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.
Here is part two of our two-part Christmas Guide for One-Parent Families.
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
Financial Management at Christmas
It’s a really good idea to make a commitment to yourself that you will not over-spend this Christmas. The next step is to budget. The earlier you sit down and budget for the holiday the better. Here are some sample categories which might help:
|Category||Items listed in detail||Estimated cost||Total cost|
|Regular food shopping for 2 week period|
|Food and drink for specific days i.e. 25th, 26th, 1st|
|Decorations – Lights, Christmas tree etc|
|Gifts for children|
|Gifts for other family members and friends|
|Christmas cards and postage|
Be very realistic – Remember the presents are only the start. Making a realistic list of the expenditure will make it easier to see where you can economise.
Be honest – Can you really afford to fund such a sum? If the answer is no, you must cut back.
Be wary of credit – If you find that you need short-term credit to bridge the gap between normal income and abnormal expenditure at Christmas, decide how you will fund this. Your main options are credit cards, bank or credit union loans or authorised overdrafts. All have advantages as well as disadvantages. Whatever you decide, make sure you can afford to meet the costs of the credit, including interest, after Christmas. Avoid unauthorised lenders.
Dealing with Pressure from Children and Young People
Talk to them – It can be really helpful to talk to your children early on about Christmas and explain that you all have a tight budget to work with. If Santa is coming to your house explain to children that Santa has a lot of children throughout the world to visit on Christmas Eve and he has asked parents to tell children to list their top three presents but to expect only one of these, and to understand that he has a budget. It is better to explain to your child that you cannot afford very expensive presents rather than overstretching yourself and getting into debt.
Get them involved in planning – Planning the Christmas with children and young people can help them better understand the pressures of Christmas. It can also be fun working together and help children gain a sense of responsibility.
Self talk – Remind yourself that you are not letting your children down by not getting them exactly what presents they want. Value the love you give them every day of the year. In years to come it will be this they remember rather than how much you spent on them.
Expectations – Remember for many younger children it isn’t the cost of the item that interests them but what they can do with it. Children often find the box more exciting than the gift itself!
Don’t give in to pressure – Children and young people often make demands of their parents. Parents may fear that if they don’t give the child the present they want, then he or she won’t love them. Remind yourself the value of saying “no”. Saying no can help a child understand choices and disappointments. It is far worse for the child or young person to see you upset and anxious about financial difficulties.
Fun Things To Do with Children
Whether you’re with your children for all of the holiday period or have access at certain times, finding fun activities appropriate to the season that don’t cost a lot can be a challenge. Here are some ideas:
- Christmas carols
- Christmas lights – Take your child into your nearest town or city to see the lights at night or take a tour of your locality
- Decorate your tree together
- Feed the ducks or swans, or put out a bird feeder together. Animals can find it hard to get food this time of year
- Check out your local library for details of free activities held for children over December and January
- Bake a cake together
- Make homemade sweets and cookies to give out as presents
- Make a jig saw together
- Visit your local art gallery, most galleries have free activities and workshops for children with materials provided
- Go swimming
- Visit your local park, or the botanical gardens in Dublin to watch the squirrels
- Have books and DVDs ready to entertain
- The national concert hall in Dublin hold a range of events for children
- Visit museums – our national museums have free admission and offer many family-friendly tours and activities
- Wrap up well and get plenty of fresh air
- Winter picnics can be fun too – bring a flask and check out adventure playgrounds in your area
- Make Christmas decorations – it’s easy and fun to string together pop corn to hang on the tree, or paper chains
- Visit a pantomime – matinees are usually offered at a reduced cost
Part one of our Christmas Guide includes advice on Taking the Stress out of Christmas, Christmas Alone, and Coping with Sad or Painful Memories. Click here to read it.
For help and advice
One Family askonefamily Lo-call Helpline | 1890 662 212 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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
This week’s ’10 Ways to …’ feature is about you looking after you. Read on for our ‘10 Ways to Parent Self-Care’.
- “I’m not perfect, I’m good enough” (Winnicot): Recognise that you are one person and you are doing the best you can. Give yourself a pat on the back – don’t wait for someone else or your child to or it may never happen!
- Routine: Have a core routine for each day of the week and stick to it. Don’t try to get everything done every day, set days out for different chores. Make sure you have time in the routine to play and interact with your children. Parents usually feel better when they have had a quality connection with their child.
