Can I Be Happy in a Single-Parent Family?
“Kids with two parents can have their own rooms and buy new clothes. But I have to share a room; I hardly ever get the kind of clothes I like. Mom says she can’t afford them. With all the chores I have to do around the house while she works, I feel like a maid—like I’m being cheated out of part of my childhood.”—Shalonda, 13.
NO DOUBT about it, a home with two loving parents is the ideal. A dad and mom who are together can usually offer more guidance, protection, and support. “Two are better off than one,” says the Bible, “because together they can work more effectively.”—Ecclesiastes 4:9, Today’s English Version.
Even so, if the two-parent home were an animal, it would likely be placed on the endangered species list. For example, more than half the children in the United States will spend some time in a single-parent family before they turn 18.
Still, some youths who live in one-parent households feel ashamed of their circumstances. Others feel overwhelmed by the pressures and problems to which life subjects them. If you live in a one-parent family, what pressures do you encounter? On the line below, write down the problem that bothers you most.
Because you’re missing the full-time love and care of one of your parents, are you doomed to misery? Not at all! Much has to do with your view of the situation. Proverbs 15:15 says: “All the days of the afflicted one are bad; but the one that is good at heart has a feast constantly.” As this proverb implies, a person’s mood is often determined more by his attitude than by his circumstances. What can you do to help yourself feel “good at heart” despite your circumstances?
Counteract Negative Feelings
First, try not to allow the negative comments of others to arouse bad feelings. Some teachers, for example, have shown glaring insensitivity toward one-parent students. Some have even assumed that any behavioral problem is the result of a faulty home environment. But ask yourself: ‘Do the people who make these comments really know me and my family? Or are they just parroting what they’ve heard others say about one-parent households?’
It’s worth noting that the expression “fatherless boy” appears dozens of times in the Scriptures. Not once is this term used in a derogatory manner. In fact, in nearly every one of these accounts, Jehovah reveals his special concern for children who are raised in one-parent homes. *
On the other hand, some well-meaning people might be overly sensitive when speaking to you. For example, they may hesitate to use such words as “father,” “marriage,” “divorce,” or “death,” fearing that such words will offend or embarrass you. Does this kind of behavior bother you? If so, tactfully show them that their concerns are misplaced. Tony, 14, never knew his real father. He says some people bite their tongue when it comes to certain words. However, Tony goes right ahead and uses those very words when talking to them. “I want them to know I’m not ashamed of my situation,” he says.
Avoid the “What-Ifs”
Granted, sadness and a sense of loss are only natural if your parents have divorced or if a beloved parent has died. Even so, eventually you need to accept your situation. The Bible offers this advice: “Do not say: ‘Why has it happened that the former days proved to be better than these?’” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) In this regard, 13-year-old Sarah, whose parents were divorced when she was 10, recommends: “Do not brood over your situation, having the ‘what-if’ blues, or feel that the problems you have are because of your one-parent home, or even that kids in two-parent homes have a cushy life.” This is good advice. After all, even the “ideal” family is hardly devoid of problems.
Why not picture your family as a team of oarsmen in a rowboat? Ideally, the boat would have a full crew. In a single-parent household, one of the crew is missing and the rest of the team has to work a bit harder. Does this mean that the family is a failure? No! As long as the rest of the team pull together, the boat will stay afloat and reach its destination.
Are You Pulling Your Weight?
What specifically can you do to ensure that, along with the rest of your family, you’re pulling your weight? Consider the following three suggestions:
Learn to be frugal. Money is a big concern in most one-parent families. What can you do to help? Tony, mentioned earlier, says: “Kids in my school demand that their parents buy them designer sneakers and clothes. They refuse to go to school without them. I don’t have the latest designer clothes, but I’m neat and clean, and I take care of what I have. My mom’s doing the best she can; I don’t want to make it harder for her.” With a little effort, you can imitate the apostle Paul, who said: “I have learned to be satisfied with what I have . . . , so that anywhere, at any time, I am content.”—Philippians 4:11, 12, TEV.
Another way to be frugal is to avoid waste. (John 6:12) Young Rodney says: “Around the house, I try to be careful not to break or misplace things, since it costs money to repair or replace items. I try to turn off electrical appliances or lights not being used. This helps to lower our electric bills.”
Take the initiative. Many single parents are reluctant to enforce household rules or to ask their children to help with chores. Why? Some feel that they need to compensate for the absence of a parent by making life easy for their children. ‘I don’t want my kids to miss out on having fun,’ they may reason.
Now, you might be tempted to take advantage of your parent’s feelings of guilt. But doing so would only add to your parent’s burden, not lighten it. Instead, why not take the initiative to help out? Consider what Tony was willing to do. “My mother works in a hospital, and her uniform has to be pressed,” he says. “So I iron it for her.” Isn’t that a woman’s work? “Some think so,” replies Tony. “But it helps my mom, so I do it.”
Express appreciation. Besides offering practical help, you can do much to lift your parent’s spirits by simply expressing your appreciation. One single parent wrote: “I often find that when I am really low or irritable from a particularly trying day at work and I come home—that is the day my daughter has chosen to set the table and get the supper going.” She adds: “My son puts his arms around me and hugs me.” How is she affected by such thoughtful acts? “My whole mood changes for the better again,” she says.
Write here which one of the above three points you need to work on most. ․․․․․
Living in a one-parent family gives you the opportunity to develop such qualities as compassion, unselfishness, and dependability. In addition, Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) And great happiness can be yours if you give of yourself by helping your single parent.
Of course, you’ll wish from time to time that you had a second parent at home. Still, you can learn to make the best of your situation. That’s what a girl named Nia found. “After my dad died,” she says, “someone told me that ‘your life is what you make it,’ and those words really stuck with me. They reminded me that I don’t have to be a victim of my circumstances.” You can adopt a similar outlook. Remember, it’s not your circumstances that make you happy or unhappy. It’s how you view them—and what you do about them.
READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IN VOLUME 1, CHAPTER 4
“Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.”—Philippians 2:4, Today’s English Version.
If you feel you have ended up with more responsibility than you can handle, tactfully suggest that your parent try the following:
● Post a list showing all the chores that each family member must perform.
● When necessary, redistribute the chores among capable family members.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Taking on responsibilities in the home can help you mature faster than youths in two-parent families, who often have less responsibility.
I will counteract my negative feelings by ․․․․․
If people are overly sensitive around me, I will say ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● Why do some people display prejudice toward children of single parents?
● Why might your parent be reluctant to ask you to help with chores?
● How can you express appreciation for your parent?
[Blurb on page 211]
“Since my parents’ divorce, my mother and I are really able to talk; we have become very close.”—Melanie
[Picture on page 210, 211]
A single-parent family is like a rowboat with a missing crew member—the rest of the team will have to work a bit harder, but they can succeed if they pull together