This Entry is aimed at parents on low incomes in the UK, but may be of some assistance to others. Being a non-residential or single parent is difficult for both the adult living with the children and for the non-residential parent. It is also difficult for the children.
The Non-residential Parent
The non-residential parent is the one who does not live in the same property as the children. The non-residential parent may or may not be paying maintenance.
The non-residential parent who has contact with the children is involved in their upbringing and will enjoy the time he/she has with them. By having the children for the odd weekend or during school holidays the non-residential parent is allowing the single parent and the children to recharge their batteries. The children will benefit from this as much as the parents do and the non-residential parent still has the same feelings for the children and is still their mum/dad. The non-residential parent will enjoy taking the children out and doing things with them and will feel that he/she is still an influence in their lives.
The non-residential parent who has no contact with the children is not only letting the children down, but is also letting him/herself down. The children will still grow up wanting to know who they were and what they were like and one day may well want to get in touch with them. In the meantime the children will wonder and ask questions.
The Single Parent
The single parent is the one who has the children living with them most of the time, the person who has to cope with most of the responsibilities of bringing the children up.
In the first case we have the single parent, whose absent partner still has contact with the children and contributes to their upbringing. In this situation, the single parent receives maintenance and gets a break from the responsibilities when the absent partner has the children for weekends and parts of the school holidays. The children will benefit from this situation as the single parent will not be as mentally or physically drained, and they will still have regular contact with both parents. In most cases the single and non-residential parent can be civil with each other.
In the second case we have the single parent whose absent partner has no contact with the children, but may or may not be paying maintenance. In this situation the single parent can find it both physically and mentally tiring; they will have mood swings and snap at the children without realising they are doing it. Financially it is a strain even with the benefits that can be sought from the Department of Social Security. If working, the single parent will still find it financially draining with the childcare bill, the normal household bills, clothes and school dinners, etc. The children in this situation can also suffer no matter how much the single parent tries to ensure they don't. The children will find it difficult to discuss the non-residential parent and they will miss them, the only thing the single parent can do in this situation is give the children lots of love and support and be as open as possible without spoiling them; don't be vindictive if they want to discuss their non-residential parent.
Financial Support in the UK
If you're a single parent whose absent partner is not paying maintenance then you can apply to the Child Support Agency for assistance in getting it paid. This will be done automatically if you are not working and apply for benefits.
The benefits that can be applied for from the Department of Social Security (DSS) are Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support and One Parent Benefit. Free school meals can be applied for from the local Education Department and if the single parent is working 16 hours or more a week, Working Families Tax Credit can be applied for. To claim assistance with childcare you must use a registered child minder or club. You can obtain a form for this from Preston Tax Office. You will not be entitled to all these benefits as they are worked out on what you earn, what you have in savings and what you have coming in and going out. Make sure that you get the benefits you are entitled to. You will find information leaflets on these benefits in your local DSS Office and the Citizens Advice Bureau can be of great assistance.
There are support groups available when you need to talk about problems and can't talk to family. You do not have to give them your details so don't be scared to call them. Some support groups in the UK are:
You will find details of out of schools clubs, and playgroups and pre-school in your Yellow Pages under the headings:
- Children's out of Schools Care
- Baby Sitting and Childminding Services
- Playgroups and Pre-School
- Nursery Schools
Lists of registered child minders in your area can be obtained from your local council offices.
Remember, in order to claim for assistance with paying for childcare you must use a registered child minder or club!
Useful Sites in the USA
Having a Social Life
It is very important that you have a social life, even if you only manage to get out one night a week or go out for a coffee with a friend. An evening out doesn't have to be expensive - it's getting out with adult company that matters. Don't allow yourself to become a recluse, this only causes depression and frustration, which you will eventually take out on the children without realising it.
Family and friends
Family and friends can be of great support, but don't take advantage of them. The children will need all the family they have and will benefit from interaction with them. Listen to your family and friends advice, most of it will sound like criticism, but it isn't and it can be of great benefit.
The children will react in various ways to the breakdown of a marriage or relationship, so watch and listen to your children. Some will have mood swings and paddies, others will become withdrawn, and some may not be affected by it at all. Don't be afraid to seek help for your children. It's difficult to admit that there is something wrong, but for your children's sake you must. Your family GP can refer you to a child councillor. Your children will find it easier to speak to a trained Child Councillor about how they feel, what is happening to them and their non-residential parent, than they will to the parent they are living with and you will find it of great help too. If your children are happy then you will find it easier too.
Neither parent should ever run the other one down to the children. This is detrimental to the relationship between the children and their parents, and only ever causes harm. No matter what the problems are between the adults, the children should be encouraged to have a good relationship with both parents. The adult's feelings shouldn't come into it.
Assistance with Furniture
If you are not working or are on a low income you can purchase furniture and electrical goods from special centres. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to supply you with the address and phone number of your nearest centre.
Oh yes we all say it, 'I can never admit that'. Well, when you're supporting a child/children on your own and you get into debt, it's a long hard haul to get out of it and ignoring it won't make it go away. The Citizens Advice Bureau can offer confidential financial advice and will assist by writing to companies on your behalf. Don't be embarrassed - go and see them before you get into a real mess - the last thing you want is to have bailiffs at your door or court letters landing on your doormat.
A Personal Message from the Researcher
All I can say to conclude this is, that I hope you find it of some use. I have tried to think of all the little things that have niggled me over the years and have included information gathered from friends in similar situations and from the guide. I have tried to look at it from both angles and wish you luck in the future.