- Eat: Remember you must meet your own needs so you can meet those of your children. The basic need to eat is really important as when we are hungry we are less inclined to have patience and the energy to deal with everyday issues and challenges.
- Sleep: It is easy to say sleep but it is more important to do it. Try to get children to bed early so you can be in bed early too. Aim for at least 6 hours sleep per night. Those with infants will only achieve this in a number of sessions of sleep so it is really important to try and nap during the day if you can.
- Stay healthy: Do not neglect your health – value your own health and well being as much as you do your child’s. Healthy parents are happy parents.
- Exercise: This can release the happy hormones and allow you time to think, reflect and make plans, or just breathe in the fresh air and tell yourself it will all work out. You can also use the time to chat with your child. Simply playing in the park or back garden can be good exercise and fun with your child also.
- Take time out for yourself: If you struggle with this, begin with 10 minutes for yourself and as time goes on, increase it. Maybe once a week you can plan a couple of hours to yourself. Be creative in how you achieve this – it will be worth the effort.
- Socialise: Isolation is a key issue for those parenting alone. Challenge yourself to network with other parents, join clubs or courses. Your self-esteem and confidence and that of your child’s will be enhanced with socialising.
- Ask for help: Ask for help whenever you can from family or a friend. They will stop offering if you never take them up on it. Children enjoy being with other people. It is good for you both to have time apart and for children to know there are other people who can care for them.
- Be an adult: You are not just a parent so make time for you to be you. It’s good for children to see you as a person with many roles, not just as Mam or Dad.
The One Family parenting skills courses Positive Parenting and Family Communications are enrolling now. Click here for information.
As summer winds down, it is time to start thinking about school again. For parents with young children, that means looking into preschools for your children. Sending your child to preschool for the first time is a big step in both you and your child’s life, and it is important to make sure both of you are prepared to take that step. There are many ways to see if your child is ready for preschool, and in this week’s edition of parenting tips, we look at 10 ways to prepare your child for preschool.
- Sit back and look at how much your child has grown in the past 3 years. Ask yourself if you are really supporting them to be more responsible, allowing them make choices and have more control over what they want and how they do things.
- Ensure your child is toilet trained and able to manage in the toilet unaided.
- Ensure your child can use a spoon to feed themselves, that they can recognise their belongings, get out their lunch and tidy away by themself.
- Support your child to learn the rules of friendship, taking turns, sharing, asking for what they want and being inclusive of all children.
- Play school with them at home. Help them act out their fears around school and through role play help them understand what will be expected of them in preschool.
- Explore with them how they need to behave in preschool and what will happen if they misbehave.
- Talk with them about the other children who will be there and how they will be very friendly with some and may not really like some children. Encourage them to have time for everyone and to aim to be friendly with all the children.
- Visit the preschool in advance. Understand the policies and procedures in advance as a parent and help your child know what their day will look like in preschool. There are great differences between many preschools.
- Keep preschool fresh in your child’s mind over the summer time. Help them be ready for school. Help them be confident by preparing them well and encouraging them to practice at home asking questions and resolving small disputes in a positive manner
- Don’t put any pressure on your child. It is not university, so relax about whether they know their colours and numbers. They will learn if they are happy and feel supported to do so.
This week’s ’10 Ways to’ is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
For support and advice on any of these topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email@example.com.
Image credit: Pixabay
Whatever the circumstances, parental separation is hard on families and big changes must be made. Keeping their children at the centre of parenting and responding to the thoughts, feelings and questions a child may have, will help parents to help their child.
Research shows that children normally experience one or more of the following reactions to the separation of their parents:
- Loyalty conflict: Children often get caught in the middle.
- Does Mum or Dad love someone else?: Although Mum or Dad might not love each other, it is important to reassure the child that they love him/her.
- I don’t want to come over today: As they get older, children’s interests vary. They may not want to visit a parent and may just want to spend more time with their friends.
- Fantasies of responsibility and reconciliation: Children may feel they are responsible for their parents’ separation. They may dream up plans to get their parents to reconcile.
- Why don’t you love Mum or Dad anymore?: It is not uncommon for children to ponder this question. Often children will blame the parent who they believe initiated the separation and view the other parent as a victim.
- If you do not come home, I will never speak to you again: The purpose of a statement like this is to make the parent feel guilty so that they will return home.
