The Single Parent Support Group (SPSG), formerly known as Empowering Single Parents Network (ESPN), provides support and a community for solo parents and their children. At a gathering on 9 August, one parent shared how SPSG journeyed with her through the hardest period of her life.
On National Day, 11 solo parents and their children gathered for a picnic and for fellowship at the Singapore Botanical Gardens, together with Pastor Tan Yah Lan from City Harvest Church, the pastoral oversight for this group.
It was a gathering that fed not just the physical but the emotional. The parents highlighted the difficulties of solo parenting, such as the disruption caused by death or divorce to a child’s upbringing and environment, as well as the stresses and tensions that arise within a family undergoing this change.
Single parents face a slew of difficulties that most other people will find hard to understand. Even within the body of Christ, there is the problem of single parents integrating into family cell groups, an issue that the parents discussed openly at this gathering. Some common struggles faced were a lack of social support, being judged or perceived as weak or needy. The transition from being co-parent to solo parent can be stressful, if not traumatic, for both parent and child.
During the gathering, I had the opportunity to share about my solo parenting journey and how the fellowship in SPSG helped strengthen my relationship with my son and restore my faith with Jesus.
I have been a single parent to my son Adam for 12 years now. I’m here today to share with you my testimony about fellowship, forgiveness and faith.
I came to CHC a month after my divorce and I have been attending this church since. Up till that point, I was a lapsed Christian for 20 years. I was married to a non-believer and living a life independent of Jesus, relying day to day on my own strength and will. I was doing well in my career and had had great jobs that afforded me a comfortable life. I was doing well, was healthy, had many friends and very often felt that there was no need for God in my life. If I did think about God, it was only during Easter or Christmas.
I understand that you may be single parents for different reasons. Some of you lost your spouse unexpectedly. For me, I’m a single parent by way of divorce.
Loss in any form is painful.
In 2011, when my marriage came to a screeching halt, I was beside myself. The man I had once loved wanted out of our 10-year marriage and he returned home to Australia, leaving me to pick up the pieces of my broken heart and the burden of caring for a 7-year-old whose life in the next few years became plagued with the question ‘Why?’
“Why did Dad leave?”, “Why doesn’t Dad call?”, “Why doesn’t Dad love me?”, “Why do I only have one parent?”, “Why does this have to happen to me?” Why? Why? Why?
I remember this period in my life as one of the most painful, but it was all the more confusing for my young child, who through no fault of his own, was forced to accept this unusual and unexpected state of affairs.
No matter how civil couples try to be, divorce is painful.
No matter how we try to rationalise things, the sudden loss of a spouse is painful.
For me, I had to deal with difficult emotions like anger, resentment, shame, fear, loss of self-worth, self-esteem and lack of confidence. My son had to deal with issues of rejection, abandonment, worth and guilt. Guilt, because somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind, he thought that he was the cause of the break-up.
This confusion persisted through his teenage years, and through Godly intervention, he now feels less confused as a young adult. As parents, seeing our children suffer hurts. Sometimes, it hurts even more than our own hurts.
It was these hurts I felt in my soul that led me to seek good and Godly fellowship. Although I was able to function in my every day life—doing my work and making a living—there was a gaping hole in my spiritual well-being caused by the divorce.
Out of desperation, I searched the CHC website for spiritual guidance. I found that the church had a support group (then) called the Empowering Single Parent Network. I wrote to the church to find out more and was connected to Pastor Yah Lan the next day.
Pastor met with me that week and prayed over me and my son. She also introduced me to the support group—now called the Single Parent Support Group (SPSG)—a community of single parents who understand what it is like to raise children alone.
At this point, my son was attending HarvestKidz and I had been integrated into a cell group and every Sunday, I went to service and fellowshipped with my cell group mates. Immersed in this environment of two-parent families in cell group and in church, my son was always inadvertently reminded that he was different, that he would never have a father living under the same roof, and he would constantly have to explain to his peers where his father was.
However, it was through the SPSG community of single parents that he was exposed to various family dynamics and learned that one-parent households can still thrive in God’s kingdom.
Through SPSG, that he saw that children of single parents are not abandoned or unloved. He came to realise that love in a single parent household is just as deep and real as love in a two-parent household.
Through SPSG, I gained confidence in parenting my child while also developing meaningful relationships with other single parents.
Exposure to the families in SPSG helped my son and I normalise his experience with family.
What was even more significant was my transformation from lapsed believer to born-again Christian that opened my son’s eyes to the transformational power of Jesus’ resurrection, when He released me from the deadness of my situation of unforgiveness and shame.
My son could see how my identity, beliefs and actions were gradually being moulded by my Christian faith as I acknowledged Jesus as my Saviour and tried every day to draw on God’s Word, to be the seed sown on good ground or the tree planted by the rivers of water.
Worshipping as part of a church and in fellowship with my cell group strengthened my walk with God. But it was practising our faith at home, forgiving each other on a daily basis, and loving each other deeply, that enhanced both our relationship with each other and with God.
Through this experience, I believe that following in Jesus’ footsteps leads to restoration in our families and with one another.
A VISION TO HEAL SINGLE PARENTS & FAMILIES
ESPN was started by Pastor Derek Dunn in 2009 with 40 single parents attending its inaugural conference at CHC. Pastor Yah Lan took over pastoral oversight of the group in 2010, and began gathering the parents for prayer, fellowship and mutual support once a month.
“This year, after discussions with the core group of parents, we renamed ESPN to Single Parents Support Group, or SPSG,” says Pastor Yah Lan. “This is an important step, because ‘SPSG’ reflects accurately the main objective of what the ministry is about. It’s not about networking as it’s done in the corporate world, but it’s really to support single parents, no matter what circumstances or backgrounds they came from.”
The pastor notes that Singapore is seeing a growing number of single parent families—not just mothers, but single fathers as well.
“SPSG seeks to be an avenue where single parents can come together to form a strong community, providing a supportive environment for interaction, friendship and support among one another,” she explains. “The positive impact of this support group is not just on the parents. When the parents are healed, their children will grow up healthy in body, soul and spirit.”
While the group has evolved in demographic and number, Pastor Yah Lan notes that there has been intrinsic growth in the group. “Other than the core group, who have been around since the early days of ESPN, we are continuing to build connections with new single parents,” she says. “ Some of them have come to us through word-of-mouth, while others found us by searching online. The single parents who have embarked on their healing journeys and received their breakthroughs are now able to help and minister to others who have newly joined this community.”
She adds, “In the next five years, I hope SPSG will be able to support even more parents in their various areas of needs, whether spiritual, emotional or practical. Perhaps one day, SPSG will grow beyond the church, and we can reach out, strengthen and build up single parents in society.”
If you are a solo parent looking for a community and support, please contact CFAM@chc.org.sg