A Day in the Life of a Single Parent

 

I can’t tell you how many times I have been let down this week. Let down by my children’s father, let down by my friends, let down by the men in my life (there may be a few), let down by the government and just people in general. Where do I begin? Just like I prompt my clients. I guess from the beginning.

It isn’t easy being a single parent. It is almost degrading really. Like if you are a single parent you are the lowest of the low. That’s how it feels sometimes. No one wants to help you. You can’t get any childcare as it’s too much pressure or the house is a mess or too chaotic. If you are lucky enough to work the government won’t help you financially. So, you’re on your own there. No help from the government and no financial help from the ex well now that’s a double whammy. But even though life as a single parent has it’s woes there is an upside of it, too. As the great Taoist philosopher Lao Zao would say- take every negative experience, learn from it and turn it into something positive- this is how I live my life. So, when things get me down like- my ex hasn’t given me money in 9 months- instead of holding onto that negativity I say to myself- I have been smashing it for 9 months on my own. I have worked my ass off and supported my children on my own with no help for the past 9 months. How awesome am I? I have taught my kids what a strong, independent, single parent CAN do when she sets her mind to it and focuses.  Shedding the negativity. I don’t need to be in another unhealthy relationship because I think to myself ‘I can’t do it on my own’ because I AM doing it on my own!!  And, I don’t need help doing anything.  That feels amazing and it is very empowering. It’s such a buzz! And, trust me ladies…I still feel sorry for myself sometimes. After all, I am human. But, I do not let those feelings hold me back- at least not for too long.

Life as a single parent. It is not for the faint hearted. It is not for the meek. It is not for the mild. To be a single parent you must be a warrior!

You must get up at 6.30am to take your eldest to high school. It doesn’t matter if you’ve stayed up until midnight drinking wine with your friends, thrown your back out, have had major surgery or have had a dodgy curry and have had diarrhea all night and morning. You are still getting up and taking your child to school. There is no one else. Then when you get back you will brush your teeth because essentially you have just rolled right out of bed to complete the first task of the day. You then take a quick shower. Then you take the two other children to school. First you make a fried egg for your middle child and give her a pep talk as she is going to need it. Because the youngest child will have a full blown tantrum. One that makes the whole family cry even me. She will need to be forced to get dressed, screaming like there is someone pulling her finger nails out with a pair of metal pliers. Then you will have to physically put her in the car and lock her in crying and shouting because well- she’s a kid and doesn’t want to go to school. Your neighbors are watching and thinking ‘oh dear’ or ‘what a lovely morning’ because of course they are British and ignore that you have just literally foot planted your child into the car after dragging her on the cement from the front door. After, throwing her in the car you will verbally threatened her by saying if she doesn’t get in the car you will call the police. And, if she doesn’t go to school we will be homeless living on the streets. Because after all she doesn’t already put enough pressure on herself already. And, where is the ex in all of this? Not around. That is the life of a single parent.

After the kids get dropped off at school- round two- you will get back to the house and finish getting ready for work. Make up and hair. Grab books, computer and pen and shed all the stress that has been endured as you drive to work knowing that you are going to have to pull your shit together because you have to actually use your brain for a living. You will work until closing time. Have to manage after school care and liaise with nanny, friends and school.. all on your own back both physically and financially not to mention emotionally. Emotionally this can be very draining. When you get home dinner will be bought and cooked. Then it’s clean up time! The forever mess that seems to get dirtier the more you clean it so you just say ‘F’ it… and let the cleaning go. Homework time. How was your day? Bath time. Play time. Work some more. Organize the day for tomorrow. Bed time. Hearing the giggling and chatting of the children. Me shouting down ‘girls, go to sleep’ in an attempt of a stern voice, but deep down loving the relationship that they have with one another has every bit to do with me. One more glass of wine from mom. Shower. Read or Netflix… trying to write more. Repeat. That is the life of a single parent.

