The number of U.S. children living in single-parent homes has nearly doubled since 1960. Today, about one third of American children—approximately 15 million—are being raised without a father. Five million more are being raised without a mother. The number of children living without a father in the home is especially alarming. Concerned experts recognize that this has a significant negative impact on the mental, social and emotional development of these children.
The most difficult part of being a single parent is simply accepting that fact and fully embracing your responsibilities as a parent—both a dad and mom. You do not have time for complaining, self-pity or whining. Be positive and recognize that you are not alone! Child rearing is a daunting task even for two-parent families. All parents need help at times in their child-rearing career. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to admit when you need help.
When others help you, recognize that the love, teaching and discipline your child needs has to come from you! God expects that you properly and successfully rear your own children. Take God on as your partner! If you are a single mother, never forget that with God, you have a Father and a Husband. If you are a single father, realize that God, as your Father, will direct you how to discipline and nurture your children (Ephesians 6:4). With God’s unflinching support, you can be an exceptional single parent!
Consider the following two foundational scriptures. Assuming you have been and are living right spiritually, God would not have allowed you to be in your present situation if you could not do it. Read, study and meditate on 1 Corinthians 10:13. This scripture proves to you that God is faithful to and full of love for you. He would never put you in a situation that will break you spiritually.
Also, read, study and meditate on Romans 8:28. All things work together for your good and the good of your children when you love God—which means fully obeying Him—and are called according to His purpose. God is building His only Family. You and your children are a significant part of that Family. When you stay close to God and teach your children to do so, miraculous things will happen for you.
Here are some practical steps you must take to be successful as a single parent.
Put God First
It is tough being a single parent. Sometimes it is even tougher to be a parent with a non-member mate. Many things—jobs, budgets, shopping, household duties and your children’s needs—will pull you in a multitude of different directions. Although you are a single parent, never forget that you are a Christian. Your first daily priority must always be to seek God, His Kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33). Whether you have become single recently, or have been single for some time now, you must establish the habit of getting up early to get your prayer and Bible study in before you begin your day. If you fail to do this, you will be on your own!
Through the Bible, Jesus Christ lovingly warns us that Satan is now working against us in a feverish-hot rage (Revelation 12:12). If we are not drinking in spiritual power through prayer and study, we will be easy targets for satanic attacks. You must begin each day fully armed to battle our common enemy, not only for yourself, but your children too.
Ask God to guide and bless your day. Ask Him daily to protect you and your children from accident and illness. Most of all, ask God to give you the power to fight discouragement.
Focus a portion of your Bible study on God’s clear promises to supply your needs as a single parent (Philippians 4:19). There are special promises you can claim.
For example, “The Lord … relieveth the fatherless and widow …” (Psalm 146:9). This is God’s promise to help carry the burdens of single parents. God is not limited as to what He will do. This promise includes spiritual, financial, emotional and social needs. Psalm 68 states that God is a “father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows” (verse 5). This verse means that God will protect you and your child from all harm when you truly look to Him. Psalm 10 states that God is “the helper of the fatherless” (verse 14). Wise King Solomon wrote, “Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless: For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee” (Proverbs 23:10-11). God is the mighty Redeemer of widows and orphans. He will use all His might to defend and sustain you. In the short run, you may suffer as all humans do, but in the long run, God always takes care of things—even if some try to mistreat you.
Put God and His way of life first in your life. Trust God to provide for you. Seek God’s guidance in every situation you encounter. Ask God for extra help to face your problems—head on—with courage. When you go to God, expect God to bless you—for that is exactly what God plans to do.
Seek Ministerial Counsel
Single parents need sound advice. All people do. However, being the sole disciplinarian can be difficult for the single parent—male or female. Men tend to be too hard; women too soft. It takes a lot of thought, education and experience to achieve the right balance in discipline for a single parent. Solomon declared, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). The value of wise counsel is priceless. Those who stubbornly go it alone without counsel often suffer unnecessary hardship.
