5 ways to break practiced patterns of pessimism surrounding Christmas

Each draft of this blog I started in different ways but kept ending up in the same place.  It was like my words spilled out, flowing into the ruts of practiced patterns of pessimism.

Practiced patterns of pessimism

So, let’s get the negatives out of the way, naming them and recognising that for some single parents, Christmas can be fraught with difficulties:

  • Just saying the word increases your stress levels as you think about strained finances and trying to buy Christmas presents on top of an already stressed budget.
  • It can remind you what has been lost – the loss of a significant other from your life and now there’s been no one to buy you that special present and no one to plan what to buy the kids and enjoy wrapping their gifts together.
  • Instead of doing Christmas as a family you may now have to share care, negotiate with the other parent and plan with precision who will have the children when and how handover will take place.
  • If the other parent is absent this may increase the pain for the children,
  • Christmas can create a sense of isolation and failure as you feel like everyone is gathering in perfect families together whilst you are doing life on your own.
  • Some single parents may end up spending some of Christmas alone.
  • There can be anger at the situation.
  • There may be sadness that there aren’t as many presents under the tree as there used to be.

I could keep listing and I think that would just reinforce the practiced patterns of pessimism that exist with single parents at Christmas time. So enough of the difficulties.

All the negatives may cloud your perception of Christmas and obscure the joy. But your kids may not be seeing it like that.

Part of your role of being a parent is creating happy childhood memories of Christmas for your children. So how can you do this?

  1. Remember the positive feelings of Christmas from your childhood

Think back to your childhood memories of Christmas. For most children Christmas is a time of great joy, expectation, food, family, presents, pageants, Father Christmas. In Australia it’s the long school holidays so it’s a time of catching up with friends. The weather is warm so there is swimming, daylight saving so staying out in daylight hours till early evening. It’s a time of relaxation and fun.

Plan how you can do some of these things with your children over the Christmas holidays.

  1. Role model

You are a role model to your children. They will be picking up cues from you about Christmas. If they see your doom and gloom, your pain will colour their view of Christmas.

So, find ways to deal with the difficulties of Christmas so that you can find your joy in Christmas.

It may look different from how you always thought it will be. You may need to grieve again your dream of the happy family and what Christmas looks like in this fairytale. Find someone that you can express your hurt and your grief to. This could be a friend, make sure they are safe, or it could be in a formal counselling session, but process your grief so Christmas pricks the wound less.

  1. Reframe some of the difficulties of Christmas into opportunities.

Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

When the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by, I am spending part of Christmas alone, this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe it to saying,  ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’ Click here to read more

  1. Put the children first.

Find ways to negotiate with the other parent keeping any angst and difficulties away from the children. Click here to read the blog  The one step when dealing with the other parent.

  1. Find ways to create new family memories around Christmas.

Firstly, remember you are a family. Click here to read 8 steps to see yourself as a family – not a broken one. Find ways to play as a family. You can also play as an adult.

Putting legs on it

Identify your practiced patterns of pessimism and seek help if you need it to deal with the grief or anger.

How can you reframe Christmas into an opportunity for you and your family?

Think of one new family activity you can do that will become part of your family experience and memories of Christmas.

Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash


Do these 4 things when you don’t have your kids

The house is quiet as the kids are not home, but I’m feeling sick. In the early days of my single parenting my ex lived overseas and as my family lived interstate I cared for my kids full time. This was my first weekend without them. I had longed for it, planned for it, and now here I was, Sunday afternoon, ill.  The cause of being sick – over indulgence. I had tried to pack every desire into the weekend. I had eaten my favourite takeaway meal as I only had me to buy for. I had watched back to back romantic comedy movies, but I think it was the packet of chocolate biscuits, at least one block of chocolate and a packet of red frogs that upset my stomach. As my body ailed, so did my mind and I wallowed in self-pity, focusing on my circumstances and my loneliness

So, I went to sit by my fish pond (not the one above!), one of my favourite places to relax, journal, and for me to hear from God. This is the life lesson that came to me:

  • don’t cram every pleasure into time without my kids
  • take a balanced approached and ensure I self-care
  • re-create by doing something I love
  • connect with others to lessen the loneliness and invest a little in me and my future

You may have other things to add to your list or not relate to some of mine, but these have helped me enjoy, be re-invigorated and grow through the time I don’t have my kids. Once my ex moved back to Australia, we began turnabout weekends and this time alone become a source of strength to me and lost its ‘woe is me, I hate my life’ focus.

