Single parenting is no longer an anomaly in our culture. Whether divorce, death or a relocation of one spouse due to work or deployment, single parenting is one of the most challenging tasks in the world. Add to that stress the aspect of a job or career and the stress escalates exponentially.
Some thoughts along the way may help a bit if you are sharing custody of your child or children. Doubt you’ll see anything in this blog that will be brand new, but some things may be worth doubling down on as you move forward:
1.) I heard a single parent say once that the three most important things in successful single parenting are consistency and consistency and then consistency. Your child needs this; especially in times like bedtime and as they grow older in the kind of entertainment that is appropriate, style of music, food and diet, clothing choices, curfews, etc. It may tempting for us to create a “good parent, bad parent” dynamic especially if the “good parent” is you. But the ultimate damage done will be to your child when they learn how to play both against the other… and both parents lose control.
2.) Communicate with the other custodial spouse. Often. About items that you may think would not concern them. Run the risk of giving too much information verses not telling them something that may be essential for them to know. Again, the loser is your child if they are being trusted to the care of an uninformed parent, who didn’t know that extra time needs to be spent on history homework because of a pending bad grade or an upcoming doctor’s visit had been scheduled.
3.) Do not use the child as the messenger or spy when they are with the other custodial parent. Don’t pump them for information about the other parent. It is not their job to report back to you and you will add stress to an already stressful circumstance. Don’t make it worse.
4.) Do not talk badly about the other parent. If you disagree with something, be an adult and speak to them about it… not your child. And remember something VERY IMPORTANT: What you say about the other parent is internalized by the child who IS A PART and will always BE A PART of the other person. Unconsciously, they cannot separate your verbal tirades from how you feel about them.
I am aware that for many single moms and dads, the last thing they ever wanted to be was a single parent. This was not how you saw your parenting being done. But, as the Bible gives us several very positive examples, you can do this with excellence. Be careful to manage your negative emotions, especially in early months following a separation or divorce when things tend to be most volatile. While you and your mate may no longer be able to live together, your child has little choice in the matter. Your job is to make that transition as easy for them as possible. And believe me, God is able to bless your efforts, even when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. Maybe I should add the fifth suggestion here:
5.) Pray. Specifically. A lot. Out loud. Cry if you need to. Shout. Carry your frustrations to God in prayer. He will hear. He cares. He knows.
FOR MEMORIZATION: Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
FOR REFLECTION: Remember the times God has been faithful to single people in the Bible… specifically single parents. Hagar, who bore Abram’s child in the Book of Genesis. Mary, the mother of Jesus, who in all likelihood spent some years as a single mom following Joseph’s death. Jacob, a single father… and patriarch of Israel. The stories are there. God doesn’t forget.