Becoming a single dad is a life-changing event and can feel pretty overwhelming sometimes, especially if you’re balancing working life with family life.
Gingerbread, the national charity for single parent families, has just launched a special section of its website for single dads where you can find information on a range of topics – from money and benefits, to childcare and family life – and chat and share experiences with other dads in the online forums. Here are six top tips from Gingerbread on ways to make things easier for working single dads and their families.
Parents have a special right by law to ask their employer for flexible working options. This could be compressed working hours, starting and finishing early or the option to work from home – see what your workplace offers and check if you’re eligible to apply for flexible working. If your partner has died and you have become a single dad to a baby, you may be able to take additional paternity leave.
As Dan has found, being a single dad means multi-tasking: “Being a single parent means one person doing two people’s work,” he says. “The hardest thing is finding time to do everything important – plus all the things that aren’t vital but still need doing.” Making a household budget can help you keep track of bills and expenses, and a family calendar can be useful to keep track of everyone’s schedules. If you’re struggling with debt, seek advice before the problem gets out of hand. The Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline can help – call 0808 802 0925.
Benefits and tax credits can be confusing, and you may feel uncomfortable about claiming benefits if you have previously relied on your own income, but don’t let that cause you to miss out on money your family is entitled to. Find out exactly what you can claim and get information about child benefit if your children live with you most of the time.
If you are working 16 hours a week or more you may be able to claim help with the cost of childcare through working tax credit if you are using childcare that is registered with Ofsted. Some employers may be able to offer you childcare vouchers – check to see if yours does. Three and four year olds can get 15 hours a week free early years childcare for 38 weeks of the year. This can be provided in a variety of settings including a pre-school, a nursery attached to a school, private day nursery or playgroup. Find out more about your childcare options.
Making time to have fun together – whether it’s going out for the day or staying in with a DVD – will help keep you close and make difficult times easier to deal with. Jonathan is raising his two young children alone after he and his wife separated, and explains how the family have fun: “We’ve got a routine. On Saturdays we go shopping, Sundays it’s swimming. We went to London for Chinese New Year. We manage to do different things even though we don’t have much money.”
. One in ten single parents in Britain is a dad like you, and there’s no need to struggle alone. Single dad Chris found chatting online to be a “lifeline” which helped him combat the loneliness he felt after his partner died, particularly “once the children are in bed we are locked in the house”. Why not try meeting other single dads in Gingerbread’s online forums, or join a local friendship group with other single parents in your area?
For more expert advice and information for single dads, head to www.gingerbread.org.uk.