Parenting: most people who are parents would describe this job as one of the hardest jobs ever. It’s almost like marrying all over again – trying to take ideas from both parents, combining and compromising, then instilling the end result into another human with a mind and personality of his/her own.Certain things can make the job of parenting even more difficult; nuclear family differences, racial and cultural differences, personalities of parents, religious differences and many other things.
But above all of the things parents could list as difficulties, one thing stands out above the rest: single parenting. Very, very few people ever plan or decide to become single parents. Most people become single parents for one of two reasons: divorce/separation or death.
Some people become single parents when their marriage or relationship ends due to divorce or separation. In some instances, the primary parent is left alone with the couple’s child or children; in other instances, the primary parent chooses to leave the marriage or relationship and takes the couple’s children with him/her. Whichever the case, divorce and separation are devastating, but when children are affected, the situation is even more heartbreaking and difficult.
Some people become single parents when their spouse dies. Maybe the death was caused by a long illness or by a sudden accident. In either case, the shock, bewilderment, loneliness, and sadness leave a huge hole, both for the remaining parent and the children.
Unfortunately, single parenting has become very common in the United States. Recent statistics show that 1/3 of US children are living with an unmarried parent. This number has more than doubled since 1968. 83% percent of single parents are single moms, while 17% of single parents are single fathers.
Now, more than ever before, single parents must bear a large part of the raising of their children. Although some single parents do receive help and assistance from their children’s other parent, it’s not the same as having another parent in the home all the time. Because of this fact, single parents often feel extremely stressed, like the weight of the “whole world” is on their shoulders.
Often, single parents are exhausted from working – sometimes more than one job – to provide for their children, then having sole responsibility for the children at home. Single parenting can cause feelings of inadequacy and fear like few other situations can.
Although single parenting has become very common, a certain stigma sometimes follows single parents and their children. Single parents often feel out of place in social circles where most of the people are in couples. Single parents are often unable to be as involved in their children’s school functions as they would like, due to work obligations.
Because of all of the pressure and stress single parents feel, they often do seem withdrawn and uninterested in their children’s activities, when, in reality, they are just trying to keep “all the balls in the air.” Being a single mom or a single dad can bring feelings of inescapable loneliness and fatigue.
The statistics surrounding children from single parent homes are staggering: 63% of suicides across the nation are people from single-parent homes; 75% of children being treated for chemical dependency come from single-parent homes; more than half of the youths incarcerated in the US were raised in single-parent homes. There is also a direct link between single-parent homes and poverty.
These children often feel abandoned and rejected by the parent that is no longer in the home; they may become angry and withdrawn. These children may experience feelings of worthlessness and extreme loneliness; they often feel different than their peers and out of place, socially.
Studies also show that children living in single-parent homes tend not to perform as well as other children on math and reading tests, complete and turn in homework on time or make good grades. Often this is due to their single parent being either unavailable or too tired to help with homework, studying for tests and the like.
Tips for the Single Parent Family
Are you living life as a single mom or dad? Below are some things you can do for yourself to make single parenting more successful for you and your children:
1. Reach Out Your life as a single parent can be exhausting and stressful. More than likely, you have wonderful family members and great friends that would do anything to lighten your load. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself and to those close to you that you need help. Help with simple things like carpool and baby-sitting can give you those few extra minutes at work or to yourself that can make such a difference in your stress and energy levels.
2. Involve the Kids
Once your children are old enough, give them simple, age-appropriate jobs to help you around the house. Establish routines for everyday life, such as weekday morning routine, after school routine, evening routine, etc. Teach your children to be responsible for their own things-clothing, shoes, school things, lunch box, etc.
3. Make Time for Joy
Because life can get so stressful so quickly, take time out to enjoy your family. It’s so easy for single parents to feel so much pressure from “having to do it all,” that the thing that sometimes true time with the kids suffers.
Have a movie night, have a pillow fight, go for ice cream, have a dance-off, have a video game competition; any small, inexpensive thing that you and your kids enjoy is fine. Spending time together is the goal.
4. Find Someone You Can Talk To
The stress of being a single parent can feel enormous and be hard to deal with. It is very helpful to have someone to talk to about life’s struggles.
It could be another single parent, a single mom help group or just a friend or family member you trust. Sometimes just being able to verbalize your frustrations and problems is just what you need; just having someone to recognize your difficulty and empathize with you can make all the difference.
Christian Counseling for the Single Parent Family
This verse is a promise, not only for single mothers but also for single fathers, that God, the Almighty God of the universe, promises to step in and be your partner! Even though you may not have a spouse or an earthly partner, God Himself, your Creator, promises to be there for you, in all His glory.
For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. – Isaiah 54:5
He’ll be there to give you strength when you feel weak; He’ll be there to give you wisdom when you’re confused; He’ll be there to calm you when you’re feeling frazzled, and so much more.
The truth is that God is still needed even in families where both parents are present in the home; parenting, even in the best of situations and homes is too difficult to do without God’s help. We need His wisdom, His guidance and all of the fruits of the Spirit to raise children into functioning adults.
God is what makes parenting, even single-parenting, successful. No parent, single or with a partner, is perfect or does everything right all the time; we all need God.
Are you a single parent in need of help today? Are you exhausted, stressed and don’t know where to turn? There is help for the single mom and the single dad.
The counselors at Seattle Christian Counseling are here to help you with all the ins and outs of single parenting – you don’t have to do this alone! Please give us a call today; a visit with a counselor can be just the thing that helps you find joy in parenting again.
Pew Research Center. 2018
“Helping Hands”, Courtesy of David Straight, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mamma’s Girl”, Courtesy of Sai De Silva, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Christian Erfurt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Helping Mommy”, Courtesy of Brandless, Unsplash.com, CC0 License