Dr. Randy Carlson
I come humbly to the topic of single parenting because I’ve never been a single parent. And I wasn’t raised by a single parent. But I’ve read the research, which is staggering. Single parenting is exploding in the United States. Thirty-five percent of children today in America live in a single-parent home. Forty percent of all children born in the U.S. are born to a single mom. In 1960 there were 300,000 single fathers in the U.S. Today there are 2.6 million. This is a growing reality.
And it got me thinking. You see, single parenting seldom starts happily. Think about all the things in life that start happily. Marriage begins with a wedding, which is a happy day, right? Starting a new job is a happy day. Reuniting with a family member? That’s a happy day.
But how many people celebrate the day they became a single parent? Now some might say they’re happy to be a single parent, but the reality is the things that generally lead to single parenting—like divorce and death—are difficult. Maybe there’s anger or conflict. Perhaps there’s been rejection or loss. All of those things are usually a part of the process of becoming a single mom or dad.
If you’re coming out of a difficult situation where you’ve become a single parent, I came up with four things that single parents should think about.
1. It’s imperative to get to a point of forgiveness. Scripture teaches that we are to forgive one another just as Christ has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32). Your kids are not stupid. They see you and your spouse still angry and know there are issues going on. And it seems like the kids are always paying the price. So recognize that you did not start as a happy single mom or dad, but forgiveness is the key to emotional freedom for you and your children.
2. Set new goals and go after them. When you become a single parent, you’ve got to work through the grief and deal with the issue. And then there’s a point when you’ve got to say, “Now what?” This is an opportunity to be intentional. What is God’s intention for you as a single mom to raise your kids? How can you, as a single dad, do the best job you can of raising your kids? And when you do that, you’re not staying stuck. Don’t jump in too quickly, but set goals for your family and your future.
3. Foster healthy friendships. Friendships have an expiration date. If you’ve gone through a divorce, you may know what it’s like to lose some friends. But be careful of the new friends you pick. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who have started hanging around with the wrong people—people who reinforce feeling sorry for themselves and throw pity parties. But those are not the kind of friends you need. You need people who are going to challenge you, hold you accountable, love you, and help bring you up. You need friends that are going to take you to another level. So find the right friends.
4. Stay focused on parenting your children. Be the kind of mom or dad that your kids need you to be. Don’t get sucked in when your child says it’s different at mom’s house or that dad does it that way. Don’t fall into the trap of being the Disneyland dad trying to make up for the sins and mistakes of life. Guilt will try to keep you from being consistent in discipline, but fight that desire. What your children need more than anything is for you to be a good parent, and good parenting means you set boundaries and you hold your kids accountable.