And if you are a single parent like I am you will understand what I mean. I mean cleaning your house is not a top priority as much as your sanity. Even so, your children’s happiness and their well-being is at the top of this hierarchy. Life as a single parent one does not have a lot of leisure time. But, I am okay with that. Again, my Taoist views remind me… I love cooking. I love creating in the kitchen. I don’t care about mess. I know it’s not forever. And, I love my kids and having them all to myself. They are the most amazing creatures I have ever had the honor knowing and getting to know with their ever changing little personalities. I am so lucky. They make me laugh and smile every day. That is life as a single parent.

Life as a single parent is far from easy. The other day when my car was being clamped because I did not pay £2.50 apparently through the Dartford Tunnel (which ironically I have an account and my bank account showed I did pay, I emailed them to show proof and they did not acknowledge this even though it was written in the bailiff’s notes- wow what a brut he was….they could not help me- I had no options and no one to help- not even a hotline. I do not take this personally because even if you were not a single parent you would have more than likely been screwed here. Take note.) – While he was handing me my fine of £400 I told him I couldn’t afford this right now because I am a single parent his response was ‘WE ALL have children.’ My mouth literally dropped. Words could not express. Well, hell. No words could even come out. Fun fact: No one has children like the single parent has children. It is not the same. Now, I did not even engage with him after that. I told my daughter to come out of the car and called a cab to only deal with him after I got my kids to school. After all, a single mother knows her priorities. Her children always come first. That is the life of a single parent.

Take dating for an example. No one wants to date you because your children will throw tantrums the moment they turn up with flowers in their hand- no wait- we are in Brighton- men don’t do that- do they? No one wants to date single mothers. Why? Well, some men that I have met on my journey can’t stand the competition. Some men that I have met on my journey want to live like Peter Pan for the rest of their life. Other men are too needy and need someone at their beck and call all of the time. Well, that is not me. I am strong and independent. Life as a single parent teaches you that. The only thing we need is our dignity, our strength, our children and well technically.. a good vibrator!

If you ask a single parent out you better have a back bone with good intentions or her children will eat you alive. Can you handle that? Do you have enough guts to deal with that? Well, it’s not even guts you need. Her children will see right through you. Are you smart enough for my mommy? Are you capable of looking after her? us? Children who have one mommy where daddy has let them down will not let just anyone in their life and rightly so. But to be fair gentleman, single moms actually don’t need a man. If you are lucky enough to be invited in know this… they can do everything on their own back. They don’t need you. They want you. Can you handle that? And, if they decide to let you in their life- cherish her. It will be an honor. That is the life of a single parent.

There are so many aspects of the ins and outs of being a single parent. It isn’t easy, but who said life was easy all of the time.

post script: the motivation of this written expression is due to the result of my work at the hospital today. It saddens me that so many women who are raising children on their own are not getting the support that they need. I am aware that the NHS have loads of financial cuts and the schools, too. But, it just doesn’t seem right. I could see the pain in the mothers’ eyes when I ask are you on your own with your children? And, when I speak to mothers on the phone the first thing they say is ‘I have had a difficult start of the day already’ and ‘it’s not getting any better’ and ‘I am on my own.’ I thought that by sharing my experience as a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and as a single parent that others would know that they are never alone and that there is help and support out there. Ask your GP to give you more information on how you can receive support as a single parent. Let’s raise the bar and ask for help. Help that we deserve and need for raising the next generation. #getwellbrighton. 

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to support these single parents who are parenting difficult children on their own. Now, that IS a Superpower. Stay strong out there. www.brightonwellnesscentre.co.uk.

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Five Ways to Make Your House Accessible for Your Disabled Child

Unfortunately, today’s society is not geared toward making the lives of those with disabilities easier. Ramps are not as common as they should be. Movies aren’t shown with subtitles often enough. Bathrooms, at the best of times, are hazardous. If your child has a disability, they should not have to face such difficulties at home. There are numerous things you can do to transform your home into the sanctuary your child needs, many within a reasonable budget.