4 things to do when you don’t have your kids as a single parent

  1. Self-care
  2. Re-create
  3. Connect
  4. Invest


Self-care is not selfish. Self-care allows you to continue in the role as a single parent for the long term. It improves the flow of love and quality of your parenting as you are refreshed and giving of yourself from a full tank. Self-care includes resting, de-stressing, looking after your health (so a few treats, not the whole block of chocolate and packet of lollies in one sitting) and having some re-creation.


Re-creation is another way of looking at recreation. You might think of recreation as something you do for enjoyment when you are not working. Re-creation goes further in doing something that builds you up and fuels you to continue life.

You can re-create by doing a physical activity that also adds to your physical and mental health. If it’s a team sport it may improve your relational health too.

Many re-creation activities like craft work, journaling, doing the crossword or a jigsaw puzzle and playing a musical instrument produce a mental state called ‘flow’. Flow is when you lose track of time and thoughts are focused on what has your attention – so your mind is not wandering or focused on you. Being in a state of ‘flow’ turns down your bodies stress reaction.


You are not designed to do life alone. Loneliness is bad for your health. You need people to support you as part of caring for yourself.

Loneliness has a mixture of social and emotional aspects.  The social aspect of loneliness comes due to a disruption in social networks. Emotional loneliness is due to lack and/or loss of intimate relationships. It’s common as a single parent to experience both of these – you may have lost your partner, you may have moved neighbourhoods, a low income can reduce chances to participate in group activities like sport and going out with friends.

There are ways to overcome this without spending money. Can you volunteer somewhere, join a book club through the local library, ring or skype a friend you don’t live near, meet up with friends for morning tea rather than lunch which would be more expensive?


Use your alone time to invest in yourself and your future, to create a vision that doesn’t completely depend on your role as a parent. Find and fill your passion and purpose beyond being a parent to help with this. Mine was writing.  This grew from a flow activity of journaling to writing books and courses that became my business His Heart Ministry Training. I joined writing groups, did some courses and invested my time without my children in living my purpose and building my future. Living your purpose is the goal of health.

If you are spiritual, use the alone time for contemplation, meditation or prayer.

So, instead of feeling sorry for yourself and trying to indulge every desire, as I did, use your time without your kids to your advantage. Doing something you enjoy, builds you up and refreshes you. You can learn to reframe it from a painful situation to something you may look forward to.

Putting legs on it

List one thing you can do under each heading and think about if you can combine them. Eg. Journaling for me was self-care, a flow activity and became an investment in myself and my future. I even connected with others through writing groups.

  1. Self-care
  2. Re- create
  3. Connect
  4. Invest

Now schedule it on your calendar.


How to have some R and R – rest and restoration


5 steps to change loneliness from a burden to a bonus

5 reasons to pursue your passion and purpose beyond parenting

A message for ‘Stubborn Independent Control Freaks’

It was a moment of revelation. Tears pricked my eyes as I realised in trying to be independent, I was in fact selfish and had denied Rachel the chance to join in with us.  I had excluded her from a fun time with good food, friendship, laughter, and building connection with each other. She also missed the hard work.

My homegroup had ‘offered’ to help me re-arrange my house, clean, and build a dog fence as my parents are coming to live with me for a few months whilst in-between houses. Our dogs don’t get along and will need to be separated.  We moved furniture to create two rooms for them and I moved into my son’s old bedroom, packing his gear into the shed. In displacing heavy furniture, we cleaned gigantic dust bunnies and dusted unreached areas. On the plus side I found a favourite earring I lost a year ago, revisiting an unanswered question, ‘how did it get there?’

Here’s our to do list:

As previously mentioned in where are you on the control freak scale‘, this was a difficult thing for me, having others help me. I am paddling my own canoe, pushing others away, as I don’t want to appear needy or unable to look after myself. Last time they offered to help with the garden when the weeds were taller than the windows (see How to help single parents move on the ‘control scale’ and accept help) I cheated by paying the lawn mowing man to whipper snip the weeds as well. Short term solution but it gave an impression of not requiring their help. But this job was beyond me. I knew I needed help. The group organised to come, and I was meant to ring Rachel and invite her.

