Single parenting

Children and work? What choices are there?

Becoming a parent is a big decision. Many factors come into consideration and a lot of couples might find that they have very different views on this.

With todays workplace politics and opportunities, the choices are not always clear. More and more women are just as ambitious and driven as men. Unfortunately, a lot of them feel the pressure to perform more than their male counterparts. What will happen to their careers if they go on maternity leave? Are they supported by their employers? Will their clients accept their absence?

There are lots of questions raised by women who are considering having a family and many of the feel alone in these decisions as their partners don’t have the same ‘risks’ to consider. There is also social pressure to consider like what other friends and family are doing and expecting of them.

The UK is a hard place to raise children if you have finances to consider. The child care costs are immense and not everyone can afford to use a nursery or nanny. So what do you do?

  • Firstly communicate with your employer, find out exactly what your rights are and what the expectations are from their side.

  • Discuss with your partner, well ahead, what is important to the both of you. As a mother to be, you have to be the one at home to start with but for how long? Can your partner take over?

  • What is your support network like? Can you child care share? What do others do in your area? At your workplace?

  • Be aware of the emotional impact having a child can have on you. Read up and be prepared. Not that you can be fully prepared, children do have a tendency to take you on a rollercoaster ride you’ve never been on before!

Most importantly though, enjoy your children! The years of having a young family passes quickly, believe it or not. Be present, do things together, talk and listen. Look after each other and yourself, remember this is a new life for both parents!

Here are a few links to help along the way:

https://fullfact.org/education/childcare-costs-england/

https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/

https://www.workingfamilies.org.uk

https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/work-and-childcare

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

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Extended family....extended....

Åse wrote last week about the importance of connections and relationships.  How family is so important for your sanity as a parent – and in the absence of extended family living nearby – you need to make your own ‘new family’ with friends and neighbours.

This week I have a dilemma that hasn’t quite happened before.  My husband is away and both my children have important events taking place on Friday that both need my involvement.  I can’t be in 2 (very distant) places at once – so what do I do?  Like Åse, I have no direct family here in Surrey and so need to rely on others for help at times like this.

I have had the arduous task of moving 9 times in 10 years.  Despite becoming super-efficient at packing and unpacking, plus developing excellent muscles – I have also had to adapt to continuous new environments and new people at every turn.   Bonding and settling into new places is very hard when you move constantly, as is establishing those trusted relationships that are so necessary when you don’t have family living nearby.

So, who do I call in a situation like the one I am in for Friday?  Do I throw the net wide and call on my close friends who don’t live in the area, or I do disappoint one child over another?  This caused me a very sleepless night last night (as well as the VERY hot weather!) until I realised that I have teenagers now.  The responsibility for scheduling and decision making is no longer just mine to make.  I have two very capable teenagers who can join this discussion and hopefully work out a solution.

And I was right.  My daughter seems to have embodied the extended family culture in a very real way and has created a network that really staggers me in the community she moves in.  She can draw on help, advice and support (in this case transport!) in a way that I didn’t expect – showing me that it is never too soon to embody the concept of creating a family wherever you go.  Not just you – but every member of your family.  This led me to a very meaningful conversation with my son today about the relationships he is forming and how to develop this feeling of community that is so essential to successful relationships.

From my side, I am extremely thankful for my daughter who has such confidence and wisdom with the relationships she develops, and the adults who have taken her under their wing and are lighthouses for her.   I will keep this conversation up with my son…and help him to get there too!

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Helping your child through tough times...

Do you have a teenager who has just finished a tough period of exams?  Or do you have a child that’s had to deal with a tough situation?  All children will experience degrees of stress at some time in their lives (peer pressure, bullying, school pressure, arguments with friends or family etc) and our influence, as parents, is crucial.

If your child is in the school system they will, at some stage, experience exam pressure.  And it’s not just about writing the exams, the stress of waiting for results is often worse – especially for an anxious child.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and anxiety in your children and help them maintain a sense of balance during difficult times.

  1. This too will pass.  Children and adults cope much better if they know there is an endpoint.  Overpowering feelings can be controlled by knowing that they are not permanent – and they will pass.
  2. Challenge them on unreasonable thoughts (extremism) and remind them of previous instances of success or coping.
  3. If necessary help them draw up plans for potential outcomes.  If they need certain results to continue with their studies – draw up a series of outcomes and paths they can take.
  4. Make sure they know you will love and support them unconditionally.
  5. Build their confidence and talk about how they are feeling.
  6. Use self-disclosure.  Tell them about situations you’ve been in and how you coped.
  7. Plan something fun for after results day or the end of term together.  An outing or a holiday is something positive to look forward to.

