Single Moms: Move Forward with Confidence
- Wednesday, July 11, 2007
As a single mom, you’ve lost the dream of what life might have been like for your family if your children’s dad was still at home with you. Struggling against fear, sorrow, loneliness, fatigue, financial worries, and other challenges likely grieves your heart even more. But you’re not condemned to a miserable life just because of your circumstances. If you trust God with your life – and your children’s lives – you can leave what might have been behind and move confidently into a bright future.
Here’s how you can move forward with confidence as a single mom:
Take care of your health. If you think you may be chronically depressed, visit a doctor for a thorough checkup (even if you don’t have medical insurance, it’s worthwhile to invest in this visit). Remember that God is bigger and more reliable than your changing feelings; know that He is constantly at work in your life, even when you don’t feel as if He really loves you. Don’t be afraid to express your toughest thoughts and feelings to God and cry out to Him to help you with whatever situation you’re facing. Hold onto His promise that if you seek Him with all your heart, you will find Him. Prevent burnout by eating nutritious meals (avoid fast food and learn to make simple, healthy meals at home whenever possible), exercising, getting adequate sleep, and taking vitamins. Do what you can to create a peaceful atmosphere in your home, live within your financial means to minimize your stress, invest in a few close friendships, find creative ways to spend some time alone every day in silent prayer and reflection (such as putting your kids to bed a half hour earlier, or spending part of your lunch hour at work alone), and treat yourself to a few luxuries once in a while (such as a new CD or a meal at a fancy restaurant).
Give thanks. Rather than dwelling on what you don’t like about your life, look for what’s good and regularly thank God for your blessings. Know that gratitude will lead to contentment despite your circumstances, and also nurture hopeful anticipation of what God will do next in your life.
Deal with loneliness wisely. Beware of letting your loneliness lead to desperation and unwise relationships (such as affairs with men who don’t share your values, or friendships in which you become too emotionally clingy and drive your friends away). Instead of hoping that another person will somehow rescue you from your circumstances, place your hope in God and his loving plans for you. Entrust your longing for companionship to God by giving up your agenda and trusting Him to make His dreams for your life come true. Build a support system of family and friends you can turn to for encouragement and support, without relying too much on any one person. Reach out to help your family and friends whenever they need it, too, knowing that you’ll be blessed as you take your focus off your own problems and help someone else when you can.
Don’t let anything deter you from pursuing a closer relationship with God. Even if church is the last place you want to be because some other Christians have judged, criticized or alienated you, realize that God loves you deeply, no matter what. Recognize that what you need more than anything else in life is a close relationship with God, so invest in it. Be willing to give up the futile attempt to control your own life and get out of God’s way so He can bless you with His great plans for you. If you’ve encountered hurtful people at a church, try another church, and keep in mind that many churches offer either singles’ ministries or divorce recovery programs. Understand that you need to be in community with other believers to sustain your faith and grow. Don’t hesitate to come to God just as you are; remember that He loves you unconditionally. Let go of unhealthy guilt and shame. Focus on relationship instead of religion, building intimacy with God instead of trying to impress Him through rituals. Make God your top priority, despite how busy you are, and watch how He will transform your life as a result. Ask God to help you learn from your suffering and grow more into the woman He wants you to become. Invite God to use your suffering to accomplish good purposes in your life. Remember that God, who has created you in His own image, loves you more than you can ever know.
Forgive. Understand that you can’t get over what happened to you and move into a better future unless you’re willing to forgive. Know that God expects you to forgive others since He has forgiven you. Realize that you can always count on God to help you forgive. Make the choice to do so, despite your feelings, and trust God to help you through the forgiveness process. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made that have harmed your children and other people, forgive people who have hurt you, and forgive God by stop holding grudges against Him for what He has permitted into your life. Confess your sins and repent of them, apologize to those you’ve wronged and reconcile your relationships with them if possible, and embrace the forgiveness that God offers you. Celebrate the freedom that forgiveness gives you, and keep on forgiving so that it becomes a habit in your life.
Enlist the legal and emotional support you need. Get to know your legal rights and how federal, state, and local laws can affect your circumstances. If you don’t have enough money to hire a lawyer, ask someone at your church or a legal aid organization to help you find a lawyer who offers free or low-cost help. If you or your children are going through physical or sexual abuse, get away from danger right away and seek help. Don’t be vindictive when dealing with your children’s father about issues like visitation and child support; remember that God calls you to act in a loving way to all people, especially your own children’s father. Don’t hesitate to ask men you respect to help you with specific tasks you’re not able to do well on your own, like repairing your car. Connect your children with some healthy male role models.
