So in delivering “Help For Going It Alone,” I didn’t go it alone.
Instead, I invited Morgan Enright, one of the leading therapists in Charlotte, to have a conversation with me about single parenting and single living in the 21st century.
I am including my questions and notes from Morgan’s answers below.
Our current era with large numbers of households headed up by single parents is unprecedented in human history. Think about that. It has never before happened in the history of the world. Earlier cultures and generations lived within a network of extended family and under a system of arranged marriage, and so “going it alone” has been until modern times almost unthinkable.
Yet yesterday was not a day to talk about causes. It was a day for solutions. Here are Morgan’s:
1. So Morgan, tell us briefly about your counseling practice.
Thank you so much for having me here today. When I graduated from Gordon Conwell 10 years ago, we had the graduation ceremony here, and it is good to be back.
I have been counseling for 10 years and coown One:12 counseling practice. Along with Erica, we have five other counselors with us.
We work with children, teens, singles, and couples
We love supporting the local church and helping Christians to find health and wholeness as they face trials
2. Can you give a sense of what kind of numbers we’re talking about? How many single parent households in the US? In greater Charlotte? How do those compare with “nuclear” family numbers?
There are almost 12,000,000 single parents in the US which is about 26% of all families – 84% of these are single moms = (Almost 10,000,000)
In Charlotte – 34% of families are single parents – over 150,000
3. Has anything like this ever happened before in human history?
In sheer volume, No – this is the largest number of single parent families in history.
Historically there have always been single parent families, but this was through a spouse being widowed by disease or war such as after WW2 or the great Irish famine in the mid 1800’s
During both of these the church was able to step up and help support these widows and widowers
4. In your experience, what are some unique struggles that single parents face in the nooks & crannies of their lives?
Financial struggle is the biggest hurdle – the median income for homes with single mothers is 2/3rd less than two parent homes
They also have a lot of stress, as they work very hard as single income earner along with raising their children. There are few still moments in their day. They don’t have the space to step back and recharge.
Not to mention having the time to be in your child’s life to know what is going on with them and to hold them accountable.
Wresting with Being there when your kids want you, not just when they need.
They also don’t have a partner to process, plan, or check their perspective. While they have God as their counselor and leader, Single parents have to face decisions without the built in support of a partner
5. What Scriptural resources / verses / stories do you draw on to help single parents and single adults?
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 NIV
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
James 1:12 (NIV)
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
For their community
Romans 15:5-6 ESV:
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:2 ESV:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
6. What unique opportunities does single parenting provide?
Single parents are some of the strongest people I know. They have endured and overcome many trials.
Through this, God has them in a unique place to encourage others. I have seen in the single parents with whom I have worked a strength and perspective to speak truth and encouragement where others would wilt.
I think God has given this opportunity to single parents. They have the ability to encourage others and to challenge them to struggle well as they run their race. They themselves are a testament to perseverance in God.
7. Please give some of your most practical suggestions for single parents in the congregation today and for those people who want to love them well.
For single parents:
1) God has a plan to use you in your child’s life where you are right now. You don’t have to wait for a future place for God to use you.
2) Embrace his grace over you in this process. You will not do this perfectly, but as you try to be the parent he has called you to be, his grace goes before and will watch over you in this process.
3) Release any guilt of sin that doesn’t belong to you. I work with lots of single parents that feel guilty that their child is growing up in a single parent home. This guilt does not help their child one bit. If anything, it leads the parent to be too permissive in an attempt to accommodate for a missing parent, then as they overextend, they get angry. Instead, as you release the guilt – you will be much steadier for your children.
4) Boundaries are your friend. It is normal for your child to push and test you, especially if you are the only line of defense. It is worth the effort and even the potential fights to be consistent on your boundaries. Your children will learn that you mean what you say, and there will be a big payoff in the long run.
5) Listen and affirm your child as much as you can. As you look for opportunities to compliment them, they will understand that much more when you have to be strict with them. I ask
6) It is really normal for the child of a divorced couple to be really angry at the parent who left. It is also really normal for them to take their anger out on the parent they spend the majority of time with. It would be easy to get angry back at the unfairness of this, but if you can begin to help them develop their language and words, their anger with you will
7) Also, we serve a God who brings Truth to light. As your child grows they will see you accurately and appreciate you more. Even as you are the “unfun” parent now that gives them a set bed time and makes them eat their vegetables, they will ultimately appreciate your stability and the safety that your consistency brings.
8) God is honoring and using your efforts!
For the people who are caring for single parents –
1) God is blessing you, as you bless those who may be struggling.
2) As you are gracious in your care, you can be a place to help single parents persevere.
3) This is especially true if they are newly single. In this case, the single parent will likely still be grieving themselves. As you are patient with them, they will have space to heal.
4) Ask them how they communicate. We have a good friend who voiced that she really appreciates us, but would never want to impose on us. As we know her approach and her needs, we are able to show her love. My wife will bring her dinner without being asked or let her know that we can watch her children the upcoming weekend.
5) Help them with finances. It can be a huge shift for them financially. Sometimes a gift card for gas or for groceries can make the difference for that month. Other times, it may be a power bill. As the body of Christ will look for legitimate needs, they will surely find them.
6) As you walk beside them in their journey, God will use you in amazing ways!