What are your favorite children’s books that talk about being a single parent household?

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My husband is leaving me and our almost-two-year-old daughter.

I’ve made sure not to badmouth him in front of her and try to keep all conversations about it to a minimum when she’s around, but I know that eventually, she’ll figure out that many of her friends have two-parent households and ours does not.

Does anyone have a suggestion for children’s books that will help when she gets old enough to start asking, “Where’s my daddy?” and, my ultimate fear: “Did he leave because of me?” — Cynthia

Comments on What are your favorite children’s books that talk about being a single parent household?

  1. Are You My Mother? is one book I loved growing up that presents a baby chick who eventually finds its mother. No mention of another parent. Not particularly on the topic of dealing with her questions about why her daddy is not there, but at least an example of a book that does include a single parent animal.

    I don’t know of any books that are on the topic of “why did daddy leave?” but I think a lot of those answers will come from you being open and clear with her. And her dad, assuming he remains in her life. Having been adopted, I was in the situation of having been “given up” but my parents were incredibly good about making me feel loved and wanted and explaining the situation to me in a positive way that made me feel encouraged and supported.

    • I just wanted to add the titles of the books I know from my library that involve single parents in case anyone is interested in then:

      “The First Christmas Stocking” by Elizabeth Winthrop, about a girl who has lost her mother and she takes up knitting stockings.

      “Dahlia” by Barbara McClintock, about a girl who receives a doll from her aunt. Pretty sure there is no mention of a father in here.

      “A Play’s the Thing” by Aliki, about a class doing a play. One boy is a trouble maker, stuff happens, his mom comes to the play and says his dad would’ve been proud, no mention of him having passed away or left.

      “Her Mother’s Face” by Roddy Doyle, about a girl who lives with her father. Her mother is dead, and they don’t talk about her, but she learns to see her mom in herself.

  2. I know this won’t be appropriate until at least first or second grade, but from 1988-2000 Ann M. Martin wrote a series of books called Baby Sitter’s Club: Little Sister about a seven year old girl named Karen who lives with her mom and step-dad and visits her dad and step-mom.

    • The Karen books from the Baby-Sitters’ Club series were precisely how I found out my own parents got divorced! I was really young when it happened, and my mom apparently thought I was too young to understand what divorce was. When I came across the word “divorced” for the first time in my life while reading these books, I finally asked my mom if that’s what happened between my dad and her. Her answer: “Yes.”

      My suggestion to Cynthia: Since your daughter is almost 2, you might want to wait until she is old enough to be reading chapter books for her to read the Karen series. However, you could begin reading them to her as bedtime stories right away (1-2 chapters per night).

  3. “Love You Forever” is a great book that doesn’t mention anyone but the mom; I was raised by a single mother and have always loved that book 🙂 Best of luck to you!

    • I loved that book as well when I was little. It did make me tear up every time I got to the ending though. As such, I think the book does teach a valuable lesson about cherishing your parents, single or not.

  4. I really just want to be in on the suggestions, but I did want to add my perspective as well. My parents divorced when I was 4. We never had any books that were meant for the children of single parents. I was old enough that I noticed the difference between when Daddy lived with us and when we just saw him on random weekends (usually whenever he had a new girlfriend), and I was aware of two parent households around me, but I’m pretty sure I never thought of my situation as that out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s because my dad wasn’t around all that much when my parents were married? As I got older, I thought it was kind of cool having divorced parents. It wasn’t until my preteen years that I started having any kind of negative response to it.
    I grew up to have a child on my own, and worried, like you, that he would notice two parent households and wonder why he didn’t have one. Again, my worries turned out to be unfounded. The closest he got to asking about his biologic father, ever, was asking me once “What is a daddy?” to which I replied “A daddy is like a mommy who is a boy.” This was when he was 2. Now, at four, he has a clear understanding that some kids have just one mommy, some kids have just one daddy, some kids have two mommies, some kids have two daddies, some kids have a mommy and a daddy, some kids live with a mommy and a grammy (like he did the first three and half years of his life). He doesn’t expect families to be shaped any one way and does not seem to have any concept that one dynamic is any better than another. I imagine I’ll still have to deal with the biologic father conversation someday, i’ve married now, but he still knows my husband wasn’t always his daddy. But I have a feeling that conversation is years off, when a picture book isn’t going to satisfy his questions.
    I’m not saying this to discourage your quest for single parent themed children’s books, I think it’s a great idea! But maybe your daughter is a little better equipped to understand and accept her lifestyle than you give her credit for. Just a thought. Good luck!

    • “I was aware of two parent households around me, but I’m pretty sure I never thought of my situation as that out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s because my dad wasn’t around all that much when my parents were married? As I got older, I thought it was kind of cool having divorced parents. It wasn’t until my preteen years that I started having any kind of negative response to it.”

      You just described my exact experience living in a single-parent household. Even to this day, I have mixed emotions about it.

      • I actually grew up thinking other families were weird for having a mum and a dad…. until I got to school and started getting teased for not having a dad.
        Kudos to you, Cynthia, for not badmouthing her dad though – it’s something I wish my mum had done and something I struggle with to this day because even though I have nothing but wonderful memories of my dad now he’s passed, there is always the question of “is that who he really was? It seems so disjointed from what Mum told me…” which is unfair on him now he can’t defend himself.
        FYI – I was 2 when my dad left as well…. I did ask where he was, refused to go visit him once (I don’t remember why), but can’t remember ever being given a book to understand it (and I loved reading so much) – I just understood that he had a different family now but that I was still part of his – just my mum wasn’t.

