How Educators need to interact with Single Parent Families

How Educators need to interact with "SINGLE PARENT" families

By Karen Elzinga 6/01/2018  

There are numerous reasons for single parent families in modern society. Parent's can be windowed by the death of a partner, divorced through marriage breakdown, unplanned pregnancy, artificial insemination, adoption, and even the event of guardianship when death, illness or abandonment occurs in families, and children are orphaned leaving them to the care of a family member.

All of these single parent families have one aspect in common, they are raising a child/ren on their own, and with that comes numerous challenges such as financial stress, emotional and mental stresses, time limitations and employment related opportunities. These family stresses and in particular economic stresses, have been found by social scientists to have quite a range of social outcomes as the children grow up. For e.g. children exhibit lower academic achievement with a 50% higher dropout rate, higher rates of truancy and parental conflict, gang related activity and 50% higher rate of imprisonment, higher suicide rate and higher recorded emotional, mental and behavioural concerns (Encyclopaedia of children's health).

The ELYF - Practice- Learning Environments states:  Educators can make a huge difference to the outcome of single parent families, as a single parent myself l know this to be very true, but it is in the personal attitude of the educator. l have felt multitudes of discrimination by educators over many years of my children's schooling (they are now 17) and the amount of times l shook my head in disgust, felt l wasn't good enough or like a lower class citizen drove me to the brink of despair, and l'm a well dressed, morally sound, well educated, good parent. Luckily for me l had been instilled with a high level of self concept and self esteem, that instead of accepting my dealt hand, l fought to better myself, to educate myself further, and empower myself with knowledge. But l know if those educators around me had have said "Hey... how are you", had relayed empathy, and just given me the time of day, l would be in an even better place now. So l know firsthand just how important it is, and how much it can make a huge difference, to supporting  single parents (Karen Elzinga personal testimony).

How one single parent family reacts to a situation another's reaction maybe inherently different, therefore is incredibly important not to fuse all families under the one banner of "single parent family", or to make assumptions based around the medias bias coverage, and it's offering to the general community of a perception of a less than sparkling culture surrounding "single parents"(Analysing media communication 2015). Educator need to treat all families individually and equally under the ELYF- Principal 4- Respect for diversity, which states that educators think in ways about diversity and render changes to address inequality and fairness deemed as disrespectful (Belong, Being and Becoming).

In order to meet and exceed the needs of single parent families, educators need to take into account the ELYF- Practice of holistic approaches. By understanding that the child's world is inclusive of their family and their community, the educator can aid and support this wider net, and ultimately be helping the child to maintain a happy and healthy environment, by helping to reduce parental stresses that ultimately encroach to the child's life either directly or indirectly (Belong, Being & Becoming).

Educators need to understand the complexities of custody arrangements, is there a custody order, what are the arrangements of the order, this maybe a difficult conversation and may take a while to gather the Intel, but it is important to know the basics, such as is Tom spending the weekend at dads, is dad still involved in Tom's life. When the educator knows what the child's routine is with both parents for example, they can offer assistance to the parent in getting the child ready for any transitional periods, by continuing to build on the child's weekly experiences with each parent, and/or the loss of time with each parent, in order to make the child feel more secure in their family situation. Through continuity of learning and transitions outlined in the ELYF educating professionals can help children to ensure they have a transition that is successful and well balanced (Belong, Being & Becoming).

Educators can document the child's progress and feelings relayed to them about the family breakup so that parents are aware of the child's emotional and mental state, and how any family dynamics are impacting on the child on any given day or week. The Practice -Assessment for learning of the ELYF stipulates that educators may use various methods to collect and document a child's learning and progress to determine if a child requires further support, or access to a particular specialist (Belong, Being & Becoming).

ELYF- Practice of Intentional Teaching uses spontaneous moments that arise to teach using open ended questioning and challenging children's thinking about issues. Educators can aid parents by stimulating learning and evolve children's ideas about matters pertaining to the family dynamic (Belong, Being & Becoming).

By supporting a parent, an educator is automatically supporting the child, and a ripple effect takes place. Single parents can be very proud; often taking an l can do it all approach, whilst in the background dealing with feelings of guilt about being a one parent family (Dr James Dobson's Family Talk).

Element 6.2.2 of the National Quality Framework, states that educators can take simple measures to support the short and long term mental and emotional health of vulnerable parents, and aid single parent families indirectly such as handing families a prepared photocopied sheet with a list of supportive community services and tips. The ELYF Practice- Learning Environment extends to educators that by supporting parents with materials to provoke interest and create a more abstract and critical thinking structure, that new and improved thought processes will occur. The list can include where to find emotional guidance and help like single parent forums, chat rooms and free telephone lines for single parents. Government financial aid, what is available and where to find it, mental health services and counselling units in the local area, free playgroups to meet like minded people, toy libraries where kids can get new toys borrowed for free, child respite groups run by parents helping to watch each other's children for free (Raising children). 

Other resources such as Domestic Violence advice lines and local associations can offer life saving support to single parents and their children dealing with aggressive and abusive ex partners, and accommodation support with links to government housing and homelessness support services (single mum). A saving money tip sheet could be a great idea to circulate around the centre to gain feedback from staff and parents, on specials in the local area such as best times to save money at supermarkets on meat, or local independent veggie shops that pack older fruit and veggies onto cheap trays at less than half price, local fairs or markets that do special deals, mechanic deals, businesses who run special deals etc. These types of informative sheets can save a single parent family on a low income a lot of money thus alleviating some financial strain (Raising children).

Some parents may not see a need to take the handout but others may utilize regularly, but either way it will be seen as a supportive way of affirming the collaborative partnership in creating a safe and happy environment for them and their child/ren.


Belong, being and becoming. (2009). Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/...

Dr James Dobson's Family Talk, (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.drjamesdobson.org.a...

Encyclopaedia of children's health, Single parent families. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.healthofchildren.co... on 3/8/2017.

Karen Elzinga. Personal testimony of Single parenting and Education. (2017) Sippy Downs. Australia.

Raising children. Help and support for single parents (2016) Retrieved from http://wwwraisingchildren.net.au

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