Phases of single parenting: From surviving to thriving
Christian single parents are people living in a broken world who have to face the consequences of the brokenness, for themselves and their children. The majority are unwilling divorcees having to deal with a Christian spouse’s wrong choices and actions. Others are widowed or were unmarried. But the reality of Christian single parenting is the same for all – it is a hard task. We are not ‘Super dad’ or ‘Super mum’, but weak and frail human beings with unique needs and desires, like everyone else.
The single parent family is still able to be a fully functioning unit yet certain phases have to moved through to get to recovery and restoration:
Survival: As the parent starts to cope with life one day at a time, so the children cope better with their daily routines including school. Coping extends from a daily to weekly basis, then longer term plans can be made. The parent and children may need certain types of counselling to come through any traumatic experience. Healing for all takes time and needs prayer as the Holy Spirit works with healing power. It is better not to start dating too early looking for someone to fix your situation, rather look to the Lord to be your Someone to meet your daily needs by his grace. Continued loving support from family, friends and the church community is required in this phase.
Setbacks: However, all along the way there will be ‘setbacks’. The single parent is initially vulnerable and fragile. Coping with only ‘one significant adult’ means a juggling act, and sometimes all the ‘balls come crashing down’. This may be due to sheer exhaustion, physical illness, an emotional upset i.e. if dating, a break-up; teenage misbehaviour; work stress; and any unforeseen problems of life. The parent has to look to the Lord, stand up again and keep going forward in His strength. A ‘listening’ ear of a counsellor or trusted friend can help the parent move forward positively again.
Stability: Once the stability of the family is established over time i.e. the parent is stable and the children are stable, the setbacks are more easily recovered. It is wise to try to change as little as possible in the children’s lives such as routines, home, school etc, unless absolutely necessary. Make your relationship to the Lord through the Word and prayer part of the fabric of family life; we pray in the car on the way to school daily. Foster a team spirit where everyone in the family is a part of the success of the whole. Encourage each child to do their part with specific chores. Most importantly, keep an open dialogue with your children and discuss any changes such as introducing a person you are starting to date. Make sure your children are comfortable with this process and the person.
Thriving: A stable, loving Christian single parent family, who serve others, is a wonderful testimony to the Lord. People, especially non-Christians, ask ‘How do you do it? You work full time, have five children, are so strong and calm.’ And I can say, ‘It’s not me alone. I’m a Christian and God helps me. He gives me the strength and peace. And we have our bad days!’.
I made a conscious decision to put my children first, and realised that someone had to sacrifice for others to be blessed. I knew I may be single again for a season but that I could trust God to bless me with remarriage in the future if his will.
What has been your experience as a single parent? What has helped bring you through difficult times? And what advice would you give Christian single parents who are looking to start dating again?