How to navigate sibling issues as a single parent

Originally published on 10th April 2024 at 12:10 PM
Reading time: 3 mins
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Jo Middleton is Social and Content Manager at Frolo. She has two daughters, now 28 and 21 and has had plenty of experience of managing sibling relationships as a single and solo parent.

When most people think about navigating sibling relationships as a single parent they probably think about the classic jealousy and sibling rivalry issues, but my situation is a little different. There’s a seven year age gap between my daughters - I have two children with different fathers. I was just 17 when my first daughter was born and her father, although only 16, has always been there for her. My younger daughter however hasn’t been as lucky. Her father has had a lot of his own problems and after our nine year relationship ended things went downhill for him. My daughter is now 21 and it’s been over ten years since she has had a relationship with him.

As the remaining parent, this has been complicated to navigate. How do you explain to a young child why her big sister gets to go and visit her dad every weekend and she doesn’t? For a long time I felt a lot of guilt, blaming myself for the fact that her dad somehow wasn’t ‘as good’ as her sister’s. It was ultimately her decision to cease contact, and I have always tried to support and empower her decisions, but it was not the path she would have chosen if she’d felt she had a choice.

Single parenthood has its own unique challenges, and siblings' issues are no exception. It’s important to remember you’re not alone, and there are people and communities, such as Frolo, who can help support you through the journey.

In this blog, we look at some tips to help you navigate common siblings’ issues.

Tips to help you navigate siblings' issues as a single parent

Tip 1: Role-model how you want your children to behave

Your children will copy your behaviour. Try and be the best role model you can be, and this includes showing them how to resolve conflict with others in a respectful and calm way. Sibling rivalry is natural, but by teaching your children conflict-resolution skills, such as communication, you will avoid fights escalating. It can be doubly hard when you're the only parent to police bad behaviour, but stay focused, praise all forms of good behaviour, and celebrate small victories.

Tip 2: Set expectations

If you’re the only parent caring for your children, a benefit is that you have the opportunity to establish a clear set of expectations and rules. Having no other voices to undermine or cloud things really helps, so take advantage of this.

Tip 3: Encourage your children to be individuals

Help your children to have their own hobbies, activities and friends. This will help avoid jealousy or comparison with each other.

Tip 4: Create the conditions to make great memories

This doesn’t have to be particularly time-consuming or expensive, but you can help your children bond as siblings through family activities, day trips and family meals. Setting time aside to cook, bake or make together can be a great way of creating memories. Single parenthood can feel like an uphill struggle, but remember to enjoy the journey, as you won’t get these small moments back.

Tip 5: If you’re not sure, ask for help

Whether it’s from a friend or family member, ask for help when you’re struggling. Many parents in the Frolo community find it useful to talk about different issues relating to raising children and share their tips and advice. At the very least, it helps you to realise that you’re not alone.

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