Single Parents


  • There are many single parents doing a heroic and effective job of parenting, and in some ways the relationship between a single parent and children is refreshingly simple and straightforward - it is just that parent and that child, and often they are everything to each other. 

  • Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbirth are transforming the lives of American children.  Children in single-parent homes are 6 times as likely to be poor and are apt to stay poor longer.  They are 2 to 3 times as likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, more likely to drop out of high school, get pregnant as teenagers, abuse drugs and be in trouble with the law.  Compared with children in intact families, children from disrupted families are at a much higher risk for physical or sexual abuse. 

    Over the past two and a half decades Americans have been conducting what is tantamount to a vast natural experiment in family life.  The results of the experiment are coming in, and they are abundantly clear...This is the first generation in the nation's history to do worse psychologically, socially and economically than its parents.  Most poignantly, in survey after survey the children of broken families confess deep longings for an intact family...Whether Americans will act to overcome the legacy of family disruption is a crucial but as yet unanswered question. 

    Contrary to popular belief, many children to not "bounce back" after divorce or remarriage, and difficulties that are associated with family breakup often persist into adulthood...having a harder time achieving intimacy in a relationship, forming a stable marriage, or even holding a steady job. 

    Needless to say, not all children experience such negative effects. 

    The family structure is an explosive issue for Americans, but one than cannot be ignored.  Rather than place blame on single parents, society must offer respect and support, rather than criticize them.   In addition, we cannot ignore that domestic problems are closely connected to family breakup, and until we seek to close the gap between family structure and declining child well-being, and admit the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers in a child's life, we will continue to see an increase in teen suicides, juvenile crime and a decrease in school performance.
     ("Dan Quayle was Right," Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, The Atlantic, April 1993)

  • Unmarried mothers have massive challenges, and the evidence is clear that their children are at a significant disadvantage when compared with children raised by married parents.  (see William J. Doherty and others, Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences (2002)
Statistics
  • In 2013 there was a total of 16,205 single parent families with children in Spokane County.  (Spokane Community Indicators for 2013 in Spokane County, EWU)
What You Can Do

"Single parenting is challenging and brutally difficult at times, but you can do it, and do it well.  You can raise children as a single parent in a manner that will give them all they need to thrive in this life, but you have to work at it all the time.  You have to be there for your kids.  It's not just going to happen.  You have to do it with a great deal of discipline and great deal of love.

"You can do it, and you can have an enormous amount of fun doing it.  But recognize this is a new life and put your everything into it, because you are fighting for your kids here, so you have no choice but to succeed." 

One piece of advice single mom Bay Buchanan gives is to attend weekly worship services to instill values and principles in your children, as well as providing the influence that good men (and women) can have on your children.  Children can learn from others what it is to be a dad, a husband, and to be part of a whole family.  A church will also provide single parents with personal support and strength. 

Bay suggests 8 rules
to help single parents succeed at raising children, illustrating her tips through personal experience in her book. 
  1. Commit yourself to take charge.
  2. Let their dad be their dad (or at least compensate for the lack of a dad in the home).
  3. Put your kids first.
  4. Be a parent--not a friend (set rules and enforce them).
  5. Establish family traditions.
  6. Strip parenting down to the basics, and cut your expectation. 
    Bay Buchanan, "Bay and Her Boys:  Unexpected Lessons I Learned as a Single Mom"
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