
  • Reassure your child that it is okay to talk about sad feelings at Christmas time. Acknowledging your own feelings without laying blame can be helpful to both your child and you. However, be careful not to use your child as a confidant or peer
  • Try to reach out to those you trust for support
  • If you’re finding it really tough try to find a little joy in each day and write it down in a journal or diary

Christmas Alone

For some members of one-parent families Christmas may be spent alone. Children may be spending their holidays with the other parent this year, or a parent may not have access to the children etc. For some people being on their own at Christmas is enjoyable and can be a time to do things that they wouldn’t normally get done. However for others, being alone at Christmas increases feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation.

If you know that you are spending Christmas alone and know that this will be difficult for you it is really important to devise a coping strategy as soon as possible. Don’t wait on the hope that someone will ask you over and don’t put off thinking about what you will do.

  • Try to encourage yourself to make contact early with distanced family or  friends and explore with them the possibility of sharing Christmas with them
  • If you know other people spending Christmas alone, think about inviting them over for Christmas. “Pot Luck” dinners, where everyone brings a dish, can be an interesting way to break from tradition
  • Tell yourself you are worth it and prepare a special meal for yourself
  • Plan each day well in advance – try to know exactly what you will be doing. A structure can be really helpful during the holidays when you have a lot of time alone
  • Some people find that volunteering or getting involved in local activities can help them re-connect with other people and put meaning back into the season
  • Attending a religious service or communal celebration might also help to give a sense of re-connection with others
  • Get out of the house and go for a walk. Many people go walking on Christmas day
  • Try to avoid things that make you feel worse such as alcohol, recreational drugs, over eating
  • Remind yourself that this is a difficult time and that it will pass
  • Try to plan one outdoor activity each day
  • Write down what you are feeling
  • If you are feeling really lonely, depressed and cannot find a way to reach out to others think about contacting the services below

Coping with sad or painful memories

Christmas is a time when we can become painfully aware of the losses in our lives, the people who have gone from us through bereavement, family separation, past traumas etc.  If you are trying to manage painful feelings at Christmas, here are some ideas that might help:

  • Try not to hide your feelings. Try to find someone you can talk to over the holidays
  • Reassure children and young people that it is okay to feel upset and encourage them to talk about how their feeling
  • Identify one friend that you trust and know you can call on to talk over the holiday. Ask them to be your “listening ear” over the holiday
  • Light a special candle for the person who is missing or for the painful secret or memory you’re trying to cope with. You don’t need to tell anyone the significance of the candle. Candles are an acceptable part of the Christmas décor
  • Keep a diary over the holiday and really use it to write down how you are feeling
  • Drink a toast to absent loved ones, name them
  • It can be helpful for children to remember people who are no longer in their lives through making a special bauble for the Christmas Tree that represents them

Dealing with Conflict

Many of the worst arguments happen at Christmas. Bored children, being cooped up with relatives, the availability of alcohol, and a sense of claustrophobia can create an environment where tensions are high.

  • Try to pre-empt possible arguments by planning access arrangements in advance
  • Try to communicate in a direct, open and honest manner
  • Don’t meet another person’s anger with your anger
  • Respect yourself even if the other parent shows you none
  • Get out for a walk with the children – tire them out
  • Have a bath or take a nap to get away from everyone
  • Be prepared to let some behaviours go over the Christmas period
  • Be willing to compromise if necessary
  • If your child complains about the other parent, try encouraging them to talk directly with that parent
  • Keep adult communication directly between adults. Refuse to use your child as a go-between.

For help and advice

One Family askonefamily Lo-call Helpline | 1890 662 212 | support@onefamily.ie

The Money Advice and Budgeting Service | 0761 07 2000 | www.mabs.ie

Citizens Information Helpline | 0761 07 4000 | 9am to 8pm from Monday to Friday

The Samaritans | 1850 60 90 90 |  24 Hours service

Aware – Defeat Depression | 1890 303 302 | 10am – 10pm from Monday to Sunday

Press Release | Government Policies are Failing Poor Families: 30% askonefamily helpline calls increase

