What do you say to the single parent that comes to you with this problem?
“What can I do about my kids being exposed to things they shouldn’t be when they are at their other parent’s home? He shows them R rated movies, plays music that’s not appropriate for their age and has his latest girlfriend spending the night while they are there. What can I do? He even has different social and religious standards. My kids, who are only in elementary school, are already seeing a difference in what I allow and what their father allows.”
HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?
If you haven’t come across this dilemma yet – be prepared! In our world today it is likely to happen. Will you utter some “churchese” words to soothe the upset parent? Will you utter a firm proclamation, something like,
“You need to put your foot down and insist your children not be exposed to those kinds of things?”
Maybe you are the type of children’s leader that will quote some scriptures and tell the parent you will pray for them. Or, maybe you will tell them if they will just believe and worship God, then everything will work out.
None of these will help the worried single parent. While the single parent will appreciate being prayed for, and they will claim and hold onto those scriptures, they need some solid advice as to what they should be doing or what they can say to their children.
It is natural for parents to want to protect their children. It is just as unnatural to think one has to stand by and not do anything when something, or someone, is threatening your children and/or their well fare. Single parents need words that will assuage their guilt feelings, and believe me they do have guilty feelings. They need words of comfort. They don’t need coals of condemnation heaped upon their heads.
One single mom told me her son had come home and said,
“Mom, dad is showing us some movies that I don’t think you would approve of. He told me to watch this one movie, and it had a lot of cuss words naked people in it!”
REAL ISSUES, REAL PROBLEMS
One teen daughter shared with her mom that at her dad’s he had his girlfriend living with him, and in order to go to the bathroom at his small apartment she had to walk in front of them in bed together.
One single dad shared that his preteen boy and teenage girl reported they were sleeping in the same room with his ex-wife’s boyfriend’s preteen girl and teenage boy.
When I was a single mom, I went to my bible study teacher and asked her how to handle these kinds of things. Her words were simple but impacted me a great deal, and I have passed them onto countless single parents – single dads, single moms, custodial and non-custodial alike.
“You cannot control what goes on at the other parent’s home. Unless your child is being neglected or abused in some way, there isn’t much you can do about what goes on in the other home. What you can do is live an exemplary life in front of your kids. Live out your faith in front of them. Create the kind of Christian home you desire. Pray consistently for your kids and with your kids. Trust in the Lord that when they grow up they will lean toward the Christian lifestyle that you have been living before them.”
For the boy that was exposed to inappropriate movies, the single parent can suggest he take a book to read or a computer game to play when the movie is on. You can suggest the boy talk to his dad, but most kids of divorce will not “talk” to the other parent about such matters. They are trying hard to win the parent’s approval and in the back of their minds they think if they cause any turmoil the parent won’t let them come back. Other kids don’t want to make their parent mad at them.
For the teen daughter the single parent can say,
“Oh sweetie, I am so sorry you are being exposed to that. I wish you weren’t. Maybe we can pray for a solution together, and when you are visiting over there know that I will be praying for you over here.”
For the dad, I suggested he find out exactly what weekends the boyfriend’s kids were going to be at the mother’s and then switch his kid’s weekend visits.
These are delicate matters. In two parent homes many times the parents disagree on parenting issues, but for the most part they work together on social, moral and spiritual issues. Or, they compromise for the well being of their children. In two separate single parent homes there is rarely any compromise on these issues. Many times one parent has gone off the deep end in embracing the wild single life.
Being gentle, kind and loving with single parents will reap many rewards for the Kingdom. Regularly share the word with the single parents in your church.
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Ranson Jacobs is one of the forefront leaders in the area of children and divorce. She developed and created the DivorceCare for Kids programs. DC4K is an international program for churches to use to help children of divorced parents find healing within the arms of a loving church family. As a speaker, author, trainer, program developer and child care center owner, Linda has assisted countless families by modeling and acting on the healing love she has found in Jesus Christ. More great articles about how to successfully minister to the child of divorce in your church can be found at Linda’s website Healthy Loving Partnerships for Our Kids (HLP4) [http://www.hlp4.com]. Linda also offers support, encouragement, and suggestions to help single parents and those working with single parent children. She can be reached by e-mail at Linda@hlp4.com.