Books to celebrate Single Parents Day

Single parenting image

It’s Single Parents Day on 21st March 2021! While it’s not an annual occasion that I had previously been aware of, it is one that I believe should be wholeheartedly celebrated. Divorce is stressful enough for grown-ups, but obviously the change for the children is enormous. After years seeing the impact as a family lawyer, Eily Livingstone came to realise that the law is often not the best tool for helping families during divorce, separation or dissolution. She founded “Paths through change” to support families through this process using her unique insight into the issues that children face during their parents’ divorce and the role parents play at this time of their lives. I asked her to join me for a chat about this, and to recommend some books to help children of all ages through it.

Over to her …

The term “single parent” was used more widely when I was a child, and new identifiers like “lone parent” and “sole parent” have now come into use. I believe that people should use whatever terms feel authentic to them but – for simplicity’s sake – I will use ‘single parent’ to refer to a parent who is not living with another parent of their child/ren. This means that a child could have more than one single parent and a single parent may have formed a new relationship. It also can include people who started a family with the intention of the child/ren only having one parent.

Eily Livingstone

My parents divorced when I was 13 and my younger brothers and I were then raised by my mum as a single parent. It has been wonderful to watch ‘society’ come to welcome and celebrate families of all shapes and sizes since then – and Single Parent Day feels like the culmination of that. I am sure that my parents’ divorce is partly why I ended up working with families in which the parents are not in a romantic relationship: initially as a Family Solicitor and now as the Founder of Paths Through Change. Paths Through Change supports children to help them navigate their parents’ separation/divorce to ensure that they feel seen, respected and well cared for. I know the issues that can arise for parents who are separating or separated and what matters to children at this stage of their lives. 

Lots of parents ask what to do when it becomes clear that the family is changing configuration and/or the child is becoming aware that their family may have a different structure than others’ families. My advice is to start as early as possible and make sure that all the media your child consumes contains representations of families of all shapes and sizes. It is important that they see that families where there is only one parent or the parents live apart can be happy. There are also great books that help children to process the common issues that can arise – in a good-humoured way for younger children and more seriously for older readers. We know the importance of showing our children diversity in terms of gender, disabilities, race – it is also important in terms of what a ‘family’ looks like.

One thing that I hear from people whose parents separated when they were young is the importance of knowing other children who are in the same situation. If there are no other families who look like yours in your social circle – which of course will have been restricted even further during the covid pandemic – you can help your children to find representations in books, both fiction and non-fiction. Here are some books which could be a good start: 

Picture Books

The Storm Whale series by Benji Davies (recommended ages 2 – 5) 

A collection of stories about Noi who lives with his dad (who seems to be a sole parent) by the sea. Although his dad has to work a lot, Noi’s time by himself (or when staying with his Grandma) leads to many adventures.

Miss Dirt the Dustman’s Daughter by Allan Ahlberg (recommended ages 3 – 5)

A light-hearted book showing a child living equally between the homes of two parents, including new partners and a disparity in financial circumstances. A good representation of two parents continuing to play active roles in their child’s life.

Mrs Vole the Vet by Allan Ahlberg (recommended ages 3 – 5)

A humorous portrayal of a hard-working single mum finding a new partner. The biological father remarries and has more children and is not mentioned again in the book. The children are thoroughly supportive of the search for a step-father!

The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Asquith Hoffman (recommended ages 3 – 6)

A non-fiction book which beautifully illustrates (with lots of pictures) the various configurations that families can take. It includes the different activities, homes, holidays and pets that families can have. It aims to reduce judgments about which are ‘normal’.

Rita’s Rhino by Tony Ross (recommended ages 4 – 7)

A book ostensibly about a child and a rhino; however, it uses humour to explain how characters can love each other but need to live apart. At her home with her mum, Rita has a small bedroom in a small flat and there is no space for the rhino. A good story for families in which the child will only see one parent during school holidays – Rita and the rhino have an annual holiday by the sea together.

Chapter Books / Advanced Readers

The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson (recommended ages 10 – 14)

This book focuses on a 10-year-old’s experience of her parents’ divorce. Both parents have new partners with children and the book explores the way in which families can be blended. The central character spends one week at her mum’s house and the next week with her dad. She really struggles with the change and wants everything to go back to how it was before.

The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson (recommended ages 10 – 14)

A hard-hitting story of a single mother who struggles with her mental health. It includes siblings who live together but have different fathers and explores the way children can feel about different father-figures.

 

So, I hope that you celebrate yourself – or any other single parents you know – this Single Parents Day! Any parents who want to be part of a community of others going through the same thing can join my Facebook group, ‘From Parents to Co-parents’. For additional resources and support for any children with separated parents, feel free to email me on eily@pathsthroughchange.com to arrange a free initial phone call.

Published by Lexi Rees

Author of adventurous books for children, horse-mad sailor and crafter, caffeine fuelled.

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