With 13.6 million single parents in the United States today raising 22.4 million children, it is clear that single parents are not unique in our society or in the church. However, the challenges of coping with this situation and all its complexities still exist. The single mom or dad who wants the best for their kids often feels overwhelmed by the challenges, and sometimes guilt-ridden or ashamed for their situation.
Ken who is now remarried and newly retired, recalls his time parenting two young girls.
“Liz was 9, Rachel was 12 when their mom decided she needed to move out, and so she did. The girls and I stayed at the house. We felt it was best for them to stay in the same house, go to the same school, you know, have their friends. So, from a stability perspective, that part of it worked out fine.”
Like so many single parents, Ken found that the physical and emotional needs of his children came first. However, meeting their needs came at the expense of his own. Thankfully, an acquaintance from church, Dave, stepped up to befriend him.
“We would meet and have coffee or breakfast and he was kind of my mentor, my support line, a really good Christian guy. And when I look back at it, I just really appreciate everything that he did because it's not an easy role to have when someone is struggling and hurting and sharing a lot of emotional baggage. But he was there with me. He would listen, and he and his wife were supportive of my girls. They really befriended them and took them in.”
Staying plugged in at church was key for Ken and his daughters.
Trey, a successful young businessman and professional model, was raised by a single mom and agrees that his mom’s expectations of being in church and the example she set made a difference for him and his sister.
“My perspective of the church was that it was a requirement every Sunday and that we were to live in and through the church, meaning live through the Word of the Lord and practice what we preach. My mom’s faith impacted me in a way that I knew she was strong in faith and she seemed to always have the answers to the questions I had. And I think a lot of that came from living through the Word.”
During the pandemic Trey, like many, attended church online. “I had the service up on my laptop while I was in bed, but I could feel that I was missing something. So recently, I’ve started attending in person again and it’s been so refreshing! Now I realize that I need the church for me, not just my mom’s expectations. But I do appreciate that she set those expectations.”
For those who are in the throes of single parenting today, it’s important for them to know that they are making a difference. It’s also important for them to reach out and ask for help.
Ken advises, “I would seek out someone at your local church you could meet with on a regular basis, kind of like Dave did with me. It’s really important to have that regular connection with someone where you can talk frequently, because if you don't, if you just try to keep things bottled up or manage the whole situation yourself, it's so hard.”
Ken continues, “If you have someone close by who can help with the kids, that really helps. And remember, It takes time. So pray and rely on your faith, and have faith knowing that you're not alone, that God is with you even though you might feel alone. And don't give up. It took four years for me to work through everything until my kids were older. “
Today Ken enjoys seeing his daughters and their families thrive in the faith that he modeled for them. Trey is also growing and excited about living through the Word, something his mother lovingly introduced him to when he was a child.
So as we consider spiritual fitness for ourselves and those around us, take notice of the solo parents doing their best to give their children their best. How can we honor them today?
How can you support and encourage the single parent in your life?