God has set His ministers over the Church to help His people (Hebrews 13:17; 2 Corinthians 1:24). This certainly includes single parents. God’s ministers know how to help you be a great parent; they also know when to seek help from their superior when your problem is serious enough. However, be sure to seek out the ministry for help before problems get really tough. Positive ministerial instruction—continually—is a lot less painful for you and your child. For example, single mothers with sons need instruction on how to guide the rambunctiousness of boys. Single fathers of girls may have trouble relating to the emotional temperaments of their daughters. It is good to talk regularly about these types of issues. God’s ministers are excellent sounding boards for you to express your concerns and challenges.
Seeking regular counsel from God’s ministry sets a sterling and necessary example for your children. They need to seek your counsel, and counsel from the ministry as well. When you seek counsel, they will follow your example.
Call On Family
Being a single parent is like having one arm tied behind your back. Don’t hesitate to seek help from your extended family and friends. Ask for help when you truly need it. It could be a simple matter of asking someone to babysit your kids while you get some personal time to think. The most successful single parents are the ones who keep in touch not only with their minister, but also with family and friends.
If there are reasons you cannot obtain help from your own family, seek help from your spiritual family. That is what God’s Family is for!
Truly giving and caring members are always on the lookout to help single-parent families. Make sure you are willing to accept their help when offered.
Keep company with solid Church members who are successful with child rearing. You can learn a lot simply by observing them. You need a fully developed support system. Lean on the help of strong, godly families. Many families are happy to include you and your children in activities.
Sometimes a simple chat with an understanding ear is all you need to get up and running again. Trusted, spiritually oriented members who listen without forcing their advice or opinions on you are a precious treasure. When you find such a friend, seek his or her help. The solutions for many difficulties often come while simply sharing your feelings. Always tell your friend how thankful you are for his or her understanding ear. Don’t forget to return the favor.
You may also need to get help outside of family and friends. For example, working single mothers and single fathers with small children may require the help of a housekeeper—someone to help cook and clean. Of course, this adds to the family budget and may not be feasible. Older children and teens should be expected to help with household chores. Befriend your child’s teachers. Teachers often observe things in your child you may have difficulty seeing. If you are a single parent as the result of a divorce, you may need a lawyer. If you are a single parent as the result of the death of a spouse, you may need the help of a financial adviser. Be wise. Seek the help of the best professionals. In general, child discipline problems require you to seek the help of your minister only.
Set a Family Schedule
The roles of a single parent are many. Being a mother, father, homemaker, breadwinner, bookkeeper and nurse can pull you in many different directions all at the same time! The key to your effectiveness lies in organization.
Single parents suffer from the tendency to allow life to get out of control. Control your life. Get organized! If you have not done so, set a schedule for yourself and your children. Get the whole family involved. Start by making a daily list of things to be done. Be sure to set realistic goals. Then set priorities. Remember, your schedule is a guide. Be sure to allow for unplanned occurrences that can divert planned activities. But work at sticking to the schedule. A schedule will give your family structure and direction. Both attributes create an environment of security.
The easy way to set a schedule is to write it down on an inexpensive calendar. Note the assigned activities for each family member. Get your children to help with the cooking, cleaning and laundry. This will not only take the burden off you, it will help them learn responsibility and feel needed and useful. When your children learn to do house chores well, it will free you up to do other things.
Organize your records. Develop a simple filing system for your important papers, bills, letters, insurance policies, etc. Be sure to schedule office time for yourself to keep your filing system in good working order. Make a financial budget and stick to it. An out-of-control budget—meaning no budget—will lead to disaster.
Keep your home environment in order. Because of a harried life, some have the tendency to allow a home to fill with clutter. Although it may be a real challenge, give away, sell or simply throw out those items you don’t need or don’t use. Find a storage place for everything and then be sure to put things away when finished with them. Two scriptures to keep in mind here: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints,” and “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40).
Build Family Closeness
The major way to offset the difficulties of a single-parent family is to build family closeness. Closeness comes by spending time with the children. Scheduling time together must be a top priority.