Press Release

Government Policies Are Failing Poor Families

askonefamily helpline calls up by another 30%

One Family Annual Review 2014

www.onefamily.ie

(Dublin, Monday 17 August 2015) One Family, Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone, sharing parenting and separating, launches its Annual Review 2014 as its askonefamily helpline continues to respond to an unprecedented rise in numbers of distressed callers. In 2014, helpline calls rose by 30%. This followed a 20% rise in 2013; and in 2015, to date, a staggering 50% increase.  This worrying trend reflects the reality for one-parent families in Ireland today as Government choices are creating more poverty for children and parents in thousands of one-parent families. These are families who have already borne the brunt of cuts since Budget 2012. These are families who simply have no resources left, yet Government continues its onslaught of activation without adequate supports as 57,000 lone parents have now been transitioned.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO explains: “The transition of parents in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) to different payments when their youngest child reached the age of seven continued through 2014 and into this year. The uncertainty and confusion around implementation of this reform process, and fear over its impacts, have contributed hugely to the increase in calls to our helpline. Our evidence shows that vulnerable one-parent families are being hit very hard. Those who are already working part-time are telling us of the catastrophic affects on their families as they experience huge cuts in income. The priority must be to work effectively to end child poverty and improve outcomes for one-parent families. Government still has the opportunity to implement policies that can achieve this.”

Stuart Duffin, One Family Director of Policy & Programmes, comments: “We have put forward our ‘10 Solutions’ campaign – actions that Government could take to make a real difference. We have continuously highlighted that the reform of the OFP is working against stated Government policy, as barriers to employment such as accessible affordable childcare remain insurmountable while the reform is forcing many out of work. For these families, homelessness is a greater threat than ever before. At any one time up to two thirds of families in emergency accommodation are one-parent families. This is shameful. It did not have to be like this. It is still not too late for Government to reverse the damage done and work positively to end child poverty.”

Research shows that a key contributor to children’s futures is not the structure of their families but living in consistent poverty.  One in four families in Ireland is a one-parent family and 58% of lone parents are employed. Only 45,000 lone parents are now in receipt of the One-Parent Family Payment. They want to work and they want to learn. The policies of activation being directed towards these families are not working. Children in one-parent families are still more than twice as likely to live in poverty. The number of children in Ireland living in consistent poverty – meaning they are living both at risk of poverty and experiencing deprivation – has risen to nearly 12%; while 23% of children in a one-parent family experience deprivation.

Karen continues: “We are stating loudly and clearly that Government must invest in Budget 2016 in a coherent package of supports and services for parents moved off the One-Parent Family Payment and onto Job Seeker’s Allowances, if it is sincere about wanting to support people who parent on their own into sustainable employment and out of social welfare. Government must also stop using atypical examples to demonstrate the so-called ‘success’ of these policies and listen to what real one-parent families, who have lost up to €110 per week from already tight budgets, are saying about this process. Budget 2016 is an opportunity for false realities to be finally discarded and the lived realities of one-parent families in Ireland to be heard.”

One Family’s Annual Review 2014 can be read/downloaded here.

Budget 2016 Submission

One Family’s recommendations for Budget 2016 are simple, low cost and cost effective; and provide a social and economic future which is based on investment and opportunity.

A package of supports for OFP recipients being transitioned must include:

  • The Income Disregard to remain at €90 for all OPFs regardless of their payment.
  • Equal access to all activation measures and in particular MOMENTUM.
  • Access to free fees for part-time education options.
  • Allow JSTA CE participants to have an additional payment of €50/week equalising it with JobBridge in recognition of family costs.
  • Provide specialist bridging programmes for lone parents such as New Futures and New Steps.
  • Raise the Qualified Child Increase to help reduce child poverty by tailoring it to the poorest families.
  • Recognise the value and costs of shared parenting by providing the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit to each parent.
  • Adjust the Family Income Supplement so that it makes work pay for lone parents by reducing the qualifying hours to 15 hours per week and taper payment.
  • Provide a high quality accessible Childcare and Out Of School Care system.

/Ends.

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families and people sharing parenting or separating, offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 66 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

  • Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191
  • Stuart Duffin, Director of Policy & Programmes | t: 01 662 9212 or 087 062 2023
  • People who are parenting alone and who have been affected by this reform process.

 

 

Parenting | Children’s Books About Families

Finding the right books to support your child during a time of family transition, or to help answer questions that can be challenging, can be difficult.  One Family has compiled a list of children’s books which may help your child to better understand their unique family and all kinds of families.

This extensive list includes books suitable for children from the age of 3 to teenagers, with sections on Divorce and Separation; Family Types; Adoption and Fostering; Death and Bereavement; and Stepparents and Stepfamilies.

You can read or download it here.

askonefamily_200px Logo_Small_LRFor support or information on any of these topics, our askonefamily helpline is available on 1890 66 22 12 / 01 662 9212 or by email from 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday.