Threshold

Let’s start with the beginning, when your child will be entering the home. If your child uses a wheelchair, forearm crutches, a cane, or any implement to help movement, stairs are a nightmare. According to Angie’s List, “A threshold ramp in a doorway could cost as little as $100, but larger ramps, depending on material and size, can cost $1,000 to $15,000.” A hundred dollars is a completely affordable way to help your child navigate in and out of the home while maintaining independence.

The Bathroom

The restroom is possibly the most difficult room of the home to navigate when you have limited mobility. You need to consider access to the sink, the toilet, and the tub/shower, and you need to be sure your child has room to maneuver easily. You may need to expand the doorway so your child can comfortably access the room alone. Depending on what machinery your child uses, you also might need to raise or lower the sink. You can add grab bars and handrails for your child to be able to easily use the toilet and the bathtub, or you can opt for a door-access tub or a wheelchair-friendly shower.

Flooring

You will have to consider every room your child is going to access. If you currently have flooring that is not smooth, that can bunch, has gaps or is porous, moving about the home is going to be difficult, and potentially dangerous, for your child. It needs to be durable and slip resistant to help your child. If your child uses a wheelchair, then it will require extra resilience, as the wheels may cause deterioration or grooves in the surface over time.

The Kitchen

If your child is young, it may seem easier to simply make sure the kitchen is off-limits for their own protection. But, as your child ages, it may become important to them to have access to the kitchen, such as to get a snack, a drink, or make themselves a meal. If you can aid their independence, you should strive to do so. Again, you will need to make sure pathways are wide enough for your child to easily navigate. Like with the bathroom, you might consider adjusting the height of the sink to be at the level your child can best access. It is often easier to use a sliding cabinet door than one that pulls open, simply because the open door may force the user to move to make room for it. Make sure your counter-tops do not have dangerous edges, as they can easily cause injury.

Stairways

If you live in a two-story home, it will be imperative to render the staircase manageable for your child. Depending on mobility, handrails on both sides of the stairs may be beneficial. If there is carpet, ensure that it is properly tucked and stapled down to minimize the risk of trips and falls. Non-slip adhesive can be applied to further aid stability. If your child has a wheelchair, you should consider installing a stair lift, as doing so is much more reasonably priced than installing an elevator.

The world is not made to accommodate disabilities, but that doesn’t mean our homes can’t be fitted to help those with disabilities flourish. Times are changing, but it remains a slow process. You can help your child feel at home, safe and encourage their independence by making your house into the sanctuary it should be.

Jealousy: Can it be a good thing?

When people think about jealousy, it’s natural to assume that it’s only ever a bad thing. After all, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others and should instead be happy with ourselves. If only this could happen so easily.

Thanks to social media, it has become increasingly difficult not to compare ourselves to others. But it’s easy to forget that people only put on social media what they choose to. It’s therefore not a realistic representation of their lives.

I have been thinking recently about how jealousy has the potential to be used as a positive; as a way of highlighting what you really want in life and in turn enabling someone to make the changes in their life in order to achieve it.

It can be so easy to just carry on with the way life is because it’s easier than trying something different and possibly failing. But what if you see someone else achieve their goals? Can it not make you feel as though you can also achieve yours?

Not all type of jealousy is so easily rectified though. If you’re jealous of the way someone looks or how much money they earn in comparison to you, this can’t always be changed. Therefore the way of combatting this jealousy is learning how to be happy with what you have in life, and unfortunately that’s not always as easy.

But turning jealousy into a positive can help create life goals and positive ways of changing. Jealously can perhaps be the mirror you hold up to your own life and realise what you want to change in order to be truly happy.

*Sarah Keeping is currently undertaking a Counselling Skills course in London and is looking to change her professional subject area to Counselling Psychology. Previous qualifications are in Investigative Psychology, Psychology, Applied Criminology, and Criminology and Sociology. Follow Sarah on twitter at @SKeeping_Psych

How to create the ultimate backyard oasis for children with Autism

Create the Ultimate Backyard Oasis for Children With Autism

by Danny Knight

For parents of children on the autism spectrum, spending time outdoors over the summer can be a source of both fear and fun. Nature play is calming for children on the autism spectrum, as well as educational and therapeutic. At the same time, your garden space also poses some safety hazards. When the weather starts to warm up and everyone migrates outside, eliminate the worry by making your backyard safe, accessible, and functional for everyone in the family.