When I saw her at church after the working bee, the realisation stabbed me. By not inviting her it saved my pride but it was a disservice to her. The group had bonded in the hard work. We had a shared the experience of red back spiders, dust and cake. We had laughed and gotten to know each better as we chatted through the tasks. Despite giving up time on a Saturday, we enjoyed ourselves and did a great job. But Rachel had missed out.

By keeping the spotlight on, my own humiliation in asking for help, I had denied Rachel the chance to be a part of a group community building experience.

So, no five steps in how to do something today. Just a story with a moral to show you, who are stubborn independent control freaks, that in reaching out and allowing others to help you, you are benefitting them as well.

Michelle L Sullivan in a 10-minute TED talk, ‘Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness,’ says ‘We have a role to play in other people’s successes. In helping others, we share an experience together and we both grow and benefit, even with strangers.’ She talks about ‘compassion, courage, understanding’ as we walk side by side. We all need others – sometime the need is obvious, sometimes it must be revealed.

Reversing that, other people are a part of my success and I can give them that opportunity by revealing my need and asking for help.  They will grow and benefit from helping. We are better together.

My learning in summary. It is selfish of me not to ask for help. I am denying others an opportunity that will benefit them.

I apologised to Rachel and it turns out she couldn’t have come. But that is not the point. I excluded her based on my embarrassment and my efforts to be independent and in control.

Putting legs on it.

What area are your struggling with?

What help do you need?

Who can you ask?

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter

Pay it forward

Reachout.com: Pay it forward

Pay it forward day

Random acts of kindness

Where are you on the control freak scale?

I have a theory – and it is just a Vicky Legge theory about a control freak scale!  At one end is the illusion you have no control and the other – the independent, stubborn control freak.

The control freak scale scale

My theory says many single parents sit at the independent stubborn control freak end of the scale. The very act of single parenting creates this in you. Nothing in the house happens without you. You must think through and enact everything. You control everything. Even if the kids do chores, you have set up the schedule, you do the reminding and monitor if they have been done. You answer every question fired at you and help with homework! You are the maid, entertainment coordinator, gardener, taxi driver, budgeter, cook, and the endless list of providing what your family needs. I blame the nature of single parenting for pushing you to the extreme end of the scale.

At the other end of the scale is believing you have no control, not taking any responsibility for your life, expecting everyone else to solve your problems and meet your needs. Again, some single parents are pushed to this end of the scale by their circumstances. Poverty (and many single parents live below the poverty line) can create a cycle of welfare and powerlessness. Combine this with the overwhelming load of coping on your own especially if you are isolated, can make you dependent on others and handouts just to get by. This can be humiliating and devaluing, creating a mindset that you have no control, you are helpless and need others to supply all you need.

Neither of these is healthy.

I sit at the independent control freak end as do many of the single parents I have ministered with. In reflection, I can also see the influence of my family and my childhood contributing to this. I was raised in a family that said, ‘love many, trust a few and always paddle you own canoe,’ and the circumstances of being raised in a single parent home meant I took this on board to a deep level of never receiving help, let alone asking for it.

So now I am in a battle of wills between people trying to help me and me refusing, and I am learning the value of moving to the middle of the control freak scale and how to get there.  It comes from relationship.

holding hands brooke-cagle-unsplash

Pay it back, pay it forward, care for yourself, live your purpose

I refused help because I thought I had to reciprocate. I believed that if someone cooked a meal for us then I had to do the same for them. Three problems with this: a) I can’t cook very well b) I hate cooking and c) I don’t have time to cook for myself let alone the time or money to do it some for someone else.

I have learnt you don’t give the same gift in return. I do have a friend who cooks meals for us regularly, more often when she knows I have deadlines or I am unwell. She says I pay her back by spending time with her as a sounding board.

You can pay it forward where, if you receive a kindness, you do one for someone else.  Read about the benefits to you and the community if you do this click here 

The help can be a gift to release you to care for yourself or live your purpose both of which helps you, role models to your kids and potentially impacts others. You have value and are worth investing in.

