Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

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Beating the Statistics

Children raised in single parent families have the odds stacked against them. According to one study by BMC Public Health, children is single parent homes are more likely to end up in the lowest educational and socioeconomic regardless of parental status.

Pretty sobering for those of us who raised our kids alone.

Monday evening, I attended a banquet honoring the academic achievements of the graduating seniors. My daughter was among the honorees. As I drove away from the school, the reality that I only have a few more trips to the high school hit me. HARD. She is my baby, the third of my three treasured possessions.

Though the tears streamed down my face, I told my husband that I was overwhelmed. My kids--raised in a single parent home for the majority of their childhood--are not statistics. They are not in the lowest educational category. They are not in the lowest occupational category. And they will not be in the lowest socioeconomic status.

Let me tell you just a little about them.

My baby girl is graduation as an Oklahoma Academic Scholar. I'm not sure exactly what the qualifications are, but I do know it requires a minimum 27 ACT score. She missed a 4.0 GPA by about 0.1 % point in a college course. Her academic achievements are great, but her vocal achievements are AMAZING! She is the school's only three-time member of the OKMEA Honor Choir, the state's highest vocal honor. She had the highest score in the state on auditions. She also has a perfect record earning a total of 12 Superior ratings on her state solo and ensemble performances. She is a two-time member of the OAKE National Honor Choir (one year was canceled because of Covid). This year, she earned the featured solo in their performance. She plans to attend Oklahoma Christian University in the fall on a combination of vocal and academic scholarships.

My oldest had unparalleled success in his academic career. He earned the honor of high school valedictorian and attended three years at Oklahoma Baptist University on academic scholarships. Last year, he opted to forgo his senior year to become a pilot. He is finishing up his commercial certification and will soon be a certified flight instructor. He is also completing his bachelors degree and is marrying an absolutely precious young lady in just a few weeks. He has an amazing career ahead of him. He has unlimited earning potentials. And, he gets to explore the world which has always been his dream.

My younger son graduated in 2020. His class was the one that missed all of the senior year activities, but he never missed a beat. Academically, he has the same abilities as his siblings. He finished with an exceptionally high GPA and was ranked approximately 15th in his graduating class. During high school, he was a leader on the school's FFA livestock judging team. His team was recognized as one of the best in the nation, finishing second at the national livestock judging team. He was the fourth high individual in the nation! He had scholarship offers around the country, but he chose to forgo college and become a firefighter. He has since earned his EMT-A (Advanced EMT), his fire 1 certification, and may soon begin work on his paramedic license. He will be eligible to retire in his early 40s.

My kids beat the statistics!

Here's the thing: I truly believe it is better for kids to be raised in a single parent home with a loving, stable parent than to be raised in an environment characterized by toxic and abusive behaviors. 

How do you beat the statistics in a single parent home?

Seek God. We have no guarantees in this life, but we do have the promises of God. He is faithful. He is good. He sees the pain, hears your prayers. We don't know the outcome of our lives or our children's lives, but we can cling to His promises. He tells us to train up our children in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). He is the one unchangeable in this ever-changing world.

Provide stability. What does stability look like? Consistency. Being there day after day. Being the same person behind closed doors that you are in public. I think one thing I see frequently is the single parent who brings a steady stream of "companions" into the kids' lives. I decided early on that I would not introduce my kids to a date until I knew it would be a long-term relationship.

Work hard. Single parents wear a lot of hats. Parent. Provider. Confidant. Disciplinarian. Maid. Chauffeur. Chef. Cheerleader. Guide. and so much more. Carrying the burden of every role is exhausting, but we are commanded to do all things as if we are doing them for God (Colossians 3:23). Are you working at being a single parent as if it is an act of service to God?

Love hard. Above all else, I hope my children know they are loved. Nothing they do can ever change that! My kids have learned that "I love you" is a phrase that is spoken all the time. I pray they remember that every single time we end a conversation, it ends with those words. Even more importantly, I hope they have felt my love. I pray it is more than just three words.

Have a positive mindset. When I became a single parent, I adopted the mantra of thriving instead of surviving. I believe that mindset helped set the standard for our lives. I have long been a believer in being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) and thinking on things that are lovely, noble, true, and right (Philippians 4:8). Let your positivity flow over to your kids.

Be flexible. I think being a single parent is a lesson in flexibility. Another mantra I adopted was, "We will figure it out." I wish I had a dollar for every time I said that to my kids! Three different events in three different locations all at the same time? We will figure it out. Need money to pay for extra-curricular activities? We will figure it out. Homework doesn't make sense? We will figure it out. The car is broken down? We will figure it out. And guess what? We always did. It might have required some outside-the-box thinking and it definitely required flexibility. But, it always worked out.

Have high expectations. I've always known my kids were gifted academically. All of them were reading long before they went to school. I always played learning games with them when they were small. I set the standard for them to excel and do their best from the time they were little--and I didn't let up when I became a single parent. They didn't get to use our hardship as an excuse to do less. They knew the expectations, and they rose to the occasion.

Wear His labels. It's so easy to wear the world's labels. Single parent. Disadvantaged. Low socioeconomic status. Divorced. They were all true to some degree in our lives. But, we chose to wear our Father's labels. Chosen. Called. Loved. Prince/Princess. Adored. Rich. And so much more! The labels of this world are temporal, but His labels are eternal--and always true! We chose His labels.

Life as a single parent is HARD. It's far from perfect. But can I tell you? I'm on the other side now. My kids are launching out of the nest, spreading their wings and getting ready to fly. As I prepare to see them move into their own lives, I stand in awe of the young adults I have raised. I wouldn't be here without the grace of my Heavenly Father.