Address Safety Concerns

There are some outdoor safety hazards that are a higher risk to children on the autism spectrum. For example, it is common for children on the autism spectrum to be fascinated by water, so they may be more likely to wander too close to a pool or fountain. Keep these general tips to keep in mind for backyard safety:

  • If you have a pool, the entire pool area should be fenced off so that children never have access to it without being supervised. Consider installing a pool alarm that will go off any time someone enters the water without warning. And while pool safety and preventing accidents is your primary goal, Autism Parenting Magazine recommends that children also learn to swim so they know how to manage in water.
  • Any chemicals that are used for pools, lawns, and gardens should be locked away. These include weed killers, fertilizer, pesticides, and gas for lawn mowers. Your best bet is to designate a single spot in your garage where you keep all of these items locked.
  • When spending time outdoors over summer, be aware of heat and sun exposure. If your child has difficulties with sensory processing or limited verbal communication, they may not be able to communicate while becoming overheated.

Maximize Function and Accessibility

As long as you’re aware of safety concerns, being outside in the garden can be incredibly rewarding for you and your child. Many children on the autism spectrum actually learn better and are more open to new experiences when they are outdoors, which has led some schools to create outdoor classrooms. You can create the same rich learning environment in your own backyard by setting up a space tailored to your child.

Children who are on the autism spectrum have unique sensory needs — they thrive when they have access to activities that engage the senses, yet they also need a calm and soothing space where they can disconnect from stimuli. The ideal outdoor space will have two distinct areas so they can go to a certain spot in the garden to meet each of these needs.

Set up your garden with these ideas in mind:

  • Create an outdoor space that feels safe and secure for your child. The American Society of Landscape Architects recommends setting clearly visible boundaries to create this effect. You can do this with a fence, landscaping, or some combination. Give your child their own space separate from activity as well, and make sure it is shaded so they have a calm and comfortable place to retreat.
  • Create an engaging space with outdoor sensory activities. When you set up sensory play outdoors, the options are limitless, and you can use all sorts of materials without worrying about mess. Try water activities, soap foam, sand, ice… even mud!
  • Create spaces for physical activity. Planting a vegetable gardening is an easy way for children to enjoy nature while getting some physical activity too. Be sure to have gardening gloves, shovels, and watering cans for yourself and children so the whole family can be involved. Children who are on the autism spectrum sometimes have challenges with motor skills, so this is a great way to practice those skills in a low-key and relaxing environment.

When the weather warms up and everyone heads outdoors, it can be therapeutic to get back to nature and away from the sights and sounds of “real” life. Don’t let worries about safety keep you and your child from enjoying the outdoors together! Your children will love having an outdoor oasis that provides sensory fun and a calming refuge.

Bullying in the British Culture: Learn to stand up for yourself and your friends

I believe there is an underlying manner of bullying within the United Kingdom.  Through my experience, many Brits do not express themselves- they can either be quite passive-aggressive or just repress many emotions. I think many of them especially within the school systems are too scared to stand up and teach that bullying is not acceptable. In America, even though bullying does happen everywhere around the world we have a zero tolerance to bullying and ill-behavior.  Let’s see what Georgia Farrugia The Brighton Mental Health and Wellness Centre’s April’s Guest Blogger has to say about bulling. It’s always great to get new perspectives on things. After all, we only know what we experience in our lives.
LIKEABILITY
So here is the thing, we all want to be liked right. We compare ourselves to our neighbour in class, our friend or colleague – and most of all, the person we wish we could be like. See God made us unique. Every single one of us has a purpose, and every single one of us has a passion. I will start this with, it is OK TO BE YOU – You are perfect as you are. 
BULLYING
I know what this is like, to be left out, to not fit in. I went through it, with a total of five school moves and hating who I was and questioning why I was going through it.
However, look back at what I just said– that every single one of us has a purpose, and every single one of us has a passion. Even when I was going through some of my HARDEST times imaginable, I knew there must have been a reason. To help people possibly? And the passion – it is the very reason I have written this blog for you. To tell you that with your own inner strength you WILL get through the tournament. And so it is ok to not fit in the box of those who are doing the bullying – because you were put on this earth to create your own box. 
 
