When the kids need 1:1 and there’s just me

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  • #62006 Report


    Hello, I’m quite new here but have been drawing some strength and encouragement – plus loads of admiration and empathy for you all – from reading some posts.

     I have two boys, aged 10 and 5. I left their dad, taking them with me, this year because he cannot cope with parenting and this makes him aggressive towards them, breaking things/kicking doors etc in when he is angry.  It was particularly directed towards our eldest, who is on the autism spectrum.  I should have left years ago but wasn’t quite brave enough. We would try something new to try to help him cope better, and often it would for a little while, but then things would fall apart again. Eventually I realised we had tried everything, and it wasn’t going to change and I was worried about my childrens’ mental health.

    Because he finds it so hard to cope with the boys, he only has them for a few hours at a time, usually separately, never overnight. We only live a mile apart and he sees them regularly. Our families aren’t local and I don’t have real friends around here.

    The boys either get on great or fight. A lot of their play is rough and someone gets hurt but it is very hard to direct them to something else. They are in the world of their play and are often deaf to me/too focussed to hear me when I am asking/telling them something. This makes getting ready for bed/school/going out etc very hard. My younger son just wants to be with the older one constantly so will rarely engage in something else with me if his brother is around. The older one often has meltdowns and lashes out physically at his brother and I. He is getting bigger – and stronger!! – and I worry about how much my younger son gets hurt, even when I try to prevent it through trying to avoid triggers and through physically standing in the way.

    In these situations it feels they each need 1:1 to calm down, or to be able to focus and not distract each other from the task that needs to be done. They resist visual timetables, as is usually recommended for neurodiverse children, and I can’t afford childcare to give more time when they’re separate, so I feel really stuck.

    Does anyone have any tips for how to single-handedly separate siblings when the situation needs/handle their conflict/be a single parent to kids with additional needs?

    Thanks x


    #62377 Report


    Hello, thanks for posting… this is my first visit to the site (awake in the night worrying I’m doing parenting all wrong!) and I really relate to your issue. I also called my 10 year relationship off because he struggled with handling the stress of parenting and I couldn’t keep navigating his moods and their impact on us all. There were other things too but this was definitely a big factor. Anyway, I now have an almost 8 and almost 5 year old pair of boys who are so vibrant, funny, clever – and a massive challenge at times! Especially my older boy who seems to struggle with emotional regulation. They sound really similar to yours in that they either get on great or fight… often we’re on the cusp of both at all times as their play is so physical and can tip into a problematic situation (and back out of it!) multiple times. I find it so stressful and worry about how normalised they find violence against each other. I sometimes get tired of handling it and then lose my patience with them – There never seems to be a good way of stopping it. I try all sorts… maybe my lack of consistency doesn’t help!

    Anyway – In relation to your question… I feel this too re the 121 time. Another single parent friend of mine suggested that I start doing separate bedtimes which offers a little bit of space for this. My kids usually sleep in the same room but I’ve started doing stories in my bed with the youngest and laying with him til he falls asleep, then going in to oldest (who uses that time to read school book or colour) and having a catch up with him about his day. We do 5 questions where we ask each other five things about ourselves and it’s been a nice way of reconnecting with him and carving out that much needed time together – even if it’s brief. It’s not perfect, tonight I fell asleep with youngest and oldest woke me up an hour later upset that I’d forgotten him. I was snappy cos I was woken up. Feeling so rubbish about it. I hate that there’s never enough time for them and that I’m doing this in my own echo chamber so lose perspective on what’s right sometimes.

    It’s helped writing this so even if I don’t help you – thanks for opening up space for me to share!

    Good luck with it all. Single parenting is bloody hard.

    #62407 Report


    Hi Sky-Bird

    Thanks for your reply.  There’s a lot that sounded similar between our families there, and it does help not feeling so alone. I really like the sound of how you do bedtimes separately, using your room for your youngest. I going to try that – the separation may help them wind down more. And the 5 questions thing sounds so lovely!

    Like you say, it’s so hard to feel like I’m giving enough time for each of them. And to be patient and keep perspective when things are challenging. Sounds like you’re reflective about what you do with your kids and how it’s working, though, and being really conscious of their needs to connect with you and to wind down.

    Really grateful to you for sharing, good luck to you too.

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