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Practising Healthy Parenting Style: 4 Ways to be a Submarine Single Parent


The recent release of a series of comic by the Ministry of Education relating what “helicopter parenting” is has caused quite a stir among parents in Singapore. The thin line between an engaged parent and a helicopter parent causes many parents to cross over the line and become obsessive with their child’s safety.

Since it has surfaced that helicopter parenting is a toxic and is an unhealthy parenting style, what is a healthy parenting style that can mould self-assured, motivated children who are confident of themselves?

Time and again, the term “submarine parenting” has surfaced as a contrast to “helicopter parenting”. What is submarine parenting? Far from being disengaged, a submarine parent stays below the surface (out of the way if you will), and surfaces to help the child out in the event of an emergency. This normally means that parents allow their children to get knock around by life, experience painful moments, get emotional, and fail. Allowing the child to experience these unpleasant events helps to shape their life experiences and moulds them to be resilient for what life will eventually throw at them.

How can a single parent become a submarine parent? Let us share 4 ways.

1) Allow your children to do tasks that you know they can handle

Your children are your world, especially as a single parent. You want to do everything for them. However, it creates an unhealthy high level of dependency in your children and will cause them more problems in future. If your children are old enough to eat on their own, allow them to do it on their own. Give them a spoon, a child-safety bowl and let them have a go at it. Similarly, allow them to tie their own shoelaces, pack their own lunch boxes or give them chores to do at home. These tasks train them to be independent and cause a high self-worth in themselves. Besides, it also relieves some of the tasks that you need to do.

2) Let them handle their own art or science projects

Unless it is explicitly stated in the school project that parental help is needed, let your children handle their own art or science projects from school. It is common for children to turn up in school with professionally made projects because it was done by their parents, and not the children themselves. When your children have such projects, encourage them to look for the necessary materials and tools to complete the projects on their own. Guide them if it involves dangerous tools such as a hot glue gun or an electric drill, but try your best not to take over.

3) Do not follow them everywhere

Your children can suffer a fall, or a scraped knee and survive. As a single parent, you do not need to hover around your children and prevent them from falling, or scraping their knees. In fact, you probably shouldn’t invest your precious time this way. The same goes for your teenagers. They are strong enough to handle a heartbreak or a disappointment. You do not have to shield them from all unpleasant experiences because they need to know that life is unfair and life is going to give them lemons once in a while, whether they like it or not. However, you need to be under the surface, so that you can come to the rescue when they truly need your help in an emergency. Set up a secret distressed code with your teenagers, so that they can text you or call you using that code without people knowing when they are in real danger.

4) Let them stay away from home

As your children grow older, let them experience life away from home. Our schools usually organised camps in which teenagers can experience life away from home. If these aren’t available, you can check out various camps organised by commercial companies. These camps create a relatively safe environment for your children to experience what it feels like to be away from home. It teaches them self-reliance and also imbue in them, the independence that they will need when they become an adult.

Submarine parenting is harder than you think but it is worth doing it because it helps to build your children into responsible, resilient and self-confident adults with the right coping mechanisms for life. Try it and you will thank yourself for it in future!