How I Chose To Talk To My Five-Year-Old Daughter About Being In a Single-Parent Family

Kaeleigh Phillips took inspiration from the animal kingdom when she discussed their family unit

When my daughter was younger, I used to stress about how I would confess to her that she was a part of a single parent family. I worried she would feel different or strange from the other kids, and would struggle to understand why she didn’t get to have two parents that were together. I had a lot of trouble digesting it myself when I saw my idea of the “normal” family at the park or in the grocery store, living what I assumed to be the "perfect life".

I was watching an animal documentary one evening with my daughter, something we have always enjoyed doing together and it hit me; there is no perfect family. In the film, there were families of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the mother caring solely for her young to the father being the primary caretaker. There was no model or ideal family in the animal world, and as a deep lover of nature, I felt peace settle over me once I realized this truth.

The idea that there are many different types of family in nature also gave me a way to explain our single parent family dynamic to my daughter. It was easy to explain and I could show it through the various animal documentaries we watched together. I told her while we were watching a mother cat carry her kitten on the screen, and she responded very well. Demonstrating that families are created in a lot of different ways through concrete examples made my daughter feel included and normal, which was wonderful to witness.

As my daughter gets older, I realize more and more how blessed we are to be a duo conquering the world together. We are closely bonded in our single-parent family and my daughter is a very empathetic and helpful individual because she knows I need her help. I also witness many “normal” families and realize how damaging it can be for parents and kids when parents remain together simply because they think it is the proper thing to do. By being a single parent, I am honest to my daughter about how important it is to be real with yourself and your relationships. I also show her as a woman how vital it is to only accept top treatment from a partner.

My daughter often tells me we are a “cat family”. We are a mama cat and her kitten venturing the world together and she loves that we are special. Not to say I am unwilling to let a new partner into our lives. As long as the tomcat in question is the best fit for our family, I am willing to evolve into a new kind of animal family with my little kitten in tow.  

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