I'm a parenting expert – try my tips for carving out some ‘alone time’ this Christmas (we know it can be tricky)

Parenting expert Pamela Li answers parents' most-asked questions about raising children

Stock images of Parent with the guilt feeling look with child at Christmas
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the run-up to the holiday season, parenting expert Pamela Li has shared her top tips for parents to enjoy some 'alone time' this Christmas, even if it's tricky.

With Christmas fast approaching, Top Christmas toys are flying off the shelves as parents scan their child's wish lists to order from Argos must-have toys or Hamley's hottest Christmas toys 2023.

Then there's the work Christmas parties, meeting up with friends to gift swap, and the overwhelming big Christmas food shop to squeeze into day-to-day parenting.

And in the hope of giving mums and dads some festive relief, a parenting expert has shared the answers to the questions repeatedly cropping up within the parenting community on TikTok – including those discussing parenting or mum guilt.

It comes after Parenting for Brain collated the most commonly asked queries under #parentingquestions on TikTok and established which topics parents seek support with the most ahead of the holiday season.

Pamela Li, editor-in-chief and expert at the parenting wellness brand Parenting for Brain, believes TikTok is a great way for struggling parents to feel connected to others. She explained, “Facing the day-to-day stresses of parenthood whilst juggling organising Christmas and joining in on the festivities can often result in people feeling anxious – particularly if they’re first-time parents or perhaps don’t have a solid support system. 

“Engaging with those in a similar situation can help combat this anxiety by creating a sense of camaraderie and community, reducing feelings of isolation, and allowing mothers and fathers alike to find comfort in the fact they are not alone, and that it is normal to feel this way around the holiday season.” 

So, what were the most asked questions? As Pamela Li answers every single one of them...

Most asked parenting questions on TikTok

1. Does anyone else experience parenting guilt?

Mum guilt or wanting to know if others felt guilty about how they parent their child proved the most common query related to validation on TikTok, appearing in one-fifth (21%) of posts touching on the topic. 

Speaking about the findings, Pamela Li says, “Parents, especially mothers, tend to struggle with guilt if they believe they aren’t spending enough time with their child during the festive period.

"However, the amount of time you spend with your child doesn’t automatically determine how good of a parent you are! 

"Your schedule is naturally going to be more hectic in the run-up to Christmas, with an increased amount of social gatherings and a seemingly endless list of chores to tick off before the big day.

"But this doesn't mean you should feel guilty - focus on the quality of the time you spend together over the break instead.

"Connect with them, ask about their day, support their emotional needs - that’s the stuff that matters. That's what will make this Christmas special to them.” 

mother and two children at Christmas time

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. How do you find time for yourself?

Interestingly, while most posts conveyed parents’ guilt about not spending enough time with their little ones when thinking about ways to entertain a toddler, others sought advice on the best way to prioritise personal time - something which can prove especially difficult while trying to keep up with all the festivities. 

Of the queries that discussed routine, over half (57%) focused on how to find personal time as a parent - either to get chores done or simply have time to rest and recoup. 

Pamela Li says: “Alone time is something every person craves, even at Christmastime - especially as this time of year tends to result in busier calendars.

"It can be one the hardest parenting challenges to overcome - especially if you’re a single parent or are alone for significant portions of the day. 

“As long as you ensure you have quality interactions with your child, you shouldn’t feel guilty for making time for yourself. The holiday season can be full on and it's important to have your own space still.

"It’s recommended to do so that you don’t become burnt out and so that you can make sure you’re in the best condition you can be while parenting. 

“In the same way that you might schedule a half-hour to help with homework, carve out a non-negotiable slot just for you. If this means you need to have a time-saving meal that night or leave reading a bedtime story to your partner, so be it.” 

father reading bedtime story to son

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. How do you discipline a child who won’t listen to you?

A common question that circulates TikTok’s parenting community is about how to respond to a child who refuses to follow instructions as this appeared in almost half (40%) of queries discussing discipline.  

As Pamela Li explains, discipline in this instance will only be successful if a three-component system is implemented. She says: “First, parents must work to build a supportive relationship with their child, that way they see them as a respected and caring caregiver. 

“Then, they should introduce positive reinforcement and adopt a “caught-being-good” attitude by praising good behaviour rather than just focusing on punishing or pointing out the bad. 

“Finally, allow natural consequences. The excitement of the holiday season can make bedtime more difficult than usual.

"But rather than punishing them for a mistake they don’t understand they’re making, if your child refuses to go to sleep, let the struggle of waking up in the morning teach them their lesson about staying up past bedtime.

“That way, the child knows that there are repercussions to their actions and hopefully will start behaving to avoid them.”  

mother telling off a naughty son

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Should you give children unrestricted access to devices?

Exactly half (50%) of the technology-focused questions were about whether children should have parental controls on their devices to filter out harmful or inappropriate content. 

Pamela Li explains: “With increased free time over the Christmas break, your child might be eager to spend more time on their phone or laptop than usual.

"Whilst parental controls can be useful in preventing abusive content creeping onto younger children’s screens, parental controls with teenagers tend to be less effective - especially with social media. 

“Teenagers may interpret it as controlling behaviour, and since they will likely figure out a workaround anyway, your relationship will be damaged without you having achieved your goal. 

“Instead, try having an open and honest conversation with them, speaking of the potential dangers and advising them on how to stay safe. Start a discussion about why parental filters are important and what you’re hoping to achieve by having them in place - and you might find that they’re more open to implementing them if it feels like a joint decision.” 

child on laptop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. What is an appropriate age for a child to go on a sleepover?

One in five (20%) of the age-related queries revolved around what age is best to let a child stay elsewhere overnight, with parents concerned about allowing this milestone too early. 

Pamela Li explains: “Since your child won't see their school friends as often as they usually do over the festive break, it might inspire them to ask to go on a sleepover.

"There’s no set rule for the correct age for a sleepover. It depends on the child - while some might be ready at seven years old, others might not be until 12. 

“Are they likely to be happy visiting friends’ houses without you staying? Can they do their bedtime routine on their own? Have they expressed excitement about having a sleepover? And remember, don’t be angry with them if they change their mind halfway through the night and ask to come home - rather, be proud of them for giving something new a go.” 

group of girls laid on bed using their phones sleepover

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Based on the TikTok data, mothers appeared to rely on TikTok as a parenting community the most, as they accounted for 88% of those using the Parenting Questions hashtag.

Users also sought help with toddlers aged one to three, more than any other age group, with almost a quarter (24%) of queries relating to this stage. 

This was closely followed by children aged three to eight (21%), whereas teenagers seemed the least troublesome, as less than one in 10 questions were associated with them. 

Summarising the findings, the Parenting for Brain expert concludes: “While TikTok is a great way to seek support and advice from your peers, it’s important to remember that it’s a social media platform with a billion users. 

“Not only does this mean there’s a higher likelihood of misinformation, there are also countless opinions on the correct way to raise a child being voiced. 

“It would be impossible to live up to all these parenting styles as they have vastly different approaches – especially as it is a global platform. You need to find what works for you and your son or daughter. 

“If you have genuine concerns about parenting or your child, make sure that you consult a professional and take the advice you receive online with a pinch of salt.” 

In other family news, 'They don’t need to see mummy after a few wines’ relationship expert Anna Williamson draws 'a line' when partying with kids and Mum shares the "ultimate hack" for picking up LEGO, hint: it involves a sock.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)