- Anger: Children between the ages of 8-16 years can experience intense anger. They can often be most angry with the parent they blame for separation, but they may express anger only towards the parent they view as the ‘safest’, usually the resident parent.
- What should I tell my friends?: If you want your child to share the situation with others, you must be able to do the same. Encourage your child to be honest about the situation.
- Why are you separating?: Children are more likely to ask this if they have not been given a clear explanation for the separation.
- Worry about the future: The child may worry about the future. This is more likely to occur where there is parental conflict around contact and maintenance. Parents need to listen to their child’s worries and talk honestly and openly with them about any concerns.
One Family’s Family Communications – Parenting When Separated course starts in May 2019 please see details here. One Family also offer a range of services to parents sharing parenting or parenting alone after separation. You can find out about them here. If you need support, information or advice, contact our lo-call askonefamilyhelpline on 1890 66 22 12 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a young child, one of the most trying times can be night time. We all expect to be awake with babies and infants, but what if your child is 3 years of age and still waking you at night? Parents and children need their rest after a long day of work, school, or play, although sleep is often interrupted by a cry for help from another room. As parents, it’s impossible to ignore our children, yet we all need a good night’s sleep and we want the same for our children as well. Not getting enough sleep can affect how we parent and many other aspects of our lives. We explore 10 Ways to Survive Sleepless Nights.
- If you know to expect that your child might call you during the night, it’s best to just accept it rather than dread it, as children will pick up on your anxiety.
- Try to get to bed yourself very early at least 3 nights a week – even if you don’t really feel like it – so you can get hopefully 4-5 hours of continuous sleep before the first call from your child.
- Stay calm during the night. Remember that it’s okay to forget the rules at times. If they will sleep well in your bed take them in, or get into bed with them if you can. A double bed for young children can be great if you have the space; at least you’ll have room then!
- Talk with your child during the day about sleeping. Praise them if they sleep well and try to encourage them to call you when it starts to get bright, not when it is dark. Encourage self-soothing such as cuddling up with favourite teddy bears. Be extra generous with praise for any attempt they make to sleep better in their own bed without calling you. Talk to them about how sleep fills them up with energy for the next day and how they need it for the busy day ahead of them. Help them to understand and like the idea of sleeping, and talk with them about why parents need sleep too.
- Try to ensure that during the day (not at bedtime), that you talk over things that are happening with them too. All kinds of things can play on your child’s mind that you might not be aware of: new home, new baby, getting in trouble, starting school etc. Dreams can wake them with anxiety.
- If you live with another adult take turns to get up to the child – take every second night – then at least you are both getting a good sleep a few nights every week.
- What if you have two children waking in the night? If safe to do so, and you have a big bed and side rails – and you have not been drinking alcohol or are impaired in any way – it can be good to take them on a sleepover into your bed on occasion. This could mean you all get to sleep till morning, or at least the early hours.
- Try not to focus on how little sleep you get. Remember that a lot of parents are in the same situation. Think about how you might be able to incorporate opportunities for sleep into your own routine. If you travel on public transport, perhaps take a nap on the bus or train; or have one in the morning at home if your child is at creche or school. Explore if anyone can mind your child once a week for a few hours during which you can look forward to some sleep; for example, arranging rotating play dates with another parent.
- Build some positives into your day. For example, look forward to some nice breakfast to give yourself a boost to get going. Something like fruit and yoghurt doesn’t have to cost much or take a lot of time to prepare. When we are really tired, we can feel somewhat low, especially if we’re parenting alone without many opportunities to plan for some sleep for ourselves; so it’s very important to actively build in these little positives to our routine.
- Support your child to sleep well by following a bedtime routine and providing them with a restful space. What is the room like that they sleep in? Do they like it? Do they have cuddly teddies they have a good bond with during the day? Have they a night light? Is it a calm, secure, peaceful area?
Along with this post, you might like to also read ‘10 Ways to Establish a Bedtime Routine.’
’10 Ways to’ is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
Image credit: Pixabay
The Quarterly National Household Survey released today by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveals the most recent employment statistics for the period April-June (Q2) 2017. One Family has analysed the findings in relation to people who are parenting alone.