Moving to the middle on the scale

So, the solution is to accept help that is offered from relationship, from people who wish to invest in you, but not as welfare or a project.  When friends offer to cook tea one night, look after your kids or weed your garden (are you listening to yourself Vicky!) you can use that time and energy to pursue your purpose or care for yourself.

See the help as an act of kindness that you can payback but it doesn’t have to be in the same way, pay it forward or accept as gift because you are valued and loved.

We are better together.

Putting legs on it

Where do you sit on the control freak scale?

No control___________________________________________________________Control freak

Are you declining help that is given in a loving respectful way? How can you change your attitude to this?

Are you demanding and expecting help without paying it forward? What random act of kindness can you do for someone else?

Are you valued and loved by others? If not, find a community who you can build friendships with. See blogs Increasing your support, How to build a friendship network, YouTube video on Using the circles of support

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter

Pay it forward

Reachout.com: Pay it forward 

Pay it forward day

Random acts of kindness

Photo credit: Holding hands Brook Cagle and Lone kayak Filip Mroz www.unsplash.com

The do’s and don’ts of love tank filling as a single parent

By the number of love songs around, you’d think we’d have the answer to, ‘I want to know what love is?’ All humans are born with an innate need to be loved – a hunger for love. Not having this need met fully leaves wounds and scars that take more than time to heal. Studies have shown that where children receive gestures of love – for example physical touch – they are healthier, grow normally, mature emotionally and are even more likely to survive.

So let me introduce you to a concept I’ve found helpful as a single parent, not only to understand the dynamic that was happening in my family around love, but ways to improve it for my benefit and the sake of my children.

It’s easier to draw on a whiteboard than write about, so here is a video explaining it (with lots of hand waving from me and two word substitutions. Apologies for the light reflection on the whiteboard.)

Watch the video ‘Love Tanks and Single Parents’ by clicking here

The effect of single parenting on a child’s love tank

In a single parent family, the potential supply of love to the child is halved. This is compounded by the parent losing vital filling of their love tank from their partner. Basically, the single parent will need to supply more love fuel to compensate for the loss of the other parent but they will have less available fuel to do it.

You will need to be strategic in filling your love tank because there is no partner to help fill you and you may be the only parent filling the child’s tank. Therefore, you need significant others to nourish you, the parent. You need to keep your tank as full as possible.

Filling love tanks

Other people can help supply the children’s tanks. Encourage other family members, mentors, friends to connect with your children and be a source to contribute to filling their love tanks.

Safety warning: be careful who you introduce and encourage to have relationship with your children. As a single parent you are at risk of being targeted by predators – aiming for you or your children. They befriend and groom. Be aware and trust your gut. If you have concerns speak up, check them out or don’t be friends. From personal experience trust your gut and act, even if others excuse the person’s behaviour.

As a Christ follower I have another love tank available to fill all the tanks – both mine and the children’s, and that is God. Unlike human love, His is limitless and not dependent upon our behaviour. It will flow freely to us as a free gift of grace whether we return it or not. As a single parent I tap into God’s love as a way to fill my tank, but also encourage my children to fill their tank straight from God too.

So the diagram of love tanks could look like:

Love tanks diagram

In summary

As a single parent you need to:

  • keep your tank full
  • ensure your love flows down to your child
  • ensure your child can receive your love (we will talk about languages of love later)
  • encourage/create opportunity for the other parent, if they are around, to contribute to filling the love tank of the child
  • develop relationship with others who can fill your child’s tank such as extended family, friends, mentors – but remember – be safe

 Putting legs on it

Click here for the worksheet to draw who is filling your love tank and answer the reflection questions.

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter

One Together: How to build a friendship network

One Together: Increasing your support

One Together: Why every single parent shouldn’t parent alone

Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The Five Love Languages of Children U.S.A: Northfield Publishing, 1997.

Gary Chapman: The 5 love languages profile for children

Ross Campbell (Dr). How to Really Love Your Child. U.S.A: SP Publications, 1992.


Hemfelt, R., Minirth, F., and Meier, P. (1989) Love is a Choice. Thomas Nelson Inc, U.S.A.

3 steps to organise your year as a single parent family

So I was reflecting on the second day of the New Year in the shower – as you do as a single parent because in the shower and the loo, you can generally get yourself at least a few minutes before being interrupted! I was asking myself why, on the first day of my schedule, I had already blown it.  My conclusion: trying to do too much. So I went back to the drawing board and followed a process I have used over the last nearly 2 decades that has helped us plan our year as a family. We call it our family planning session – nothing to do with contraception!

