If you’re a single parent, you likely did not plan on becoming one. Even though your life looks different than you imagined, you can make the most of it—and of your kids’ lives, as well. You can be a successful single parent.

Relinquishing Control

Gary Richmond, author of Successful Single Parenting (Harvest House, 1998) and a pastor to single parents, says, “There is a time for ‘The Serenity Prayer’ for every single parent.” The Serenity Prayer asks, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Unfortunately, you cannot control what happens when your kids at your ex-spouse’s house, so choose your battles wisely. If your kids are being abused or neglected, then fight your hardest to protect them. But if your ex-spouse is letting them have too much candy, it’s probably better not to make that a “do or die” issue.

Believing that God is in control helps. He created your children and loves them even more than you do. He watches over them day and night. Giving up control to Him—trusting him with your kids—can give you peace.

Asking the Right Question

When it comes to priorities, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “What is the best thing for my kids in this situation?” It’ll help you gain perspective and keep your emotions in check.

For example, it’s best to let your kids talk about their lives both with you and the other parent. Gary Richmond says parents should allow their kids to complain about things. “If they’re complaining, it helps relieve tension,” he says. You don’t have to agree with them. Just listening validates their feelings and keeps communication open.

It’s also best for your kids if you do not criticize your ex-spouse in front of them. Gary says your kids will make their own conclusions about the other parent, which will be better for them in the long run than if they hear negative comments from you. “We need to give kids more credit. They figure [these things] out on their own.”

Encourage your kids to have a good relationship with their other parent. Regardless of how you feel about your ex-spouse, your kids need the other parent in their lives—desperately. Allowing them to connect with their stepparent, if there is one, can also be good for them. The stepparent can play a positive role in your kids’ lives. Gary Sprague, president and founder of the Center for Single-Parent Family Ministry (http://www.spfm.org/), says you don’t have to feel threatened by the stepparent because, as the birth parent, you will never be replaced by anyone else. In your kids’ eyes, you are irreplaceable.

Teaching Your Kids About God

Teach your kids about God as you go through the day, whether you’re listening to Christian music, praying for them before school, or eating dinner.

According to author and speaker Cheri Fuller, when you pray with your kids—talking to God as you talk to a friend—you’re making him more accessible to them. If they see you praying regularly, they’ll understand the importance of doing it too.

Reading the Bible is also important. Lisa Prillaman, a single mother, reads scripture with her son during breakfast. Or use a family devotional book. Incorporating the Bible into your daily routine helps your kids learn more about who God is and what’s important to Him as well as what’s important to you.

Getting a Grip on the Green

If your finances are out of control, the stress is probably affecting your relationship with your kids. Take time to develop a budget and use it. Find ways to cut expenses like cable service, pizza delivery, and your morning latté. Start saving, even if it’s only a small amount, because over time a little bit can add up to a lot.