Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for mums and dads. Cristin writes about all the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.
Being a product of separated or divorced parents can be tough. Kids often ask questions and when those questions have sensitive or confusing answers, it can be hard to find the right words. For some kids, having parents who live in separate homes is normal because it’s all they have ever known.
For others, living in a single parent household or moving between two homes is a relatively new development, and they need some help understanding what is going on. These days, families have all shapes and sizes, so while it’s not unusual to only have one parent or to have more than two, it can be exhausting to have two houses, two closets, two beds, and two sets of toys.
To help explain the situation, single parents may want to have a few books on hand to help. There are plenty of children’s books out there about single parent families that can put things in terms your child will understand. Here are some of my favourites:
Horton Hatches the Egg
Leave it to Dr. Seuss to be relevant all the time. Everyone loves Horton, and he endears himself to us once again when he cares for an egg that was abandoned by its mother. It’s a heart-warming story about how love comes in all shapes and sizes.
No matter how many or how few parents your child has now, they need to know they are loved by family and friends alike. The meaning is subtle but can help you get the point across in a way that your child will understand.
Just the Way We Are
“Just the Way We Are” by Jessica Shirvington and Claire Robertson is about how all families are different, but yours is perfect just the way it is. It doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s to be good.
There are a lot of different types of families in the book, including a family with separated parents, a single mum who used IVF, and a family with two dads.
When I Miss You
When there is a parent missing for any reason, sadness can creep in when you least expect it. This book doesn’t focus on the separation itself, but rather the feelings that come along with it. It can help kids confront and deal with their mix of emotions.
Missing a parent is an issue that children of single parents commonly deal with. Even if the other parent was never in the picture to begin with. However, it can also help the child understand that their loved ones will return and will comfort them in the meantime.
Darth Vader and Son
If your child is more of a Star Wars fan, he may relate to this story. It’s a fun-loving anecdote about how Darth Vader takes care of Luke. This spin on the epic series is a reminder that single dads have superpowers, too.
When My Parents Forgot to Be Friends
This book is up front about what happens leading up to a separation. Your child may relate to the little girl who talks about how her family used to do fun things together before her parents started arguing a lot. She also addresses how her parents’ anger and sadness made her feel. Hiding under her bed gave her a safe space to get away. They stopped doing fun things together when her dad moved out, and it made her feel like it was her fault.
Despite her parents’ reassurance that it wasn’t her fault, she still doesn’t understand why her parents can’t still be friends. She takes comfort in the fact that they will always love her, even though they are happier in separate houses. She ends on a positive note. She knows her parents love her, she has fun adventures in both houses, and everyone is much happier now that they are apart. This book can help many children whose parents may have recently separated.
Dear Mr. Henshaw
Beverly Cleary offers great reads for older children who can read chapter books on their own now. This one follows Leigh, whose parents have just split, and his father is gone. It may help your tween connect to a literary character and get through the many feelings they may have, including living in a single parent family.
If you’re still working on getting your child up to speed on reading, try something like Hooked on Phonics and they’ll be reading books like this on their own in no time.
Mum and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore
This book focuses on the fun things she does at each of her parents’ houses, now that they don’t live together anymore. She is sad, but she redirects her feelings to excitement about how both of her parents love her very much.
It can help kids struggling with feelings of being in two places at once, an upheaval, and constant moving.
Amber Brown is Not a Crayon
This series is about Amber Brown, whose dad lives abroad, now that her parents are separated. It features colourful, but believable characters, and your child may recognize some of the same thoughts that Amber has.
It’s normal for kids to feel lost when their parents separate. But there is a positive spin, and this book follows Alex, as he talks about the soft chair he has at Mummy’s house and the cool rocking chair he has at Daddy’s.
He has his own special bedroom in each out and lots of friends who want to play with him. And it doesn’t matter whether he is at Mummy’s or Daddy’s house, he is always loved. It’s sweet and optimistic.
I Love You Like Crazy Cakes
Not only does this book have a great name, but it addresses how having only one parent can make a child feel less important. In this story, a single woman adopts a child from China, and it will help your child understand that they can bring their parents joy no matter what the family looks like.
The Invisible String
This book is a must-have for any single parent who is separated or divorced. It paints a great picture of an invisible string that connects the child to the people they love, no matter where they are or how far apart. It’s comforting and sweet, but also a really good choice if your child has lost a parent to death.
Other great book choices for single parent families are “Ask Me”, “The Kissing Hand”, and “You Are My Wish Come True”. For more reading ideas to spark your child’s interest, check out something like ReadingIQ. If your child is dealing with separation, the loss of a parent, or simply comes from a single parent home, many of these children’s books can help them through their feelings.