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Single parent families

divorce; separation; family; parents; counselling;


What are single parent families?

Single parent families are families where the child or children live with one parent rather than two.

  • Some children may have lost a parent who died.
    death of a parent
  • Some kids may have parents who are separated or divorced.
  • Some kids may never had one of their parents in their life. 
  • Some kids live in families where one parent has to live away from home for work or other reasons.

Statistics show that most kids in single parent families live most of the time or all of the time with mum, but about 1 in 8 will live most or all of the time with dad.

visiting the other parentMany children spend time with both parents.

  • They may live with mum during the week and have weekends with dad.
  • They may live one week with mum and the next with dad.
  • They may live all the time with one parent and have some part of their holidays with the other.

Some may never see one parent at all for a variety of reasons.

At home

Being in a home where there is one parent can often mean that:

  • You are more likely to be involved in helping run the family, eg. jobs around the house, looking after younger siblings (brothers and sisters).
  • You may be expected to look after yourself, eg. making school lunches, getting yourself ready for school, looking after your clothes, etc. Kids in two parent families often have to do this too. It's good practice for when you are a grown-up yourself.
    wish I was going with them
  • Mum or dad treat you more like an adult at times eg. you may get to choose food, holidays, discuss what to do on the weekend, etc.
  • Maybe you have less money in your household than some of your friends. Quite often when there is only one parent, that parent is unable to do paid work.
  • Maybe it is harder for you to get to after school activities if mum or dad work.
  • You may not see so much of your parent because she or he has to work; you may have to be in after school care, then by the time you are both home it's almost bedtime!

But you may think that your single parent family is a lot better than when your parents were together because mum or dad is happier and calmer.

Moving between parents

Sometimes it can be really tough on kids who live mostly with one parent but spend time with the other.

  • Many kids feel torn between mum and dad, especially if their parents are not friendly towards each other. Try to remember that your parents may be hurting too, and just enjoy being with each one in turn.
    feeling torn between mum and dad
  • Many kids feel pressured to 'take sides' or feel like 'super spy' when one parent asks about the other. Try not to 'play one off' against the other as it's not good for any of you.
  • Some kids can not understand why the parent they mostly live with doesn't make such a fuss of them as the parent they visit. Try to remember that being responsible for kids, home and work for all of the time is not easy.
  • Some kids find it hard to keep track of their belongings when they move between parents. Using a diary and keeping a list is a good idea and can help when you need something for school and it's not where you are living at the time.
  • Some kids find they miss out on sport at weekends, or miss seeing friends, because they have to be with their other parent.
    missing out on week-end sport

Things to be aware of

  • You may be very good at helping keep the home running well but you are still a kid and need time to be with friends, be alone, play sport and just 'veg' out or chill.
  • You may be used to having a say in what happens at home but be careful that you don't come across as bossy or rude to other adults, eg. your teacher.
  • You may be the greatest helper in the world but your parent is the adult and the one responsible for you and your well being.
  • The law says children have the right to spend time with, and communicate with, both parents.
  • Children can also expect to have the right to spend time with their grandparents or other family members.

If you are feeling worried or uncomfortable about what is happening then you need to talk about things with your parents or some other trusted adult.

Boyfriends and girlfriends

Mums and dads are also men and women and they each need the company of other adults. Sometimes they will start a new relationship with someone who then comes to live with you. You could find out more about how this might be in the topic 'Stepfamilies'. I don't like my dad's new partner

Often kids can feel jealous of another adult taking up time with mum or dad. Often kids 'act up' because they are upset about this.

a new relationship

Talk to your parent, your trusted adults such as your teacher, or your school counsellor about how you are feeling.

Talking to kids in other single parent families can help too. They know how you feel.

If you don't feel comfortable about talking to someone who knows you, then you can ring the Kid's helpline 1800 55 1800.

Dr Kate says

Almost 1 in 5 of all kids nowadays live in single parent families. Some will be glad because things were really tough before their parents split up but many will be sad. Some may even think that it's their fault that their parents don't live together any more! Not true! Our topic 'When parents split up' may help if you are in this situation.

What some kids say

  • "Hearing them fighting in the lounge, trying to block out the noise. Scared and afraid of what will happen. Nowhere to go all by yourself. It's better now but I feel sad that things couldn't be different."
    parents arguing
  • "I haven't got divorced or separated parents but I can empathise with people who have. My advice would be to talk to someone you trust about it."
  • "Mum and I live alone and we get on really well. Sometimes she's like my big sister."
  • "I live one week with mum and one week with dad. I go to after school care even in the holidays sometimes, but it's ok and I can do my homework there so I get to spend more time with my mum or dad when I get home."
  • "Sometimes it can be hard but I have good friends and our mums take turns at taking us to sport and things like that."
    sometimes its hard
  • "I don't see my dad much because he works away most of the time. I guess it's like being in a single parent family most of the time."
  • "I lived with grandma and mum for a year and Didn't see much of my dad. It felt strange when we got back together as a family."
    missing my dad
  • "I miss living in my house but I don't miss living with both my parents because they were fighting all the time."
    my house
Some kids are left broken,
Some feel alone and feel that it's their fault.
But there is help which many kids are missing.
There is hope and happiness ahead.
Single parented kids can have a brighter future.
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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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