Contributed By Larry Keefauver
“I am a single parent and experience many difficult things because I have no mate to help me. What advice can you give me for coping with my life?”
~ Single mom
All parenting presents special challenges along with innumerable joys. Let’s address some of the special needs and tips for single parents. “Mommy, where is my dad?” “Daddy, do I have a mother?”
A sense of loss, grief and even abandonment becomes rooted in the soul of a child missing one of his or her biological parents. If a parent dies, the surviving parent must walk the child through the stages of grief including anger, confusion, pain, hurt, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Explaining death and heaven to a child requires sensitivity and the support of godly friends and leaders who can surround the single-parent family with support, comfort and love. Assure your child of your love and the love of God the Father has for him or her. God never leaves us or forsakes us. We are never orphaned or abandoned by our loving Father.
A child may be raised in a single-parent home because the parents were divorced, separated or the child was born out of wedlock. Particular challenges arise when the non-custodial parent is around and connected to the child’s life. For the child’s sake, if possible, the two parents need to work hard to agree, avoid conflict and parent the child in a godly way. For a great book on parenting, I recommend one I have written entitled, Proactive Parenting. Parents should avoid degrading, blaming or forcing a child to take sides. Honor and respect need to flow between parents and child and between the parents themselves.
Here are some practical tips for all single parents:
1. Surround yourself with positive, supportive family and friends.
• Positive role models from both genders.
• A support group for yourself.
• Peer support and positive, godly authority figures in your child’s life.
• Education through seminars, webinars and classes to gain parenting skills.
2. Take care of yourself.
• Surround yourself with positive, affirming people willing to help, support and affirm you; a single parenting support group, cell group or life group, singles’ ministry at church, strong friends who will be there for you to listen, help to babysit, and be a coach, mentor and friend to your child.
•Practice spiritual disciplines—study Scripture, worship, stewardship, prayer, servanthood, witnessing, praise, etc.
• Eat right with good nutrition; rest.
• Develop a family budget; do not spend more than you earn.
• Involve your family in helping you parent; children need loving, wise and affirming grandparents (or adopted grandparents) in their lives.
3. Set boundaries and rules for discipline that have consequences, correction and training.
• Quality time—Spend quality time with your child so that he or she can learn from you as you learn together, study together, read together, play together, worship together and share biblical life values together.
• Parent your family as a group, a team, supporting one another in work, play, spiritual growth and involvement in the family of God. Involve your extended family. Also, reach out to teachers, coaches, instructors, mentors, ministers and pastors.
• Develop surrogate parents for your child who can speak into his or her life the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that comes from God’s truth in Scripture.
• Write out the rules and consequences with your child for living a healthy and holy life in your home. Have everyone in your home sign them. Follow through on the consequences. Put them in a place you can both see them and discuss them regularly.
4. Don’t feel guilty; don’t blame; give honor where honor is due.
• Don’t feel guilty that you are a single parent. Be confident in the Lord. Remember, you are not alone. God is parenting with you and you have built a support team around you of other parents, family and godly friends who will help you.
• Don’t blame God or your child’s biological parent for your trials. Persevere and partner with God to go through problems, trials and difficulties. Your child is receiving an inheritance of character, integrity, strength, faith and hope through you. Leave a legacy through your child’s life!
5. Don’t major in minors.
• Pick your battles. Remember that being critical and focusing on minor things in your child’s life will undermine your ability to speak to the major issues of character and integrity.
• Focus on the positive. Build on your child’s strengths. Encourage, don’t discourage your child. Surround yourself and your child with people who have positive, “can do” attitudes.
6. Don’t let a bad day ruin a good week.
• Yes, some days will be tough and difficult ones. It will seem like all the progress you have made as a single parent is sabotaged by your child’s misbehavior or your angry outburst. Give and ask for forgiveness. Be thankful for how far you have come. Don’t give up or quit … keep fighting through to finish the task or assignment God has given you for the week, month or year.
God believes in you. God has entrusted you with the gift of your child. You will be a great parent and others are there to help you. Single does not mean alone or abandoned. One is a whole number! Parent with God and discover His help and guidance daily.
For more information on Larry Keefauver’s webinars or to get a digital copy of his book, Proactive Parenting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.