When I speak at single parents’ groups, I am reminded of what incredible people single parents are and the extra load they carry. Parenting is tough enough with two people, let alone one.
I’d like to share with you a story from the Bible. Moses and the Israelites were battling their archenemy, the Amalekites. God instructed Moses to hold his arms up high above his head with his staff in his hand. When Moses kept his arms raised, the Israelites would begin to win the battle; when he grew tired and dropped is arms, the Amalekites would start to win the battle. Finally, as Moses stood exhausted, others came beside him and helped him hold his arms high. The Israelites ended up winning the battle because of the helpers Moses used to keep his arms held high. (See Exodus 17:8-16.)
For those of us with spouses, we have someone close who can come alongside to “hold up our arms” when life and parenting get rough. But who helps single parents with their children when they get tired or lose perspective along the way? What happens when they get discouraged and too worn out to fight some of the battles that need to be fought? We simply aren’t designed to exist outside of a loving support system. All parents–but especially single parents–need replenishing relationships for themselves and their children. You can make a huge difference for the single parent in your life! You can provide needed support and encouragement to keep her/him thriving as a person and as a parent.
Here are some ideas for helping the single parent in your life.
1. Listen. Declare yourself to be a safe resource for listening to the rants and vents of the single parent in your life. We all need safe people who will love us regardless of what we say. Many single parents need an outlet for sharing their frustrations, and you can help by being a person they can count on when they need to vent some steam.
2. Lend a Helping Hand. For many single parents, the demands of juggling a job (or jobs), home and family can be overwhelming. You can help by lending a helping hand–offering tangible help–in the everyday chores of life. For example, offer to do some grocery shopping for your friend the next time you are headed to the store, or offer to provide a ride to one of her/his kids if you are headed the same way. A little help can go a long way in making life more manageable for the single parent.
3. Include Single Parents in Activities. Inviting and including single parents in activities (church, neighborhood, community, etc.) is a great way to help prevent single parents from becoming isolated and lonely.
4. Be Available. Have an “open-door” policy with the single parent in your life. You can be a tremendous encouragement by simply being available for your friend in times of need.
5. Ease the Money Crunch Whenever Possible. Single parents often struggle to make ends meet. You can help ease the struggle through little, but meaningful, ways. For example, you can invite your friend and family over to share a meal with you on a regular basis. It may not seem like much, but relieving the need for the single parent to provide even one meal can make a difference. Other ideas would include offering babysitting, use of your clothes washer and dryer and so on.
6. Share Life Skills. Most single parents are women, and many of these are young women. Often, single parents are thrust into independent adulthood before they gain key life skills. If this is true of the single parent in your life, offer to share life skills with her/him — from learning to balance a checkbook to routine care maintenance to cooking tips.
7. Celebrate Birthdays. How often we watch our single parent friends pour themselves out for their children day in and day out. It’s not uncommon for their own birthdays to go unrecognized in the bustle of busy life, especially if their kids are still young. This is the perfect time to step in and focus on our friends, celebrating them for who they are!