 

Book Covers

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One-Parent Family Helpline Calls Increase by 30% in 2014

Press Release

One-Parent Family Helpline Calls Increase by 30% in 2014

Families Just One Bill Away from Disaster

www.onefamily.ie

(Dublin, Monday 22 December 2014) One Family – Ireland’s organisation for people parenting alone and sharing parenting – has recorded a staggering 30% increase in first time callers to its askonefamily helpline to date in 2014, with a marked increase in calls from working parents precariously balanced on the verge of homelessness or newly experiencing separation.

Karen Kiernan, One Family CEO, comments: “The continued poverty of one-parent families in Ireland today is simply not acceptable. We are hearing from parents who are living on a knife edge; worried constantly about the basics such as food, heating and keeping a roof over their children’s heads. We have heard from parents who themselves do not eat an evening meal so that their children can, and from those needing to attend local food banks for the first time; mothers who get up at 5am to avail of reduced rate electricity to iron their children’s school uniforms; fathers who ration a bag of coal – often their only source of heating – into daily allowances. Many hundreds of families are living under the constant threat of homelessness, just one bill away from disaster. They survive week to week and planning for the future is a luxury they do not have.”

“The majority of these new askonefamily callers are working lone parents, low or middle income earners. While 53% of people parenting alone are in the labour market, one-parent families consistently have the lowest disposable income out of all households in the state and experience the highest rates of deprivation,” Karen continues. “Government’s activation measures from Budget 2012 are now being phased in with over 39,000 lone parents being moved to Jobs Seekers Transitional next year. They will no longer be eligible for the One-Parent Family Payment. Owing to their parenting responsibilities, many lone parents with young children must opt for part-time work but now we are hearing from many that they will no longer be able to afford to work. For a lone parent doing all he or she can to make a difference for their family, in an economy that we are hearing every day is now out of recession – and in this 20th anniversary year of UN International Year of the Family – this is shocking.”

One Family’s askonefamily helpline is also hearing more from parents who are now experiencing separation. Most tell us that years of stress and worry about household finances, combined with a lack of or reduced employment and income, have contributed to the end of their relationship. These families need specialist supports to enable them to separate well, establish shared parenting plans and keep their children at the centre of parenting. One Family offers relevant supports but Government needs to ensure accessibility in all parts of the country to appropriate services.

As evidenced by this increase of callers to askonefamily, the real impact of years of austerity is only now truly coming to the fore.  Many one-parent families who were already living in consistent poverty are now barely managing to keep their family homed. More and more couples are separating, creating new one-parent or shared parenting families. Yet one-parent families in working poverty and parents sharing parenting of their children have borne the brunt of spending cuts such as the changes to the Single Person Child Carer Tax Credit last year, and the ill-formed re-activation measures flagged in Budget 2012.

Government must recognise and respond to this reality for so many of Ireland’s families. One Family reiterates its call to Government to enact its 10 Solutions campaign, with an immediate focus on provision of long-promised, affordable and accessible quality local childcare.  Every parent should have an equal opportunity to create a better future for his or her children, and all children deserve that.

For further information on One Family’s 10 Solutions, click here.

The askonefamily helpline can be contacted on lo call 1890 66 22 12 or by email to support@onefamily.ie.

/Ends.

About One Family

One Family was founded in 1972 as Cherish and is Ireland’s leading organisation for one-parent families offering support, information and services to all members of all one-parent families, to those sharing parenting, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and to professionals working with one-parent families. Children are at the centre of One Family’s work and the organisation helps all the adults in their lives, including mums, dads, grandparents, step-parents, new partners and other siblings, offering a holistic model of specialist family support services. These services include the lo-call askonefamily national helpline on 1890 62 22 12, counselling, and provision of training courses for parents and for professionals. One Family also promotes Family Day and presents the Family Day Festival every May, an annual celebration of the diversity of families in Ireland today (www.familyday.ie). For further information, visit www.onefamily.ie.

Available for Interview

Karen Kiernan, CEO | t: 01 662 9212 or 086 850 9191

Further Information/Scheduling

Shirley Chance, Director of Communications | t: 01 664 0124 / e: schance@onefamily.ie

 

Thank you to everyone who supported Messiah

Thanks so much to everyone who attended, volunteered at, helped publicise and organise – or took part in – The Culwick Choral Society’s Messiah in Dublin’s St Patrick’s Cathedral last week. We had two glorious evenings of music and song to get everyone in festive mood and we were delighted to see such a crowd on both nights, as any proceeds go to our askonefamily helpline which has been inundated with calls since the recession.