As husband and wife, challenges of life come along and couples face difficulties as they learn to help each other throughout their married life. Throw children in the mix, and life does have its moments. Even a worse case scenario is when a spouse is left alone with children either through death or divorce. Even with both spouses attending church, difficult situations can occur and spouses might find themselves single.
Single parenting is a challenging life. With all the responsibility as the main care taker for children, it is an overwhelming task. There are support systems many single parents can use, such as family members, neighbors, and church friends but all of that is gone at the end of the day when single parents are on their own.
The media portrayals of single parents glorify the fact that these brave parents are out on their own. They are brave, but we don’t need encouragement in becoming a single parent unnecessarily. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know through The Family: A Proclamation to the World, that we are always encouraged to stay together as spouses and help each other and use the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ to maintain marriages. It states, “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”
In a perfect world, this would be the case for every family and we should always remember to work towards that end, but as we are human; sometimes choices are made with an unfortunate outcome.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, how can we provide a loving and safe home as a single parent? Through study of parenting classes, information on single parenting and personal experience, here are a few suggestions:
Stay Centered on the Gospel: As a single parent, we need the spiritual and emotional support to share with our children and live consistent lives. If we have gone to church before, then by all means keep going to church. Pray together as a family and do what you have always done during the week and on Sunday. Continue to hold family night together and teach children all that they need to live a happy life. There will be times of difficulty where prayer is missed at meal time or bed time or scripture reading went out the window, but every morning is the start of a new day, and parents can continue to do their best to keep consistency in their lives.
Develop a Support Network: Find a support group or friends and family who can help at difficult times. Whether through neighbors or church friends or family, we all need a support group or a close pick of friends and family who will help us through the difficult times. One sister commented on how much a therapist through LDS (Latter-day Saint) Social Services helped tremendously with emotional support when there was no one else who understood her needs. “This dear sister who was my therapist helped me understand what I needed to do for my children and myself after my husband passed away and I don’t know what I would have done without her.” Wherever you can find help and support as a single parent will make a difference and help the lives of not only yourself but also your children.
Create a Routine: If you have no routine then create one. Structure, such as regularly scheduled meals and bedtimes, help children to know what to expect and create boundaries which children so desperately need. Trouble times will run more smoothly if there is a routine.
Agree to Keep Conflict Away From Your Children: Agreeing to keep conflict away is a most useful tool. We must remember to be respectful of each other and say positive things. If we consider ourselves Disciples of Christ, then we should refrain from speaking badly of our former spouse, especially to our children. Encourage your children to love and respect the other parent. There are extenuating circumstances which would not allow this to happen but for the most part, most parents can follow this tip. Parents should leave out the drama and try to keep an even keel in the day to day schedule of life’s activities.
Stay Positive: This can be a difficult aspect of being alone. Children will look to you for support and their moods will reflect how a parent is feeling. Pray always to feel positive, if that’s what it takes but this will help move you forward to a better life. One single father commented: “Just as there is a time to mourn in the wake of a death or divorce, there is a time to get back on our feet, forgive, and move forward with faith that Heavenly Father will watch over us and our children.”
These five tips will get anyone started in the right direction, but don’t forget to counsel with Church leaders and prayerfully consider the decisions for the future. Life will feel good again with time, and your children will adjust to the situation. Remember what David O. McKay (former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) said long ago: “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” Single parents can still have successes at home.
This article was written by Valerie Steimle, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Valerie Steimle is the mother of nine children and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living in southern Alabama. She has stood for strengthening the family for over 25 years and authored four books the last one called Dogs, Blogs and Hobbits: Writings from a Widow’s Perspective.