- In Q2 2017, the employment rate of lone parents (aged 15-64) was 58.5% (up 2.1% from 56.4%). This compares with 73.9 % (up 0.9% from 73.0%) for the adult members of couples without children and 76% (up 3.9% from 72.1%) for the adult members of couples with children.
- The employment rate of lone parents (aged 15-64) whose youngest child was aged 0 to 5 years was 46.8% (up 0.8% from 46.0%) in Q2 2017 compared to 59.8 % (up 2.6% from 57.2%) where the youngest child was aged 6 to 11, and 65.6% (up 9.2% from 56.4%) where the youngest child was aged 12 to 17. This indicates that, as children get older, the prohibitive costs of childcare are reduced and lone parents are more likely to engage in work.
- There were 6,400 (down 1,400 from 7,500) lone parents classified as long-term unemployed in Q2 2017, compared to 22,400 (down 12,000 from 34,400) adult members of couples with children classified as long-term unemployed in the same period.
- On average, 55.3% (up 1.2% from 54.1%) of lone parents were participating in the labour market in Q2 2017. The participation rate of males in couples with children was 87.1% (down 0.7% from 87.8%) while the corresponding participation rate for females was 64.2% (down 0.2% from 64.4%). This dispels the myth that lone parents are not engaging in, and seeking, work outside the home.
One Family remains acutely concerned about the numbers of lone parents in precarious and low-paid employment, particularly since the reform of the One-Parent Family Payment that has pushed many lone parents into employment that has kept them and their children living in poverty.
The Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) 2015 results released in January 2017 showed that 58% (almost three in five) of lone parent households with one or more children experienced enforced deprivation. This compares to 25% of the general population who experienced deprivation. People in lone parent households continue to have the lowest disposable income out of all households with children in the State.
The Indecon Independent Review of the Amendments to the One-parent Family Payment since January 2012, released last Monday, showed that 63% of the respondents in full-time employment stated that they cannot afford 3+ items on the deprivation list, meaning that they are most definitely experiencing deprivation daily, and in-work poverty.
Further Quarterly National Household Survey information from the CSO is available here.
Are you a lone parent who has recently returned to work? Could you help One Family to pilot our new online programme on work-life balance for working lone parents this October and November?
We are looking for:
• Lone parents who are currently in work;
• With reliable internet access via a computer or smart phone, and;
• Availability to take part during October-November 2017.
Modules included in this brand new free online course for lone parents who have just re-entered the workforce:
1. Communicate more effectively with your employer; learn to ask your employer the right questions to get what you need.
2. Your rights and responsibilities; Find all the most relevant and up to date resources on your rights as an employee and as a parent.
3. In-work supports; Find out what supports you are eligible for as a working lone parent, and what kinds of supports you can achieve within your work environment.
4. Your go-to guide to childcare; Find the best option for you, and stay up to date on government childcare schemes.
5. Balancing finances as a working parent; Access useful online resources like a money guide and budget calculator.
By taking part in this pilot, you can develop a better understanding of how to achieve your own work-life balance and you will be contributing to making this course better for parents in the future. By giving your feedback, you will have a say in what topics you think should be covered in a course like this – for both employees and employers. Your input will influence how future courses are developed, and your views will be used to help inform and educate all types of employers on how to better meet the needs of lone parent employees. There is no fee for this course.
If you are interested in taking part, please call us at 01 662 9212 and ask for Neda, or email email@example.com.
The Department of Education has today issued a review completed by academics at Maynooth University which sought to identify the barriers lone parents face in accessing higher level education. The review also examined the trends in participation and completion rates by lone parents in higher education and the range of measures that are currently available to support lone parents. One Family was consulted as part of this process as a representative stakeholder group.
The recommendations of the Report echo One Family’s recent Pre-Budget Submission. Lone parents need additional supports that recognise their parenting responsibilities in order to access educational opportunities.
A summary of the key findings from the report is below:
- Lone parents have attracted considerable policy attention in welfare and education and training, but much less specific attention has been paid to lone parents in higher education and seeking to widen access for these families.
- Key areas of social policy which are impacting on access to education include One Parent Family Payment (OFP) reform, housing, and childcare policy.
- Some lone parents are likely to experience considerable challenges in meeting the costs of attending college, paying rent, raising a family, working, and paying for childcare. These financial constraints are likely to influence decision-making around attending higher education either on a part-time or full-time basis.