As you poke your head into 2017 here’s my 3 steps and lots of tips on how to organise your year as a single parent family.


You can experiment with the ideas and the tips in this blog to find what works for you but DO SOMETHING to create a family schedule or risk setting yourself a year of overload and being overwhelmed as you try to manage everyone’s activities and agendas for the year.

  1. Start with the big vision and map it out
  2. Create a calendar that everyone can see
  3. Prioritise and create a schedule for you (the parent) – this will be covered in the next blog

Step 1 Start with the big vision and map it out

Who will do what activity? As a single parent household this can take some planning. Some tips to help the process are:

  • Begin with a budget. How much income can be spared for activities?
  • Prioritise a wish list (or need list) for each person. This must include you the primary carer – you need something that is yours. It might be a craft, borrowing books from the library with some downtime to read, an exercise class or team sport, a walk on the beach or catching up with friends.
  • Research the options for top priorities that fit the budget.
  • Look for discounts if siblings or a child takes more than one class in the same school to keep the price down.
  • Create a draft activity calendar. Is it workable without stress? Driving in circles to drop and pick up kids in two different directions on the same night is not fun! I tried to cluster activities on the same night of the week and in the same area, so we had activity free nights.
  • Look for ways to connect with other parents to see if carpooling can be arranged.
  • Can you combine activities e.g. when my kids were at a dance class I walked with a friend in a nearby park or negotiated concurrent swimming lessons.
  • Ensure you have time together to relax and have fun as a family.

Step 2 Create a calendar that everyone can see

This helps everyone have an idea what is happening in the family. We still do this even though my kids are young adults. It looks different now that they are proficient readers and can add their own activities. A few hard lessons as teenagers were learned on not having the car available for their use as they hadn’t written an activity on the calendar and this helped create the habit!

In the early primary school days I used colours to differentiate each child, my own and family activities/appointments on the calendar, and we crossed off the days so we knew where the calendar was up to.  Later I’d print up each month through the computer to save writing the same stuff by hand and highlight in different colours each person’s activities. Birthday parties and other events were added by hand as they appeared. I tried to remember to copy it and put in the communication folder (editing out some of my bits) so their dad knew what the schedule was. Was the system perfect? No. But it did help me in particular to have some idea of what we were up to.

Step 3 Prioritise and create a schedule for you

The final step for me was to find a way to manage the many other demands on my life apart from single parenting which is where I had to learn to prioritise and create my own schedule. This will be covered in the next blog.

Good luck in the planning of your families activities for this year. May the structure lessen your stress.

Putting legs on it

Map your family activities for the year (or first semester)

Create a monthly calendar


Planning with kids: Getting organised at home – has list of relevant blog posts on this topic http://planningwithkids.com/2010/04/08/getting-organised-at-home/

Childhood 101: 10 simple ways to get your family more organised http://childhood101.com/2015/06/family-organisation-tips/

Photo credit Chris Greenhow unsplash.com

Three cheers for you!

You’ve nearly made it. The year is almost over and you have survived intact as a family. I want to celebrate you for all you are and do as a single parent. You are amazing!


Unless you’ve been a single parent or witnessed it up close, most people will never know how hard the slog is. Everything depends on you from income, to house work, to child-rearing, to playing monopoly on holidays. So as the year closes give yourself a pat on the back for making it.

Yes, you may have lost your temper, and yes, you may not always have made the best decisions. Fatigue can sap your energy and your ability to be rational, but you have loved your kids for another year. You have created a family for another year. You have provided for and cared for your kids. You have taught them much. You have kept them safe.

Where you made mistakes, apologise and forgive yourself. See blog 3 steps to take when you get it wrong as a parent

As the year ends I hope you find some time to be restored yourself. Some time to have fun and enjoy your kids, enjoy your family, and maybe even enjoy some alone time. Christmas can be especially difficult with the intricacies of shared care, but you can find ways to enjoy it and build happy memories for your kids.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and we will catch up again in 2017.

PS If you need some encouragement for 2017 click below for my 7 day devotional (contains Christian content).

