How to keep single parents from burning out




Loneliness and stress are probably the largest reasons why single parents burn out. And right now with Covid 19 and the sheltering in place and lock downs, many single parent are feeling the crunch. Many are not getting to see the children because they are at the other parent’s home. Others are worried that with all the transporting back and forth between homes, the children might be exposed to the coronavirus.

Oh, there’s one more huge contributor to burnout among single parents: attending church when they already feel lonely and stressed.

Why does attending church aid burn out? After all, isn’t coming to church supposed to help us worship God and commune with other believers? Isn’t it a place where we study God’s Word and learn about how to live a more Christlike life? Yes, that is true, but church can also be a lonely place for the single parent. It can also be a place where the single parent feels ashamed and judged. When that happens, the single parent might not hear God’s Word or feel worthy of worshiping our Creator or connecting with other believers.

What did you think?

Think about it for a minute. When I said that stress is one of the largest contributors to burnout, didn’t some of you think something like this?

  • If those parents would just relax and take things in stride, life wouldn’t overwhelm them.
  • They need to pray more and trust that God will work things out for them.
  • Maybe if they weren’t so disorganized, they could manage better.
  • They should be better managers of their time.
  • They just need to get control of those kids!

Two-parent home versus one-parent home

When you read about loneliness causing burnout, did you truly understand the issue of loneliness? In a two-parent home, there is someone to connect with on a daily basis and to share problems with and discuss issues about the kids. For single parents, though, there is no one. They go to bed alone, and they wake alone. They hash out kid problems alone. They make decisions alone, and they worry and wonder if their decisions are the best ones for the children.

We can sit here all day offering suggestions about how to not be stressed and lonely, but the reality is that single parents have a lot to be stressed about, and they are lonely. Is there anything that you, as church leaders and children’s ministers, can do to keep single parents from burning out?

Actually, there is, and it can be a lot of fun for you, the single parents, and their children in your church. Create fun, lighthearted activities for the single parent and children. You don’t have to do this alone. Enlist the help of two-parent families or senior adults who have a little extra time to contribute. This will create opportunities for single parents to develop relationships in which they can share their burdens and get help making difficult decisions.

Here are just a few fun ideas

  • Pick up the single mom and her kids, and treat them (that means cover the cost) to a movie and snacks at the local theater.
  • Take the single dad and his kids on an overnight camp-out.
  • Schedule a cleanup day at the church.

Go a step further, and schedule a time to pick up the single-parent family and transport them to church. Take everyone to a local fast-food restaurant for breakfast, or have breakfast at the church, and then allow the single-parent family to help clean up the church. This can include washing walls, tending the grounds, planting flowers, picking up trash, and washing and sanitizing the toys in the infant area. Contributing and doing hard physical work while laughing with others can go a long way to relieving the loneliness and stress of parenting alone. It also helps the kids take ownership of the church facilities and feel connected to this building called “church.”

  • Hold a free spa morning for single moms.

Have the teenage girls in the youth group treat the moms to manicures, pedicures, facials, and shoulder massages. Provide different flavors of tea for the moms to sample. Allow the youth to share fashion tips in a style show or even using the latest magazines. And, of course, provide free babysitting for any mom who has her children that day.

  • Take a group of single dads and their kids to a ballgame, soccer game, or hockey game. This creates a time for bonding with other single dads. The kids can get acquainted with each other, and everyone can have a good time.
  • Get single parents and their children outside. Organize a morning hike, or just meet for breakfast at a local park on a Saturday morning.
  • Go as a group to a local zoo or farm where the children can touch and pet animals or pick vegetables.

The main idea is to create fun times when single parents can be with other adults, and their children can play with other kids in a safe, secure environment.

Something that will make a huge difference

If you can arrange to pick up the single-parent family, it helps the single parent follow through on the event. For stressed single parents, it is easy to commit to an upcoming event, but when it comes time to actually get in the car and drive to the event, they often feel too overwhelmed, stressed, or tired to follow though. If someone picks them up, it relieves them of that responsibility.

As one single mom said, “I don’t have to have a brain when someone else is responsible for driving my kids and me some place. It’s a brain-free day for me.”

What you’ll be providing

You’ll be amazed at how such simple, fun ideas can keep single parents from getting burned out.

  • You’ll give them a day where they don’t have to parent alone.
  • You’ll provide a few hours when they can lay aside the worries of the moment.
  • You’ll create a few hours when they can be part of something larger than themselves and their problems.
  • You’ll give them renewed energy.
  • You’ll allow them to be in an environment where they don’t feel judged or ashamed for parenting alone.

Reach out, enjoy yourself, and help single parents enjoy themselves. It will make it easier for single parents to attend church on Sunday and will introduce them to people who can help them deal with the struggles of single parenting.



This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on October 19, 2016.

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