Tips for dealing with people’s attitudes to single parents

You probably can’t control people’s attitudes to you as a single parent. But you can control how you respond.

Here are some ideas.

Choose how much you tell people
People can be curious, but you don’t have to explain why and how you became a single parent if you don’t want to. You might prefer to keep it general and say something like ‘I’m raising Tom alone at the moment’.

Prepare your child to answer questions
People might ask your child about his family situation, so you could help him work out what to say. For example, he could say ‘I live with my Mum’, or ‘I have two homes. I move between Mum and Dad’.

Surround yourself with what you need
It can help to spend time with other happy single-parent families. It’s a great support for you. It also gives your child a chance to see that there are lots of families like hers.

Keep up a healthy social life
It’s good for everyone in the family to stay in touch socially. When you feel connected to other families, everyone’s mental and physical health improves. Make a special effort to invite friends over or meet up somewhere.

If friendships change after you become a single parent, think and talk positively about ways you can meet new people. For example, you could join groups, volunteer committees or clubs.

Show your child that he’s not different
You could read books or watch movies about single-parent families or children who live in two separate homes – try the picture book Two Homes by Claire Masurel. Ask at your local library or bookstore or search online for other suggestions.

Foster family pride
One way to develop a close family identity is to talk with your child about your family’s strengths. These might include being there for each other, being good citizens – for example, helping the neighbours – or taking part in community events.

Talk creatively about your family
Be creative about how you talk about your family. Increasingly children think about ‘family’ in broad terms and think of emotional ties rather than biological ties. They might include people like stepsiblings, step-parents and their parents’ former partners. The term ‘single-parent family’ probably won’t feel right to your child, so you don’t need to use it.

When I’d explain that I was raising Charlotte on my own, people would initially feel sorry for me, which is not what I wanted at all. Occasionally they would almost make me feel inferior. I had to learn to shrug that off.
– Phil, 30, single father raising one daughter