The devotional is to encourage single parents, that even in the midst of the tiredness, struggle and daily grind of parenting on your own, there is hope. For me as a Christian, this hope comes from God and what He says about me and my circumstances from the Bible. It is the whisper of His presence when I feel alone and overwhelmed; the light of the promise of a future when my present appears a never ending tunnel of darkness. I want to share some short reflections, to take you on a journey for seven days, to show you that you are not alone in your role as a single parent. The God of the universe sees and cares for you. He sees your struggles and He is for you, and He cares about your children as well.

Photo credit: Chris Chadd stocksnap.io

How to reframe the problem of Christmas into an opportunity

Whose turn is it for Christmas?

The difficulties of shared care at Christmas can tarnish its celebration. However, you can reframe the problem into an opportunity.


Last time we talked about the other parent and Christmas is one of those times that the other parent will feature in your planning. You know the questions and statements: Who will have the kids on Christmas day? You had the kids last year, it’s my turn! My family’s having the big event with all the distant relatives coming so they should spend time with me. Whose house will they wake in? Not all of these are asked or delivered nicely!

There may be competition with present giving. There may be complications with wanting to take the kids away on holidays. Plus there are budget issues and potentially time alone. I’m sure you can add to the difficulties that arise at this time of year.

My family live interstate and when it was my ex’s turn for Christmas I had two choices: travel and celebrate with my family and miss seeing my kids for Christmas, or stay at home and see my kids for some of the day and spend the rest of the day alone.  Christmas can be a difficult time.

So with all that dross, how do you make Christmas the time of enjoyment and celebration that it is meant to be?

Reframe it.

Reframing is defined as ‘frame or express (words or a concept or plan) differently.’ 1Reframing is the art of changing how you think about something; putting a different meaning onto the same picture. It is reframing a problem or difficult situation into an opportunity.

So, in my example when the kids were going to spend Christmas with their dad’s family and I was going to spend time alone, I could say (and I did!), ‘Woe is me, I am so hard done by, I am spending part of Christmas alone, this is not how I wanted Christmas to be.’ I could reframe it saying,  ‘Isn’t it great the kids will spend part of Christmas with their dad and his extended family. This gives me time to do something different – child free.’

The ‘something different’ some years was having a meal with a friend and her large family who always welcomed me as part of their Christmas celebration. Another year it was getting together with a group of single mothers who were also child free and we enjoyed a meal of take away chicken and salads on the best china, no cooking and no kids interrupting the conversation. In all of this I can reframe my Christmas with the positive statement, ‘I don’t have to cook.’ I don’t enjoy cooking and I’m not very good at it – I have exploded a roast chicken.

Other ways to enjoy Christmas

Create new family traditions that don’t revolve around Christmas day such as looking at Christmas lights, attending a Christmas pageant, visiting Santa or attending community events. We would go to Carols by Candlelight in the local park, sit our chairs with friends and the kids would meet up with their friends from the local primary school. The kids were always excited when the notice and lights went up in the big pine tree in the park because it signalled the start of Christmas festivities.

You can develop a routine leading up to Christmas to create your family’s Christmas tradition which allows freedom for who the kids will be spending time with on Christmas day. Shared care on Christmas can be part of the tradition!

What have you done that creates a tradition or reframes Christmas? Please share you thoughts in the comments as this could help someone else.

Reminder: ‘what is best for the kids?’

Using the word ‘turn’ to describe who the kids will spend time with makes them sound like a pawn in a game, dehumanising the impact this has on their lives. It’s about us, the parent getting our needs met, not what is best for the children. We should consider them in our deliberations and conversations. See blog the one step in dealing with other parent

‘When dealing with a parenting partner, the golden rule is the children should be paramount in all considerations, with their welfare being of the utmost importance. Put the children first’.

Putting legs on it

Write down your thoughts about Christmas.  Now reframe them and tell yourself ‘the reframed story’ rather than the ‘woe is me’ one.

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter

University of the Sunshine Coast: reframing your thinking http://www.usc.edu.au/media/3850/Reframingyourthinking.pdf

For children’s books to support children in shared care arrangements (Christian content) ‘Caught in the Middle’ and ‘My two houses’ click here


  1. https://www.google.com.au/search?q=reframing&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&ei=ga80WMi9OcqEogO41p_wBw

Photo credit Jessica Ruscello unsplash.com


The one step in relating with the other parent

In running One Together workshops this has been the most challenging topic to discuss. It raises tensions because of the variety of opinions. How to relate with the other parent? For most single parents it is a source of pain, for many a source of conflict and for some there is the spectrum of the absent parent.

