If you live with one parent, you know that a lot of other kids do, too. More than 20 million kids in the United States live with one parent. Separation and divorce are the most common reasons for this. In other cases, the mom and dad may never have lived together, or one of them may have died.
Living with one parent instead of two can bring out a lot of emotions. These feelings can be pretty strong, and they can be confusing, too. You might feel terribly sad and angry because your parents divorced.
You also might feel happy that your parents split up and aren't fighting anymore, but you may also feel upset when your mom introduces you to a man that she is dating. You might love the uncle or grandma who takes care of you, but sometimes you might wish you could have one family with both a mom and a dad.
Emotions all by themselves aren't either good or bad. They're just feelings. Because living with one parent can sometimes be stressful, it can help to talk about it. You can talk with your parent, a relative, school counselor, or another trusted adult. Talking with other kids who live with single parents can be a great idea, too.
Single parents are often working parents because someone needs to earn money to pay for food, clothing, and a place to live. Having a job means your mom or dad is able to provide these things and more for you. People work for other reasons, too. A job can let a person use his or her special talents and skills. A job can be important because it helps people in the community. Or a job can simply be exciting or interesting.
But even though you might understand why your mom or dad has to work, sometimes it can be hard to accept. "Not now, I have to work" isn't what you want to hear when you'd like to do something fun. This can be especially true during the summer or school vacations. You're home, they're gone, and the days can seem really long.
Many kids simply take care of themselves for all or part of the time that a parent is at work. This can be all right, but only if you're prepared to handle the responsibility. You need to know what to do in case of an emergency, as well as how to use your time wisely. And if you're by yourself, you should know how to handle loneliness, too.
Other choices include going to an after-school program or staying with a neighbor or relative. During the summer, many schools and towns offer summer programs and camps.
It can be tough when you don't have enough time with your dad or mom. When you live with one parent, that person really has to do the work of two people. Besides a job, your mom or dad is responsible for caring for the kids, the house, the yard, the car, the pets — everything that grown-ups do! And besides all that, your dad or mom would like to be able to spend more time just hanging out with you, too. So what can you do?
One of the best ways is to hold a family meeting. Talk about everyone's schedule for work, school, and activities. You can also talk about what jobs around the house need to be done every day, which ones can be done less often, and who could do each job.
When you take a look at chores and other time demands, you can try to work some family time into the schedule. Maybe you can eat more meals together. You might want to help your parent cook dinner sometimes. That can be both fun and helpful to your parent. Maybe you also can schedule a weekly game or movie night.
Time may be tight, but kids in single-parent families can make a difference by helping out around the house. They also can make another important contribution: reminding their moms or dads to have a little fun!
Reviewed by: Colleen Sherman, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2013
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