School bullying (or can be applied to any one aspect of life): SCHOOL IS NOT YOUR LIFE. The same way that your gender, religion, hair style or family background does not entirely define you, school is not your life (or your job/bullying in work). It may be what you know up to now or take up the majority of your time, but the same as when you were 7 you didn’t know what you’d achieve or how great you’d be at 17, great times will come and there will be triumphs that you just don’t know yet. 
 
You are going to reach milestones and your experience of life is going to evolve and once this period in your life has passed, you will have memories, but school itself, or the adversity you are facing, will not define you and eventually those memories will become the distant past. You are free to choose how to live your life and WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Make that decision count, not what the tormentors say. 
 
One day, life will revolve around new relationships and jobs, college or university, there may be friends, holidays or religion or a faith that may come into your life – what I am showing you is that your life will have other meaning and the nugget in this is, do not let your current or past experiences define who you are, how you believe in yourself or who you will become. 
 

It is that the hardest times in our lives that will make us the strongest people and enable us to achieve our best. I wish you the best. 

Would you like to get in touch with Georgia? Tweet her here: @mcrgeorgia https://twitter.com/mcrgeorgia

Have you ever been bullied? Do you need help establishing stronger boundaries within your own relationships? Please get in touch with the centre today! www.brightonwellnesscentre.co.uk.

Do I have an Unhealthy Relationship with My Child? Unhealthy Attachments and How Anxiety and Worry Won’t Help You

If you are someone who is prone to worrying and anxiety, you will understand how stressful it can be to have children. Do I worry about my children? Sometimes. Do I have anxiety when it comes to my children? Sometimes. But when does it become unhealthy? When does having worry and anxiety mess with healthy boundaries between yourself and your child?

Having anxiety is normal. You see, there is good anxiety and then there is bad anxiety. The good anxiety is – how I like to explain it – as a survival skill. If you are a sensitive person and in touch with yourself and other people you will get what I am saying. We as human beings are animals. However, we don’t have the specific form of instinct. We have what is called intuition. And, part of this ‘intuition’ that we as human beings have there lays anxiety. Anxiety can help us stay out of a situation or warn us if there is trouble. Anxiety is part of our make up; everyone has it! However, like anything else there is a spectrum of disorders and a spectrum of personalities that we all endure.

What does anxiety feel like? 

It’s that funny feeling of butterflies in our stomach. It’s that uneasy feeling that something isn’t right. That is how you would describe the good anxiety.

Sometimes when I work with children, I ask them to put a colour on the anxiety that they are feeling. “Where do you feel this funny feeling? What colour is it?” I would ask. This can help children understand what they are actually feeling. And, sometimes…the colour surprises me! I can always relate a colour to a safe feeling or safe object which relieves many children and parents as well.

What is bad anxiety? And, why do I feel bad anxiety?  

The bad anxiety that leads to catastrophic thinking (catastrophising) and unhealthy attachments with our children and our partners, well that is something entirely different. Bad anxiety is an anxiety that gets our knickers in a twist. Bad anxiety stresses us out, makes us shout, increases worry, causes unhealthy attachments with our children and partners, can make us depressed, in some cases make us use drugs and alcohol, can take away concentration in school work and office work and much more.

Bad anxiety or unwanted anxiety (we don’t usually us the word good and bad in a counselling session- it’s usually unhealthy and healthy or desired and undesired behaviour- I am just trying to make a point)- can leave us feeling pretty crappy sometimes. It can leave us feeling isolated and alone. It can also keep you stuck in the house if the anxiety is too overwhelming.