  5. Do I Have a Daddy? by Jeanne Warren Lindsey. It’s a nice clear story aimed at the pre-school set where a mom tells her son why his father left as a baby. It deals with the emotions of being teased by other kids and has a great “for parents” section in the back that helps start the age appropriate conversation on why your family is special.

    My son started asking the ‘do I have a daddy’, ‘where is my daddy,’ ‘why don’t i see my daddy’, questions at about two and he still randomly asks now and then, especially when they have special dad days or events at his pre-school. I know he’s not the only kid there with a single parent but it’s still not the norm. We have used this book as a tool a lot. We talk a lot about how he is like Eric and I am like Eric’s mommy. I think it really helped him understand that these things just happen sometimes. The other thing we did was get a lot of books about different kinds of families he may or may not see at daycare (now preschool). We read “My Mother’s House” a lot which is a story of a big family with two moms. Also, And Tango Makes Three which is about two daddy penguins and their child. Having those examples has really helped him understand that families come in all kinds of sizes, not just one mom and one dad.

    Good luck to Mama! Being a single mom is hard and trying to talk to your kids about it is painful. Joining a meetup group or playgroup of single moms was a huge help to me outside of the books. It was support that I wasn’t the only person left with a tiny person to raise by myself, and also helped reinforce the fact that lots of people have only one parent for my son. I hope this helps!

  6. I recommend all of Todd Parr’s books, especially “The Family Book” that talks about all the different types of families that could possibly exist but they are all the same because they all have love.

    • Yes! I bought “The Family Book” for my son to try and teach him about tolerance and that families come in many forms. Now I intend to by another copy as a gift for my sister-in-law who just found out she’s pregnant and the father doesn’t want to stick around. She’s freaking out about the stigma of being a single parent family and I think this is the perfect book to help! <3

  7. We have a book called Love Is a Family by Roma Downey about a little girl and her mom going to Family Fun Night. The little girl is concerned that her little family is weird, and it turns out… THEY’RE NOT! It shows all different kind of families. It’s one of my 5 year old daughter’s favorite books.

  8. Charlie Anderson! GREAT book! A bit advanced for age 2, but you can rephrase the story likely pretty easily if you need to and in a few years she can just love the story.

    “Charlie, a fuzzy gray cat, walked out of the woods one evening and into Elizabeth’s and Sarah’s hearts. Now he sleeps on their beds, lets them dress him up in doll clothes, and laps up warm milk on chilly nights. But where does Charlie go during the day?
    It’s not until a storm keeps Charlie away one night that the two sisters discover his other, daytime, home. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Because, just like Elizabeth and Sarah, Charlie has two houses, two beds, and two families who love him very, very much!”

    Many others I used – cant recall titles. This one about the cat was MUCH beloved by my kids though. The other ones which were more direct, intended to teach a lesson outwardly, I dunno if they helped or not. Seemed fine, made it easier for ME to talk aobut stuff.

    I HIGHLY recommend two books for adults for those other issues:

    * Helping Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way – this will help with that “why” question and everything that comes up developmentally along the way. SUPER – I used it a LOT when my kids were 2 and 4 until they were 8 and 10 – and STILL refer to it and they are nearly 15 and 17.

    * The Good Divorce.

    These two books had anecdotal stories about similar situations I had questions about, developmentally appropriate guidance for kids questions and their ages, and a really great model for giving your kids the best life / love / parenting / even the best divorced family possible! Wish I could just mail them to you now but your local library should be able to have them or borrow them from another library and I bet amazon has them used super cheap as usual!


  9. Not quite applicable in your situation, but A Father Like That is a lovely book. In it, a boy describes to his mother the type of father he would like to have. In the end of the story, the mother says to him something to the effect of “You know, even if you never have a father like that, one day you could be a father like that.” Or something to that effect.

    Somehow it seems a lot sweeter in the book than I am describing here. But really, it is lovely.

  10. Oh yeah… something to watch out for… After I started getting teased at school for not having a dad, I started asking random men at my mum’s church when (not if) they were going to marry my mum. She was mortified. I still love it.

  11. I was the daughter in this situation at exactly the same age, so my heart goes out to you and your little one. I don’t have any book suggestions, but I just want to say that the fact you’re thinking about this, looking for resources, and reaching out for help shows what a great mom you are. I don’t know how close it is to your truth, but it helped me to know that my dad probably knew I was better off without him, and so in my head it was like he purposefully left me with the responsible parent. It was never easy though. Best of luck to you.

  12. Not a book per se but when it came out, Toy Story made an impression with my family. Andy, the good kid, lived in a single parent household (his mom), while Sid the psychopath lived in a proper nuclear household with two parents and a little sister.

  13. Not a book, but I recommend Sesame Street’s Little Children Big Challenges: Divorce initiative. It’s a series of videos for kids and advice for parents about helping kids deal with divorce. You can get it online or as an Android or iPhone app. It opens with a bunch of muppets drawing their homes, and one muppet, Abby Cadabby, draws two homes – one with her Mom and one with her Dad. She remembers and explains the divorce, but isn’t at all upset about it.

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