Single Parent Families

bettyarrigotti photo blogWelcome back to our 4 minute focus on building strong families!

One chapter in Building Christian Families by Mitch and Kathy Finley deals particularly with single parent families. If you are, or have been, part of a single parent family you will recognize the truth in what they write. If you are blessed to be part of a two-parent family, please read this anyway in order to build empathy for the special challenges you have been spared and perhaps to consider helping struggling families.

The single parent family is a true family and a legitimate form of home-church. Let’s follow the example we see throughout the Bible as God shows a soft spot in his heart for “widows and orphans,” or any family who needs extra consideration.

We all have our limits, and it’s only realistic to accept them. However, single parent families have special challenges we should be sensitive to:

  • Both parent and children have gone through painful disruptions, whether because of abandonment, divorce, or death. Sources of income must be developed, a move to a new house or apartment may be necessary, and children might need to attend different schools. The grieving process may continue for many months, or even years.
  • Parent-child relationships must be redesigned. A non-custodial parent may struggle to pay child support, worry about religious upbringing, have more time to be depressed, or feel acute loneliness.
  • While couple parent families sometimes deal with the temptation to leave the main responsibility for parenting to the other spouse, the custodial single parent responds to the demands of children all day long and does it alone.
  • Where a widowed parent may be looked upon by the wider community as courageous, others often view the divorced parent with suspicion or judgment. In some worship communities, the single parent who is divorced often feels shunned, ignored, even subtly ostracized. Yet divorced single parents have a deep desire to belong, to be a part of their church community.
  • Single parents worry that their children will never have witnessed a normal man/woman, husband/wife loving relationship.
  • Single parents must often deal with two particular temptations: the temptation to self-pity and to resentment.
  • Many single parent families experience degrees of fear and anxiety that the typical couple-parent family does not usually know with such intensity. Financial anxieties may head the list, but a vague, undefined fear of what the future may bring is not far behind. The single parent is unable to share these fears and anxieties with another intimately known adult. She or he lives with these feelings constantly, so the fear tends to compound itself.
  • In the two parent family, it is crucial for spouses to spend time regularly on themselves and on their friendship as a couple. It is equally important for the single parent to carve out of the week a few hours for leisure and, now and then, for prayerful reflection.
  • The single parent often finds it necessary to struggle against the tendency to become isolated. Single parents have a need for sympathetic friends and for warm relationships with two-parent families. Single parents often need little more than a sympathetic listener, and they can frequently find this by forming friendships with other single parents and hopefully, by membership in church groups.


On the other hand, single parents may have some advantages over couple parents.

  • They build strength as survivors, even though both parent and children have known much anguish.
  • Children of single parent families are sometimes more mature than many of their peers from two-parent families. They have, of necessity, been trusted with significant responsibilities at home.
  • Single parents may be more free to lead their children in their chosen faith life. In two-parent families, value conflicts which relate to the spiritual life of the family sometimes develop between husband and wife.

Single parents are like all parents:

  • No parent or set of parents can give children everything they should ideally have.
  • Most parents today often feel guilty about not spending enough quality time with their kids.
  • All families know insecurity.
  • All parents are called to conversion of heart and life, to trust God above all, to turn away from fear and anxiety as motives for action, to love God and others as the source of life’s meaning and purpose. Parents are called to do this even in the midst of meaninglessness and the temptation to despair. This is true faith, in the real world.
  • All parents need other parents to simply commiserate with, to talk to and share their burdens and joys. We should never underestimate the value of honest talking and listening among peers, for it is a terrifically valuable service that all church communities should offer to parents.


Finleys remind us that a basic principle for all parents’ spirituality is to “keep on keeping on.” May God help all of us, married and single to persevere in our effort to parent well.




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