The coping skills they learn in childhood are essential to help them cope in adulthood – so use the time to guide and help them develop confidence and strategies to get through these stressful and difficult times.

If your child continues to battle or you need more help – don’t be afraid to ask.  Start with your school or GP or if you are really worried, get in touch with CAMHS.

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Gaming epidemic amongst kids and adults...

The gaming that a lot of our kids do has been worrying me for a long time. As always there are different views, mainly from the gaming industry who happily dispute any problems that are associated with them and their games.

To me it is common sense that allowing young children access to games that are 'suitable' for 15 and 18+ will have an impact. There is a reason that these age restriction are in place. Having said that, there is a serious addiction problem with adults too so be aware that as parents, we are our kids role models!!!

Here are some of the main points:

It may interfere with sleep. Getting enough sleep can be challenging enough for busy kids. They often have homework and after-school activities crammed into their weekdays and extracurricular activities and sports on weekends. Sleep deprivation is one of the main concerns we are tackling today. Mental health problems are closely connected to this.

It may cut into family time or personal interaction. When we are using technology such as computers, games, and TV, we are not interacting with one another. Since finding good quality time can be difficult for many families, allowing technology to cut into those moments is something parents may want to prevent as much as possible. 

While it can be fun to have a family movie night or play a video game together, the fact is that screen time means less face-to-face interaction time.

It may encourage short attention span. Studies have shown that too much screen time may be associated with attention problems. Video games were the primary focus though the researchers do state that any electronic media may have similar effects.

It may interfere with schoolwork. Children who watch a lot of TV are more likely to have lower grades and read fewer books. Further, research has shown that cutting down kids' screen time may improve kids' health and grades.

It may lead to less physical activity. More screen time has been associated with reduced physical activity and a higher risk of obesity in kids.

It may expose kids to too much advertising and inappropriate content. Many television shows and commercials depict sexuality and violence as well as stereotypes or drug and alcohol use. Many commercials also promote junk food and toys in powerful and alluring ways that are designed to get kids to want these items.

5 Ways to Limit Technology

Admittedly, it is easy to simply turn on the TV or let your kids play a video game when they complain about being bored. However, there are many options when it comes to finding alternative forms of entertainment. Letting kids use technology with limits can be achieved if you keep some of these key tips in mind.

  • Do not put a TV in your child’s room. Having a TV in the bedroom has been linked to a number of problems including lower test scores, sleeping problems, and obesity.
  • Turn it off. When the kids are not watching a specific program, turn off the television. Keep it off during mealtimes and especially when they are studying or doing homework.
  • Help your child choose a video game or a show. The best way to know what your child is watching or playing is by helping her pick out a show or a game. When picking out a family film or game, read the reviews, watch previews, or ask other parents. Above all, know your child and trust your own instincts on what is appropriate.
  • Limit his screen time. Whether it’s one hour of TV and video games a day or a couple of hours a week, limit the amount of time your child spends with technology. More importantly, be committed and stick to those times you set.

I know there is a lot of pressure on parents in today's society but we do have a choice to have kids or not. We have to look out and do the best we can, who else will?

Enjoy each others company, go out in nature, play games without screens, cook, sing and create!

They are worth it.

Source: https://www.verywellfamily.com/kids-and-technology-when-to-limit-it-and-how-621145

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Are you a helicopter parent?

There is a lot of writing about mollycoddling and helicopter parenting in the media. The impact of this way of parenting is not only on the families themselves but everyone else around them.

The schools are affected in a detrimental way as many children do not like the fact that they are just one in a group and not no 1. This causes them to act in a way to get attention and mostly in a bad way. Bad attention is better than no attention.

How can we help parents to understand that by overprotecting, paving the way and not saying NO to their children, they are creating insecure, low self esteemed, demanding little people who don't understand what acceptable behaviour is? 

Here is a great article by Amy Brown who is an associate professor of child public health at Swansea University. It's a well written article and sums up everything I want to say. Please read!