There is one step to relate with the other parent in all these situations: Put the children first.


When relating with a parenting partner the golden rule is the children should be paramount in all considerations, with their welfare being of the utmost importance.

For my ex-husband and myself, putting the children first involved everything. It included custody, access, property settlement and most importantly, how we spoke to and about each other in front of the children.

Let’s explore what that looks like:

  • Being parenting partners
  • Communication
  • Absent parents

Parenting partners

Both parents are important in the life and development of children and their involvement is an integral part of a healthy outcome for children of broken relationships. So while you are no longer together, you will remain parenting partners.

Professor of psychology, Dr Archibald Hart, describes in Helping Children Survive Divorce1 how each child, at the end of a marriage, has a right to see and love both parents. He claims it is the parent’s responsibility to facilitate this. An exception is where the child would be put at risk. Seek professional advice if this is the case.

The Australian Courts view on parenting arrangements is: ‘Contact with family members is considered to be the right of a child (not the right of a parent). 2

Research shows that if managed well parental separation is not harmful to children in the long term, but ongoing parental conflict is 3. Typically conflict can be seen in anger, verbal abuse, distrust, avoidance, control, criticism and problems communicating to the other parent. Conflict is not healthy for you either.


If the other parent is still involved in the children’s lives you will need to find a safe way to communicate with them. Putting children first in communication means:

  • Showing respect to your former partner – to their face and behind their back
  • Don’t use the children as spies
  • Don’t interrogate the children about the other parent
  • Don’t use the children as messengers

I found my children were good at eavesdropping so be careful how you speak even when you think the children can’t hear!

To help with communication consider using a communication folder where parents write notes to outline important events and put in relevant school notices, birthday party invitations and so on. If the child has an illness, a duplicate action plan or notes on managing it can be included as a reminder.

Both parents can sign up with the school for copies of the school newsletter and the child’s reports. I have friends who use public places like fast food outlets for handing over children for access visits. Some agencies offer a safe house so that neither parent has to see the other.  There can also be supervised visits arranged (see resources). For the sake of the children find a safe solution that is workable for you.

Absent parents

Children invariably put parents on a pedestal which will crash down during their teen years.  Even the absent parent will be idolized.

Walk the fine line between not bad mouthing the absent parent and giving enough information to satisfy the child that it is not their fault. Reassure them of your love. Read this article – ‘Absent Parent’ for more information.

As a parent, you owe it to your children to be the best parent you can be, healing and growing and pursuing your purpose in life. Dr Hart paints a picture of children at the end of a relationship being supported by two loving and growing parents, even if they are heading in different directions.

Putting legs on it

Can you improve how you put your children first in communication or being a parenting partner?

Do you want more than just to survive single parenting? Do you want to be your best and flourish as a family? Click here for ‘Successful Single Parenting’ chapter


For children’s books to support children in shared care arrangements (Christian content) ‘Caught in the Middle’ and ‘My two houses’ click here

Download the booklet Children and Separation http://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/BrochuresandPublications/Documents/Childrenandseparationbooklet.pdf

Download the booklet Supervised visits and change overs: http://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/BrochuresandPublications/Documents/supervised-visits-and-changeovers.pdf

Or visit the website: http://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/BrochuresandPublications/Pages/supervised-visits-and-changeovers.aspx

Family Lives, Absent parents:


HelpGuide: Co-parenting tips for divorced parents: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/family-divorce/co-parenting-tips-for-divorced-parents.htm


[1] Hart, A. (1996) Helping Children Survive Divorce. Word Publishing, U.S.A.

2 Family Relationships Online (2016), Children and Separation, Australian Government http://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/BrochuresandPublications/Pages/ChildrenAndSeparationBooklet.aspx

Family Relationships Online (2016), Children and Separation, Australian Government http://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/BrochuresandPublications/Pages/ChildrenAndSeparationBooklet.aspx

Photo credit Bonnie Kittle www.unsplash.com