Manage your money wisely. Ask God to guide you as you set a household budget, and to help you live within it. Don’t let vague financial worries keep you awake at night; determine which specific bills you need to deal with first (such as mortgage or rental payments) and pay them diligently according to their due dates so you won’t need to worry. Be sure to give prompt attention to filing your taxes and paying any legal fines, such as traffic tickets. Get out of debt and avoid incurring any new debt. Seek help from financial experts if your finances are currently a mess. Don’t neglect giving to God’s work and saving and investing for the future. Before buying something, ask yourself: “Do I really need this?”, “Is this the best possible buy?”, “Will it enhance God’s work or my relationship with Him?”, “Can I afford to buy this with cash?”, “Will it require costly upkeep?” and “Have I been willing to wait for God to provide this?”. Talk openly and tactfully about money issues with your children’s father, doing your best to try to build a positive relationship with him.
Deal with your parenting worries. Deal with laziness and irresponsibility by figuring out which rewards for good behavior and lost privileges for bad behavior will motivate your children. Choose your battles, focusing only on major issues and being willing to let the rest go. Deal with poor school performance by staying in close communication with teachers and administrators at your children’s school, talking with your children openly about school, praying for them, and connecting them to tutoring help if needed. Deal with media fixation by placing limits on television and Internet usage to free up more time for activities like schoolwork, household chores, sports, church group events, music lessons, etc. Deal with fearfulness, anxiety, and dependency by reassuring your children that they are deeply and dearly loved. Deal with controlling or manipulative behavior by saying “no” to your children when appropriate and disciplining them. Deal with nutritional issues by making time to prepare healthy meals to eat together at home, encouraging your children to get enough exercise and eat a proper diet so they don’t struggle with a weight problem, and getting them professional help for any eating disorders they may have.
Deal with undesirable friends and unhealthy attachments by calmly and gently explaining your concerns to your children and setting boundaries such as limiting or prohibiting contact with certain people. Deal with same-sex attraction by making sure there is at least one positive male role model in your children’s lives, with whom they have a close relationship; protecting your children from sexual abuse from any men you date; and making sure that you don’t become too controlling or overpowering of a presence in your home.
Deal with deception, dishonesty, and signs of bad character by making sacrifices to free up more time to spend with your children and personally nurture deeper spiritual growth in their lives; and by living with integrity yourself to set a healthy example for your children. Deal with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll by regularly engaging in honest conversations about these issues with your children; discussing your concerns with other parents, youth leaders, etc.; and listen to your children’s music with them and discuss what the artists are saying through their songs.
Be sure to express unconditional love for your children, no matter what. Deal with rage and rebellion by honestly facing how you have contributed to your children’s anger (such as through your divorce or relationship with someone else), inviting your children to tell you how your own attitudes and behaviors have affected them, and relying on God’s help to make necessary changes. Deal with self-destructive behavior like self-mutilation or suicide threats by taking them seriously and seeking immediate professional help for your children from your pastor, doctor, family counselor, school counselor, etc.
Demonstrate love and respect for your children. Show your children that you love them unconditionally – that they are more important to you than any issue. Respect them as people, remembering that they have a lot of innate wisdom even though they lack as much experience as you.
Pray with your children. Make a habit of praying with your children about specific family needs.
Affirm God’s purpose for your children’s lives. Communicate clearly to each child that he or she is uniquely, intentionally created in God’s image and is strategic and important to Him.
Set boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your children whenever it’s appropriate.
Demonstrate respect for your children’s father. Let your children see your treating their father well, as God calls you to treat everyone well. If possible, work with him to present a united front in your parenting decisions.
Be humble. Openly and sincerely acknowledge and apologize for bad decisions and overreactions.
Communicate well. Be clear and open when talking with your children, listen carefully to them, and use respectful language when you speak.
Allow your children to be children. Don’t dump your emotions on your children or become emotionally dependent on them for support. Use discretion when talking with them; don’t tell them things they’re not really old enough to hear (such as your dating experiences). Find other adults with whom you can freely share your emotions, but retain your dignity with your children.
Celebrate often. Applaud your family’s accomplishments, answered prayers, good news, extra efforts, milestones, etc.
Discourage sibling rivalry. Make sure all your children understand that you love them equally, and encourage them to make peace with each other.
Choose your battles wisely. Focus on what is most important to you and let the rest go.
Make your home a safe haven. Discourage fighting in your home and encourage peaceful relationships.
Find the right balance between permissiveness and control. Ask, but don’t pry. Be alert, but not a snoop.
Prepare to let go of your children. Remember that your parenting goal should be for each of your children to live healthy, independent lives as adults.
Keep on praying. Pray often for your children, remembering that prayer is the most powerful force in the world. Expect God to answer each of your prayers, intervening on behalf of you and your children. Praise Him for who He is and how He answers your prayers. Rest in the peace God will give you.
Adapted from On Our Own: Help and Hope for Single Moms, copyright 2007 by Lela Gilbert. Published by NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co., www.navpress.com.
Lela Gilbert has authored or coauthored more than 60 books, including the award-winning Their Blood Cries Out. Her work has involved travel to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Lela is the single mother of two sons and resides in Southern California.
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