Many single mom’s ministries around the country encompass a large array of single mothers of all ages and backgrounds, including single moms who are first-time moms raising infants, moms raising toddlers, teens, or even adult children. This requires some creativity on the part of the ministry leader. It is the same challenge met by pastors each Sunday, as they prepare their message. They are speaking to singles, marrieds, young, young-at-heart, students, retirees, and more. And yet, the Holy Spirit takes one message and divides it hundreds of ways to minister to the needs of the people.
You may be asking, “How do I discuss effective parenting, when I have an expansive age-range within the ministry?” Our advice is to do two things: #1) First, teach general parenting techniques that can be used by all parents, regardless of age range. #2) Second, teach to the entire group of single moms, then sub-divide by children’s ages into a smaller group to address age-related concerns. For example, you may have 20 single moms in your group, 3 are parenting infants, 8 are parenting toddlers, and so on. One way you can address all the needs is invite a speaker to come in to discuss establishing boundaries in parenting for 20 minutes. Then, have all toddler parents divide into a smaller group to discuss how that relates to toddlers, the teen parents can follow suit, and so on.
One of the broad topics that can be taught in parenting to all single moms is the 4 C’s of Parenting (taken from Kids and the Single Mom: A Real World Guide to Effective Parenting). Below are some parenting techniques you can use in your Single Moms Ministry lessons:
Communication – From the time children are formed in the womb until you part ways on our death bed, communication is vital to a healthy relationship. Babies need to hear mom’s voice. Toddlers love the sound of a soothing bedtime song. And believe it or not, teens desire to have open communication with their parents (that sadly is often lost during those tumultuous years). Parenting well through all seasons means the door for communication stays open. We must understand that our children are desperate to hear what we think, even when they don’t always act like it. Have you created an age-appropriate line of communication for your children? Why or why not? How can you improve your current communication plan with your kids?
Consistency – A sometimes difficult thing to establish, particularly for single parents, is consistency. This challenge comes when parents have gone through a divorce and struggle to maintain fluidity when custody is shared. The same can be true is a child has an inconsistent parent who is in and out of the child’s life. First, I want to remind single parents that you cannot control what goes on in the other parent’s home. The only consistency you can provide is in your own home (barring unsafe behavior in the other home). Control what you can. When thinking through consistency in your home, consider the following. Do I stand by my rules or am I an easy pushover? Does my child know what to expect from me? Is there routine in my home during the week? On weekends? Would my children say that they feel secure and safe in my home, because they know what to expect?
Clarity – Because I said so! How many times have I screamed that at my children through the years? It was what I heard from my own parents as I grew up and a behavior that I duplicated as a parent, too, admittedly. I honestly felt that any question for clarity on a rule was a question of my authority by my children. Providing clarity on the why behind a rule in your home is not weakness. Sometimes, children simply don’t understand what is being asked of them and clarity provides the best communication. This is especially true among teens, as they are learning and developing their own boundaries. (Caution: Providing clarity is a mutual respect. However, disrespectful behavior by a teen or pre-teen who constantly expects you to justify your rules is NOT acceptable).
Christianity – Children duplicate behavior they’ve seen. When mom is in the Word regularly, praying before mealtimes, reading Bible stories before bed as a family, and being cautious of what she says & does, children duplicate the behavior. The best thing you can ever do for your child is grow in your relationship with the Lord. The strength you find from Christ will be the catalyst to every parenting decision you make, the courage you need to stand firm to a mouthy teen, and the refreshing you’ll need when the days are long and hard. The single best parenting advice I could ever give to any mom, single or otherwise, is on honoring the God who gave you those children and learning to lean on Him in every situation.
For more information on how to teach The 4 C’s of parenting and for other single parents techniques, check out Kids and the Single Mom: A Real-World Guide to Effective Parenting by Jennifer Barnes Maggio.
Jennifer Maggio is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Life of a Single Mom, a global nonprofit committed to seeing no single mom walk alone. Having served more than 71,000 single mothers each year, the goal of the organization is establish support groups for single mothers in communities around the world. To date, we have worked with more than 1,500 churches & community groups to start or improve a single mom’s group. Our programs focus on empowering single moms to grow spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially, and parentally. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com