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/helicopter-or-lawnmower-modern-parenting-styles-can-get-in-the-way-of-raising-well-balanced-children-a7850476.html

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The extra challenges of single parenting...

We blog about parenting issues, and we work with all parents, but yesterday at our Thriveinthework2017 event we were asked about any 'extra' advice for single parents - so here are some thoughts.

Did you know that there are currently 1.9 million single parents in the UK?  So if you feel that you are travelling this journey alone - you are actually part of a very large community experiencing the same thing.  Details of support groups and websites to access more information are below.

A few pointers to think about as you navigate this journey:-

  • Find a work schedule that works for your situation.  Don't be afraid to ask for flexitime or to adjust your working schedule.  Companies are often able to accommodate this.
  • Schedule and stick to 'kid-free' time.  Your choice!  Going out, seeing a movie, just reading a book - but you must allocate time for you!
  • Don't stress about what you can't control.  If your partner is late to fetch your child, there is very little you can do about it.  Try to focus on what is within your power to control (ie your reaction to their lateness!)
  • Make sure your children have good role models for both men and women in their lives
  • Use 'count to 10' whenever you need to.  It's hard to be 'on' ALL the time. You're allowed a few minutes to pull yourself towards yourself to stay calm! 
  • You're not competing against anyone - honestly.  Stop trying to 'be better' than anyone!
  • Prioritise.  Remember the 80/20 rule.  80% of what is really important can be done with 20% of the things on 'your list'.
  • Point out good qualities in men as a single mother, and women as a single dad.
  • Praise and congratulate yourself - you are doing a hard and fantastic job.
  • Multi-task eg test your child on his times-tables while cooking dinner

Above all - be kind to yourself and allow yourself down time to just enjoy your children.  The time passes so quickly....

Some useful links below

https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/

http://www.singleparents.org.uk/

https://www.relate.org.uk/

 

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12 Questions You Should Ask Your Kids at Dinner

Do you regularly sit down to family meals?  Research has shown that this is one of the most important tools we can use as parents to teach our children social skills, good eating habits and to develop strong communication within the family. 

Here are some great questions to ask your children at meal times:-

  • What is something interesting (fun or difficult) that you did today? (Reason? Develop relationship and create value)
  • What’s on your mind today? (Reason? To make them feel understood)
  • Who did you sit with at lunch today? (Reason? Open ended question to promote conversation)
  • Can I tell you about something (crazy) that happened to me today? (Reason? Teach them to think beyond themselves and develop empathy)
  • What are you grateful for today? (Reason? Talk about values, ideas and principles)
  • Do you feel full? (Reason? Teaching younger kids to tune in to their bodies.  eg:  is your tummy hungry or happy?)
  • What made you laugh recently? (Reason? Help children understand and manage emotion)
  • Do you have any questions from school or what you heard in the news? (Reason? Check in with any anxiety, fears or misconceptions.  Be aware of their interpretation of their world)
  • What do you want to do tomorrow?  (Reason? Keep tabs on their interests and passions.  Can also be used for upcoming holiday plans/family conferences)
  • How are your friends/classmates doing? (Reason? Tap in to social environment & connections and their coping skills)
  • What did you talk about in … (name a class eg English) today? (Reason? Being specific and interested builds trust and your connection with your child.  Can also ask:  what did you talk about / do over lunch?)
  • What was your best success today?  (Reason? High points/low points gives you insight into your child’s life and emotions)
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Let's talk sex!

Our children are growing up fast and unfortunately, a lot are exposed to sex and pornography earlier than we think. What can we do as parents to help them with this? As we know things can't be unseen. Communicating about our bodies functions, and what our genitals are there for is a good start. Explain that our private parts are just that; private.

If someone is showing nude pictures, especially if it makes them uncomfortable; go and tell an adult. From the age of 7-8, use the word pornography and explain if they come across it to close their eyes! Explain why this is a good idea. Also, talk to your children's friends parents about your boundaries and what you think is suitable for your child. We might think most of us are on the same page but that is not always the case.

Talk about respect of each other and values like it's OK for girls to be valued as strong, clever and capable as well as boys to be gentle, caring and sensitive.

This is a great start. There is a lot of information out there how to talk about these things. Please do! 

Here is a link to a good, informative article: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/age-by-age-guide-to-talking-to-kids-about-sex/

Keep talking!!

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