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Around Our Town...Family

The Challenge of Single Parenting

10/01/2005 - As a marriage and family therapist and as a staff member of a large church, I have seen firsthand the struggles of both children and parents who live in single parent homes. United States Census bureau statistics from 1997 and 1998 indicate that there are 11.9 million single parents in the United States. In fact, 28% of all children under the age of 18 residing in the U.S.A. live with one parent. 84% of those children live with their mothers. Having worked with single dads and single moms and having been a parent myself, I have grown to respect and appreciate single parents immensely. Parenting, like marriage, is a huge commitment and demands an incredible amount of patience, energy, and love. Of course, the ideal situation is for a child to have one mom and one dad. I know there are those who would disagree with that statement but I will go even further to say that the ideal includes one mom and one dad who deeply love each other, have a grasp of the principles of structure and nurture ( (see the last series of articles from this column), and parent together as a team. However, reality is often not the ideal. For those who have had children out of wedlock, lost a spouse through death or divorce, or have adopted a child as an unmarried man or woman, the responsibilities and demands can be overwhelming!

As I consider parenting my two stepchildren and my son, I know that my wife and I have brought different and much needed perspectives to the table. As we have maximized our strengths and minimized our weaknesses in the parenting role, our children have benefited from the mix. Just considering the energy involved in healthy parenting, it is so nice to have someone take over the parenting when I am either pressed for time, emotionally bankrupt, spinning my wheels, too angry to be objective, too tired, etc. Single parents don't have that luxury.

Another consideration is the child's need for the absent parent. Some children who are in the primary custody of one parent, have regular visitation with the non-custodial parent. However, there are a number of other children who have minimal or no contact with the absent parent. Since most single parents are moms, the "absent parent" is usually a dad. I can't emphasize enough the importance of fathers in the lives of their children. Moms and dads play different roles for sons and daughters and without the father figure, there can be a huge "hole" when dads are not present for their sons and daughters in crucial developmental stages of life. I have seen so many loving and devoted moms trying to be both mom and dad to their children but it still does not fill the void. There are consequences as well for families where mothers have abandoned their children. It is so hard sometimes for a single dad to help a daughter with the questions related to becoming a woman.

There are so many issues to address regarding single parenting and I have barely scratched the surface. Identifying the problem is one thing but having a plan of action is quite another. It is important as a community that we are at least aware of the struggles of single parents and that we take notice of those single parents that touch our lives personally. If we can lighten the load for these courageous individuals by listening, including them, direct services (babysitting occasionally, taking a teenager to a basketball game, offering help with jobs around the house or mechanical assistance with a vehicle, being a mentor in the lives of a child with an absent parent, etc.), and just showing concern in anyway we have been gifted to show it, we will be adding value to their lives and enriching our own by giving to another.

Comments or suggestions for future

topics? Mailing address:

The Healing Place,

Highland Park

Community Church

411 S. Walsh,

Casper, Wyoming 82601

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