- While the maintenance portion of SUSI education grants only provides a contribution towards the costs of participating in education, because lone parents have higher living costs than school leavers, the efficacy of the student grant is limited further.
- The complexity of the current system of supports was also highlighted in the report, including the inadequate dissemination of information, guidance and awareness raising to lone parents regarding the ‘bundles’ of supports that are offered by different government departments and agencies. Intreo case workers also require more training and awareness in this area.
Based on these findings the following recommendations have been made to Government to increase lone parents’ participation in education at third level:
- The maintenance grant contribution by SUSI must be reviewed and increased for all students, and particularly for lone parents.
- Lone parents who have transferred to BTEA were highlighted as the most economically vulnerable group among lone parent welfare recipients. The re-instatement of the student grant scheme – maintenance grant – for this group would create a more equitable, less complicated and targeted approach for supporting lone parents in higher education.
- Meeting the needs of lone parents should be part of the ethos of each Higher Education Institutions (HEI). This needs to be very explicitly stated by colleges and universities who have the responsibility of welcoming lone parents into its campus and giving them the tools and supports to succeed.
- Provide additional funding for lone parents either in the form of cash transfers or in the form of universal scholarships for lone parents within HEIs
- Measures introduced under the proposed Affordable Childcare Scheme should be articulated in a clear and meaningful way to lone parents, HEIs, lone parent representative groups and Intreo case workers. It is also important that all lone parents, irrespective of welfare entitlements, or if they are studying part-time or full-time have access to supported childcare.
The full report ‘An Independent Review to Identify the Supports and Barriers for Lone Parents in Accessing Higher Education and to Examine Measures to Increase Participation’ is available here.
Following publication of the report, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD, and the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, have announced €16.5m for new initiatives to widen access to higher education over the next three years, and declared a focus on helping lone parents to access higher level education.
The initiatives, according to the Department of Education and Skills, are:
- Funding bursaries worth €5,000 for 600 students coming from non-traditional backgrounds into college, with support for at least 120 socio-economically disadvantaged lone parents. This will be a €6m regional call over three years.
- Funding for support programmes to help 2,000 students, of which 200 will be lone parents, from non-traditional backgrounds enter college and successfully complete their course. This will be a €7.5m regional call over three years.
- A further €3m over three years in increased funding for the hardship supports to help students, with lone parents being prioritised.
- The groups being targeted include: entrants from under-represented socio-economic groups and communities; entrants with disabilities; mature entrants; members of the Irish Traveller community; students entering on the basis of a further education award; part-time flexible learners; as well as socio-economically disadvantaged lone parents and ethnic minorities.
While these initiatives are to be welcomed, we call on Government to take further action on the recommendations contained in this comprehensive Report and in our Pre-Budget Submission, and to ensure that appropriate budgetary decisions are made in the coming weeks to support these measures.
Ahead of the annual Pre-Budget Forum taking place today, One Family joined with Barnardos, Children’s Rights Alliance, National Youth Council of Ireland and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul to call on Government to ensure Budget 2018 includes key provisions to tackle child poverty as we are deeply concerned that one in nine children in Ireland remain in consistent poverty. We believe not enough is being done to remedy this. You can read our jointly issued press release here.
One Family’s Pre-Budget Submission 2018 targets child poverty as, according to SILC (2008-2015), children in one-parent households are almost four times more likely to live in consistent poverty than those in two-parent households. Our Submission also focuses on in-work supports to make work pay. Reforms of the One-Parent family Payment (OFP) have resulted in only marginal increases in employment rates for some one-parent families, a reduction in employment for those children over 12, and higher rates and child poverty and deprivation in these families. The other areas we focus on are:
- Housing & Homelessness,
- Access to Education & Training,
- Early Years, Out-of-School and Afterschool Childcare, and
- Family Law Courts Reform.
You can read our Pre-Budget Submission 2018, which includes our analysis and recommendations, on this link.
Follow us on Twitter
Trading as One Family, Cherish CLG is a company limited by guarantee not having a share capital, registered in Dublin, Ireland with registered office at 8 Coke Lane, Dublin 7 and registered Company Number 45364. One Family is also a charity (Charity Regulatory Authority No. 20012212 and Charity No. 6525).
Directors of One Family: Helen Hall, Jennifer Good, Nuala Haughey, John-Mark McCafferty, Eimear Fisher, Edel Fagan and Jack Eustace.