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Question of the week: Can you help me understand life in the single-parent home?

 
 

 

DC4K-understand single parent

One family minister sent me an email with the following:

I’ve been ministering to some single parents in our church. It seems like they continue to just spin out of control all the time. We get one situation cleaned up, and something else pops up on the radar.

He went on to give a list of situations these single parents had experienced:

  • There’s a relationship problem, such as getting dumped again.
  • Finances never seem to line up because there are always doctor appointments or funds needed for school trips, or the car breaks down.
  • He lives in the past. We can’t get him to move forward.
  • She never comes consistently to our church even though she knows she needs to be there.

The list is endless, and I’m overwhelmed. It seems many of these single parents get stuck in the divorce quagmire. I keep thinking maybe if I understood what life is like in those homes, I would be better equipped to minister to the children and the parents too.

If you are overwhelmed, think about how overwhelmed that single mom or even single dad might be.

Finances seem to be one of the biggest hurdles single parents face. They don’t always need someone to hand them extra funds. What they do need are people who understand or try to understand their situation.

Single-parent story

I had one of my single moms at my church share the following:

One of the Christian women in our church just said to me, “I don’t understand why your financial situation hasn’t changed. What’s wrong with you?” I stood there speechless. I am really trying, but I’m not getting any child support right now.

This particular single mom needed someone to understand and empathize with her. She needed encouragement that she can do this, she is on the right path, and eventually things will even out.

I’ve heard similar comments from other single parents. People have said to them:

  1. Why aren’t you out there dating and trying to find a father or a mother for you kids?
  2. You are such a nice, young man. How come you can’t find another wife?
  3. You seem to be tired a lot. Maybe you should go to bed earlier at night.
  4. I can’t believe you aren’t going to your son’s soccer games.

The problem with many of these statements is the lack of empathy in understanding the single parent’s dilemma of parenting alone.

Addressing each of these issues

  1. Many single parents simply don’t have time or energy to try and get out there and date. Other single parents are concentrating on raising their children. Spiritually and emotionally healthy single parents knows they can never replace the child’s other parent. Perhaps someday they will find someone to marry and start a new life with, but it will be for them, not the child.
  2. Statement number two makes single parents feel like there is something wrong with them. It might be they don’t want another spouse at this moment in time, or they don’t believe they have healed emotionally and have determined they are not ready to date. Respect single parents, and encourage them in their singleness. They might be enjoying their singleness.
  3. Many single parents would give their right arm to get a good night’s rest, but being on 24/7 makes it impossible.
  4. This single parent might have to work on the nights of the soccer game, or perhaps the former spouse and her new boyfriend are always at the games, and he just can’t stand to see them together.

I believe you are correct when you state that maybe if you understood life in these homes, you’d be better equipped to help them.

Here are a few things you can start doing.

  • Hold a class on budgeting.
  • Help a single parent land a new position with a better income.
  • For the single parent who is exhausted, maybe members of the church could help out by taking the children for a weekend.
  • If the single parent can’t attend the child’s soccer games or school concerts, church family could stand in the gap.
  • For single parents who really are stuck in the past, then seminars or support group recovery such as DivorceCare are helpful.
  • Bible study classes or group support groups such as Single & Parenting that teach how to parent alone could be helpful.
  • A support group such as DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) will help children to understand and work through many issues from the divorce.

A starting point

One of the best things you can do is sit down and talk to single parents. Ask them to give you a rundown of their typical day. Ask them what you can do to help. Share with single parents what they can do to help you better understand. Pray for wisdom and guidance.

You will develop more ways to help these single parents as you talk to them and allow them to share their needs with you.

 

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on June 16, 2014.

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