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Being a single parent family

Photo: As a single parent, it's especially important to look after yourself as well as your children.

Raising children can bring challenges, and as wonderful as they are, when you’re raising a child alone the challenges can feel even bigger. As a parent, you play a central role in supporting your child’s emotional, social, educational and health development.

It’s important that you feel equipped to be there as a role model, as someone they can turn to for comfort and support and that you can really enjoy watching them grow with lots of everyday play and fun.

Sometimes when we’re trying to do everything for our child, juggling competing demands like work and medical appointments as well as your child’s everyday needs, being a parent can feel a bit overwhelming. At times like this, it’s really important to take care of yourself too.

Oyin is mum to twins Toni and Tosin (12), both of whom are profoundly deaf.

“You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. Prioritise, choose your battles, and constantly reassess what needs doing. It doesn’t matter if nonessential things don’t get done. You have to make time for yourself too – don’t feel it’s selfish. If you’re tired and overwhelmed, you can’t support them. You can be fantastic at everything, but not all at once.”

Support from your family and friends and those around you

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support when you need it. As single parents, we sometimes feel the need to make it look like everything is running smoothly and we’re always OK. The truth is everyone need help sometimes. If you’re lucky enough to have a network of family or friends that your child can learn to trust and be comfortable with then make the most of that by asking them to babysit for an evening, or even sitting with the kids for an hour while you have a bath.
  • Let your employer know what the situation is, and that you’re clear about your rights at work for parental leave. Does your employer have flexible working options to help you balance work and family life, so you can be there to support your child?
  • Ask if a friend or family member can come with you to important medical appointments. The information shared at appointments can feel like a lot to take in, especially in the early weeks and months. Ask someone to go with you to make notes, take things in and remind you to ask questions while you’re trying to make sense of everything.
  • Keep your friends and family in the loop about decisions you’re making for and with your child. This helps them to understand why you’re making those choices and then when they care for your child or are with you and your child, they can fully support those decisions.
  • Invite your family and friends to join you at our online events. They can learn more about childhood deafness and how to be there for both you and your child. 
  • It may really help if you can find time to meet other families with deaf children in your area. Joining a local group can be a great way of meeting other families, allowing your child to connect with other deaf children. 
  • You may also find it helpful to connect with single parent charities that can connect you with other families for support and friendship. Gingerbread is a great source of information and support.

Communicating together

  • Developing good communication in the early years is vital as good communications skills help children to develop emotional, personal and social skills. Whether your child uses sign language or speech, it’s important that they’re around other people who can adapt to how they communicate. Get your wider family and friends to think about how they can adapt to your child and learn new communication skills themselves.
  • Sometimes you’ll both be tired, making communication more challenging. Try and work together to understand when communication fatigue might set in. Perhaps when your child gets in from school they want to take their hearing aids out and relax for a while. That might be frustrating because you’re busy, want to know what they want for tea or want to chat about their day. Find other ways to communicate or acknowledge that that’s the time for relaxing and you’ll communicate again a bit later once they have regrouped. Learn more about communicating with your deaf child

Partner with professionals

  • As a single parent, it’s important that you and professionals are working together to get the best possible outcomes for your child. You know your child’s needs best and are the “expert” in them, and the professionals who work with your child, such as audiologists and Teachers of the Deaf, can partner with you to bring their expertise and get the right outcomes for your child.
  • Appointment times and expectations of professionals may not always be realistic when you’re juggling all your child’s needs, especially if you’re also working. Try to be clear with professionals about what’s realistic for you, and ask them to support your needs as a family where at all possible. Of course, sometimes things like hospital appointments can’t be changed, but where possible try and ensure your needs are met.
  • Remember to ask questions when you need to. When your child is first identified as deaf, the amount of information and terminology you’re expected to absorb is overwhelming, so make sure you understand what’s been said before leaving the appointment, and always ask for copies of reports and documents so you can read things later on. It can help to write your questions down before going into the appointment.

Your own wellbeing

  • However much we all do our best to be there as much as possible, it’s important to recognise that our children do best when we also take care of ourselves. As a single parent there is often very little opportunity to take a break and switch off. Even if you can find a very small amount of time each day to do something just for yourself, try to think consciously about what you’re doing in that time. Practising mindfulness can help you to find small moments throughout the day to relax.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your child play independently and sit back and relax a little. As parents, we often feel we need to be involved in every aspect of our children’s lives, but developing independent play skills can help them develop important independence skills for later on. Sit somewhere your child can still see you, so they know you’re there if they need you. 
  • Get more information on supporting your own mental health.