Investing in single-parent households

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Change a life when you share time, space and funds with a single parent

By Tim Clever

Katja married her high school sweetheart, they had children and they got divorced—all in eight years. She found herself alone with three kids. At times Katja worked two jobs, and even this was barely enough to survive. It was not what she wanted, but she dealt with it. Though it was not easy, Katja’s love for her children pressed her forward in an attempt to make ends meet.

Single parents like Katja have a tough job. The demands and needs of a single parent are intense. One person is earning a living, paying bills, filing taxes, feeding and clothing their kids, mowing the grass, handing out discipline, trying to socialize, helping with homework, taking care of the house and being a taxi—all pretty much by themselves.

As a youth pastor for 14 years, I have seen the struggles single-parent households experience. It is not easy on the parent or the children. I believe that those of us not in this situation have the resources to help relieve some of the pressure of those whose home has only one parent. When I say resources, I mean time, space and money. When we share our resources, we may change a life or become that key mentor for a student in need of one.

Give your time

Time is one of the resources that single parents do not have enough of. Between work and home life, there is precious little time. Consider all the things that we two-parent households find hard to do given our busy schedules, then multiply that twice for single-parent households with schedules just as busy.

So what can we do with our resource of time? Consider giving some time to the single parent. Offer to take their child or children for several hours every few weeks to free up the single parent to do something which this parent may not have done in a very long time. Maybe the single parent needs to do some shopping or would like to take in a movie and dinner with a close friend or just wants to rest.

There are many ways that you can allow a single parent a chance to get some things done, knowing that they have placed their child in the care of someone whom they trust. And the chance to regroup, possibly even renew, for a couple of hours every few weeks may be just what the single parent needs.

Share your space

How about giving the gift of space to the single parent? Though there are many ways that you can give space, I think of opening your home. In a K! Magazine article about a single mom and her kids (March/April 2012), Rob Rienow writes: “She and her children moved in next door to us. For the next three years, they were a regular part of our family. The door was open. Meals were shared. Tears were shed. House projects were completed. There were many late night sessions of prayer and counseling. This woman and her children didn’t need a class at church. They needed a family to welcome them into their lives. Her boys needed to see and experience a Christian father and husband. Her daughters needed to see and experience a loving marriage.”

Space may be time around your dining room table. Space may be your living room floor where games can be played. Space may be your couch, where a single parent can share his or her fears, joys, failures and victories and know that there is someone that can be trusted enough to share those things with.

Sure, you face the risk that something may be broken or a spill may occur. Or, uncontrolled laughter could fill the room. The benefits of sharing your space are amazing.

You have the chance to be a positive influence on a student who needs all the positive influences that they can get in their lives. You have the opportunity to pass to another family some of the blessings you have received.

Donate your money

Sharing money is a tough gift to discuss because it has the ability to do more harm than good. But it is a resource that must be considered. While I’m not endorsing an outright gift of cash (though that can be done), I do support financially helping a single parent who is trying make ends meet.

For example, consider giving a movie pass and snack coupon for the parent and child(ren) to have a night out or buying dinner for them and dropping it off at their house. You could pay someone to mow the lawn or shovel the snow. How about buying all the school supplies that are needed at the beginning of the school year or paying for an oil change for the car?

Maybe you have the ability to handle some larger ticket items: buying a week’s worth of groceries, purchasing new tires for the car to enhance the family’s safety, making a car payment or paying rent/mortgage for a month—maybe during December when it frees up some money to buy some gifts.

You may decide that giving a direct cash gift would be the best way to help a single parent family. If you do this, I have one word of caution: You must allow them to use the money as they see fit. They know their family the best; they know where the money can be used the most.

If they use the financial gift in a way that you do not totally agree with but you can see that it was a good benefit, then my advice is to remain quiet. It was, after all, a gift. Now if what is purchased is way out of line—say a $200 pair of Jordan’s—then I might say something. It is a tough call, because it was a gift.

Accepting gifts

Not every single-parent household is in need of help. Some are doing very well and the structure of their life is running smoothly. Indeed, some single-parent households are thriving and could teach two-parent households better time management.

While I applaud those single-family households that are doing well, I also congratulate those struggling single-parent households that allow those who have the resources to be of help with the gift of time, space or money.

I know Katja, the single mom with the three kids introduced to you at the beginning of this article. I called her “Mom.” I was the youngest of the three kids. We didn’t have much, but we made do. I remember she worked a lot to make ends meet. It had to be hard with three growing kids and all the things that go along with being a single parent. She did what she did to make sure that we were healthy, fed and educated.

And I remember a couple of guys who gave me the gift of time with them. While I don’t remember their names, I remember the time they spent with me at sporting events and at Burger King. That was a big deal to a six-year-old.

So to single parents, do not hesitate to accept a gift that someone offers. If time, space or money is offered, accept it. The giver wouldn’t be offering if they couldn’t afford the gift. When you, the single parent, are back on your feet and have the ability, you may be able to then help someone else.

And to two-parent households or anyone else with the resources to offer these gifts, I invite you to consider giving time, space or money to a single parent who could benefit from it. Who knows how you might affect the kids you come into contact with. Maybe one will grow up to be a youth pastor.

Tim Clever is the youth pastor at Corn (Okla.) MB Church. This article is adapted from the November 2012 issue of “The Shovel,” Clever’s newsletter for parents based on his 13-plus years of experience working with teens. Contact Clever at clevertim@yahoo.com.

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