How does anxiety effect unhealthy attachments? 

For those that have anxiety and over-worry it can be quite stressful for the child. Having a parent that over-worries can make the child over think and over-worry, thus not being a risk taker. The child might always question him or herself in everything that they do. They also may manipulate the parent and ‘need’ the parent psychologically when it may not be an age appropriate benchmark. These can then effect future relationships with other people as the child grows and gets older.

You see, attachment starts at the age of 0-2. These years are the most important when it comes to attachment, healthy boundaries and relationships. It’s all connected and quite complex. Loads of psychologists have written and studies about attachment.

The more anxious a parent it the greater risk of having an unhealthy attachment. Do you want to learn more about this fascinating concept? Check out Bowlby’s Attachment Theory!

If you or anyone suffers from anxiety and over-worry and it is effecting your child- The Brighton Wellness Centre in Hove, East Sussex can help. 

This week’s book pick! How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

Do I have an unhealthy relationship with my child: Unhealthy attachments and how anxiety and worry won’t help you

If you are someone who is prone to worrying and anxiety then you will understand how stressful it can be when you have children. Do I worry about my children? Sometimes. Do I have anxiety when it comes to my children? Sometimes. But when does it become unhealthy? When does having worry and anxiety mess with the healthy boundaries of you and your child?

Having anxiety is normal. You see, there is good anxiety and then there is bad anxiety. The good anxiety is- how I like to explain it- as a survival skill. If you are a sensitive person and in touch with yourself and other people you will get what I am saying. We as human beings are animals. However, we don’t have the specific form of instinct. We have what is called intuition. And, part of this ‘intuition’ that we as human beings have there lays anxiety. Anxiety can help us stay out of a situation or warn us if there is trouble. Anxiety is part of our make up; everyone has it! However, like anything else there is a spectrum of disorders and a spectrum of personalities that we all endure.

What does anxiety feel like? 

It’s that funny feeling of butterflies in our stomach. It’s that uneasy feeling that something isn’t right. That is how you would describe the good anxiety.

Sometimes when I work with children, I ask them to put a colour on the anxiety that they are feeling. “Where do you feel this funny feeling? What colour is it?” I would ask. This can help children understand what they are actually feeling. And, sometimes…the colour surprises me! I can always relate a colour to a safe feeling or safe object which relieves many children and parents as well.

What is bad anxiety? And, why do I feel bad anxiety?  

The bad anxiety that leads to catastrophic thinking (catastrophising) and unhealthy attachments with our children and our partners, well that is something entirely different. Bad anxiety is an anxiety that gets our knickers in a twist. Bad anxiety stresses us out, makes us shout, increases worry, causes unhealthy attachments with our children and partners, can make us depressed, in some cases make us use drugs and alcohol, can take away concentration in school work and office work and much more.

Bad anxiety or unwanted anxiety (we don’t usually us the word good and bad in a counselling session- it’s usually unhealthy and healthy or desired and undesired behaviour- I am just trying to make a point)- can leave us feeling pretty crappy sometimes. It can leave us feeling isolated and alone. It can also keep you stuck in the house if the anxiety is too overwhelming.

How does anxiety effect unhealthy attachments? 

For those that have anxiety and over-worry it can be quite stressful for the child. Having a parent that over-worries can make the child over think and over-worry, thus not being a risk taker. The child might always question him or herself in everything that they do. They also may manipulate the parent and ‘need’ the parent psychologically when it may not be an age appropriate benchmark. These can then effect future relationships with other people as the child grows and gets older.

You see, attachment starts at the age of 0-2. These years are the most important when it comes to attachment, healthy boundaries and relationships. It’s all connected and quite complex. Loads of psychologists have written and studies about attachment.

The more anxious a parent it the greater risk of having an unhealthy attachment. Do you want to learn more about this fascinating concept? Check out Bowlby’s Attachment Theory!

If you or anyone suffers from anxiety and over-worry and it is effecting your child- The Brighton Wellness Centre in Hove, East Sussex can help. 

This week’s book pick! How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.