Be aware that the loss of a parent can cause your child to crave your attention more than normal, especially at first. All children experience feelings of insecurity when a parent dies. All children experience rejection when parents divorce. You will need to develop real empathy for your children. By supporting them, you will teach them to support their siblings and eventually other people. In time, each member of a strongly united family grows to give and receive emotional and moral support. When one is down, the others step in to provide strength and encouragement. How do you build this kind of closeness?
Single-parent families must share regular meals together. Few families in this world eat any meals together. Mealtimes provide family togetherness, security and time for communication. Mealtime communication is a lost art in our society. Turn off the television, tablets, smartphones, etc, during meals. Use the time wisely to share thoughts, feelings and concerns. Talk about positive things like goals and how God has intervened during the course of the day.
As the parent, lead all discussions. Draw out your more reserved children. Ask specific questions: What was the most exciting part of your day? What good thing happened to you? Tell your children how your day went. If you are open and honest, your children will learn to be the same way. Be sure to let your children tell you what is on their minds. Learn about their interests. Then guide and align all interests to be in concert with God’s laws and ways.
Listen carefully for problems at school. Problems can be related to studies or other students. You can help prevent poor grades by spending time with your children while they do homework. All children need remedial help at times. Don’t be ashamed to seek help if you see problems. If you have built a good working relationship with your child’s teacher, he or she can be an extra arm for you to provide positive help for your child.
Attend as many school activities as possible. Your personal involvement will greatly encourage your children. In addition, there is no better way to get a good view of your children and their friends. Learn about your children’s friends. Make your home a center for youth activity. Allow your children to invite friends home when you are present, and monitor all activities. Direct your children away from associates who can have a negative effect on them. Teach your children to choose friends wisely.
Maximize your weekends with your children. The Sabbath is the ideal time for family Bible study and prayer. Of course, during the week you should also take the time to teach your children about God and to pray with them. However, the Sabbath allows you time for concentrated effort.
Encourage your children to participate in all Church-sponsored youth activities. Even though we are scattered, each region hosts activities to help inspire and uplift the youth of God’s Church. All teens should be encouraged to attend Philadelphia Youth Camp. The Church also plans special activities for young people at each Feast site. Don’t miss these opportunities.
Sundays are ideal for family time. Work together around the home. Take care of missed cleaning chores, or use the day for grocery shopping and preparing for the week ahead. As time and budget permits, use the day for family recreation and fun. All children need their parents to spend relaxing and fun times with them. This is even more necessary for single-parent families. Family picnics, hikes and sporting activity add a refreshing diversion from family stress and strain.
Besides personal family closeness, do not forget that you and your children need to be close to God’s Family. Be sure to attend Sabbath services regularly. Spending time with God’s Family each week will strengthen and encourage you and your children.
Be sure to serve others. God has called all of us to a life of service—even widows and single parents. Remember that God used a widow and her son to serve the great Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:9-24). God blessed this widow richly by sustaining her food supply and bringing her son back to life after a fatal illness. Whenever possible, volunteer to help God’s Work. Encourage your children to help as well according to their age and ability.
Learn to serve and help others. Invite others over for a meal or some games. Be sure to include both singles and families. Some couples may actually have more serious problems than you. There are times they need someone to lean on. Focus your attention on your guests. When you generate warmth and happiness, this will set a wonderful example for your children. When you get into the habit of thinking about others, your own problems will shrink into a proper perspective.
Realize there are two ways to approach your situation. You can be positive. This is obviously the best way. Being positive will energize you to meet all the challenges you face. Or you can be negative. Being negative only makes a tough situation more difficult. It will destroy your happiness and your children’s as well. Being negative will sap your strength when you need it most.
Bitterness is the threat to your success as a single parent. No matter what the cause of your single status—death, separation or divorce—don’t succumb to anger, envy or resentment. You are not the first single parent. In this present evil world, you will not be the last. Others before you have done a truly marvelous job in raising balanced and stable children. You can do the same.
Go after the challenge of single parenting. When you do, you and your children will discover the fulfillment, happiness and peace that only family can deliver.