Raising Children As a Single Parent
One of life’s greatest blessings and sources of joy is being called “mommy” or “daddy.” But it is also one of the hardest jobs in the universe. As a single parent, you know better than anyone else about the challenges of parenting. No one can understand the struggle and the loneliness that single parents often endure, or how exhausting the role can be, unless they’ve experienced it themselves. So, how can you be hopeful and experience joyful success as a parent despite these challenging circumstances?
According to tradition, St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, died before Jesus reached manhood. And so Mother Mary was herself a single parent, and Jesus was raised in a single-parent home. Whatever has led to you being a single parent, take comfort in the knowledge that in the very heart of the Holy Family, there is room for you, your child, and your story.
To God, there are no second-class citizens, so be intentional not to view yourself as a second-class parent. Raising children alone is certainly more difficult, but the goal is the same for you as it is for two-parent families–to nurture your child’s relationship with Christ and to instill Christian values. That means becoming intentional about building a strong relationship with your child, modeling godly character, and creating occasions for meaningful interaction about life’s most important truths. Remember, it is no accident that God gave you the blessing of children. Only God can create human beings. He is also eager to give you the grace you need to be the parent He calls you to be.
Take Care of Yourself
Few people understand the load you carry. You are likely to be under a lot of stress with the extra work and care that single parenting requires. In the midst of the whirlwind, you must be intentional about taking care of yourself. While it may seem that you’re all parent all the time, you must take time each day to fill your own bucket and avoid burnout.
Choose healthy relationships and friendships. If you are not ready to marry, don’t feel obligated to date during this season of life. Seek out healthy Christian friendships that can help you face this challenging calling and make wise decisions through it all. It will be greatly helpful to be a part of a community of believers committed to forgiveness, redemption, and growth. And Christian community is important for your children, too—they need the support of Christian role models, both men and women.
Along with good relationships, it is important that you take time for your own spiritual growth. The daily struggles of parenting will require daily attention to your own relationship with God. So spend time in prayer and in God’s Word. Join a Growth Group or other group at the church for enrichment and accountability. And remember: you are not alone. There are many other single parents at our church who are going through the same struggles as you.
Keep Your Child’s Best Interests In Mind
Every parent is called to lay aside his or her own interests for their children. That calling takes extra commitment when you’re going it alone. You may still be working through the painful circumstances that led to becoming a solo parent, or dealing with an ex-spouse who is a negative influence on the children. Regardless of the emotions that your specific circumstances may be causing, you are called to place your child’s needs above your own. Give them as much stability and nurturing as possible within your circumstance—even when they don’t seem to appreciate the sacrifices you’re making. Be assured, the Lord receives your selfless caring as an act of worship to Him because it reflects the spirit of Christ who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2).
Being a servant includes doing your best to maintain a Christ-like attitude when you go through the headaches of court appointments, seeing your ex with a new romantic interest, juggling financial challenges, maintaining a home, or having people ask awkward questions about your family.
Putting your children first is also a priority if you don’t have custody or if you are limited to small windows of time together. Those times are your opportunity to show love and influence and not to get caught up in disagreements over parenting differences. In your visitation, in your support, and all other connections, your first priority is serving the needs of your children.
For Christians, the greatest virtues of all are faith, hope, and love. Cling to these three things, always remembering that the greatest of these is love. And remember that you yourself are still God’s precious child, and that he is wildly in love with you. He’s got the whole world—your life, your child’s life—in His hands.
Seek Help When You Need It
One of the big challenges of being a single parent is that there is no one else to tell you when you are making a foolish decision or when your parental correction is too strict (or too lax). It is common for single parents to find themselves questioning their own decisions even in the midst of following through on them. Seek the council and perspective of other parents, especially parents who have older or grown children. They can help you “gauge” things you observe in your children, as well as your own experiences and reactions. It can be reassuring to recognize that a particular foible you note in your fourth grader has more to do with the fact that he/she is a fourth grader than it does with any deficiency in your parenting or with your situation. It can be quite encouraging to hear about other parent’s experiences and realize just how “normal” you are, and how “normal” your child is.
Also, do not be afraid to allow others to help “parent.” Sometimes grandparents, other family members, and friends have more time, more patience, and more experience than you may have when it comes to certain skills and subjects, and the best thing for everyone is for you as the parent to step back for a bit, give yourself a break, and let other trusted adults teach your child.
For The Care Of Children
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829
For Young Persons
God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance to learn true humility, without which they cannot see you. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 829 with additions.
- Successful Single Parenting By Gary Richmond
A single-parent pastor, provides practical help and biblical principles for balancing your needs with those of your children.
Offers helpful articles, resources and referral organizations. Go to the “Single Parenting” section. TroubledWith.com
- Have a New Kid by Friday By Dr. Kevin Leman
Is a helpful book that talks about the importance of maintaining a consistent schedule with your child.
- The Book of Common Prayer
The BCP contains all of our services, prayers, and many resources for private devotions. It can be purchased on Amazon or at the Incarnation Bookstore. See especially pages 301–308 for insight into how our tradition thinks about children and parenting. bcponline.org
- Children & Family Ministry
Incarnation has a thriving Children & Family Ministry. There are many opportunities to connect with other parents and families in the same season of life as you. For more information, visit Children & Family Ministry.
- Moms Talk is a group of moms that meets every other week for study, support, and prayer. More info »
- Get Connected.
Join with other parents and families from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information.
- Get Involved.
Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
- Serve the Poor Together.
Visit our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
- Talk with a priest.
If you would like to talk about anything related to parenting and the spiritual formation of children, feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our clergy. Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.