You Can Succeed as a Single Parent
IT HAS been said that if the two-parent home were an animal, it would likely be on the endangered species list. Consider: There are more than 13 million single parents in the United States alone, the vast majority being single mothers. Research indicates that about half of all children in that country will spend at least some of their youth in a single-parent home.
If you are a single parent, be assured that your family life can succeed. Try to implement the following suggestions.
▪ Avoid negative labels. The Bible says: “All the days of the afflicted one are bad; but the one that is good at heart has a feast constantly.” (Proverbs 15:15) True, your life may not seem to be a banquet. But as this verse indicates, cheerfulness is more a matter of the heart than of one’s circumstances. (Proverbs 17:22) Little good is accomplished by thinking of your children as doomed or of your home as hopelessly broken. Such labels will only dispirit you and make it more difficult for you to fulfill your parental duties.—Proverbs 24:10.
Suggestion: Make a list of any negative statements you use to describe your situation, and then write down next to each one a positive statement to replace it. For example, replace “This is too much for me” with “I am capable of handling my responsibility as a single parent, and I can get the help I need.”—Philippians 4:13.
▪ Budget your money. The wallet is where many single parents—especially single mothers —are hit the hardest. Yet, in some cases financial stress can be eased with effective budgeting skills. A Bible proverb states: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself.” (Proverbs 22:3) To avoid financial “calamity,” planning and forethought are essential.
Suggestion: Work out a budget on paper. Keep a record of your expenses for a month and find out where your money is going. Take a hard look at your spending habits. Are you relying too much on credit? Do you buy your children things to compensate for the lack of a second parent? If your children are old enough, sit down with them and brainstorm how money can be saved. It will be good training for them. And they may even have a few practical ideas!
▪ Deal peaceably with your ex-spouse. If you share custody, be aware that bad-mouthing your ex to your child—or using your child as a spy to find out what is going on in your ex’s life—is unhealthy. * It is far better to forge a working relationship with your ex regarding discipline or any other issue that affects the welfare of your child. The Bible says: “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody”—and that includes your ex.—Romans 12:18, Today’s English Version.
Suggestion: The next time a disagreement arises, treat your ex as you would a workmate. On the job, you would strive to be amicable with everyone—even those you do not particularly admire. Take the same approach with your ex. The two of you may not always agree, but each spark does not need to ignite a fire.—Luke 12:58.
▪ Be a good example. Ask yourself: ‘What values and attitudes do I want my children to adopt? Do I reflect those values and attitudes in my own life?’ For example, are you generally happy, despite your single-parent status? Or do you let your circumstances cast a pall over your outlook on life? Are you stuck in resentment over the way your ex has treated you? Or are you resilient in the face of injustices over which you have no control? (Proverbs 15:18) Granted, those are not easy issues, and you will not face them perfectly. Still, your children are likely to adopt the same attitudes about life that they see you display.
Suggestion: Write down on paper three qualities that you would like each of your children to display when they become adults. * Next to each quality, write out what you can do right now to set an example that will nurture that quality in your child.
▪ Take care of yourself. With a hectic pace of life, it is all too easy to let your physical and emotional health slide. Do not fall into that trap! Taking care of your “spiritual need” is a must! (Matthew 5:3) Remember—a car without fuel will not get far. Neither will you if you do not take time to “refuel.”
There is also “a time to laugh” and “a time to skip about.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) Recreation is not a waste of time. It refreshes you and renews your strength so that you can carry on as a single parent.
Suggestion: Talk to other single parents about how they take care of themselves. While you “make sure of the more important things,” can you also spend at least some time each week doing something that you simply enjoy? (Philippians 1:10) Write down on paper what you would like to do and when you might do it.
^ par. 8 For more information, see the article “A House Divided—The Impact of Divorce on Adolescents,” on pages 18-21 of this magazine.