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Family Talk: Single parents sometimes need help, encouragement

Reaching out to a single mom or dad can provide hope if there are family struggles. [Photo by Kane Skennar, Thinkstock]
Reaching out to a single mom or dad can provide hope if there are family struggles. [Photo by Kane Skennar, Thinkstock]

I know a single mom who has four young daughters under the age of 6. She has had a challenging life, to say the least. An experience in her childhood scarred her emotionally and caused her to be mistrusting of people. She did not finish high school and had no workplace skills. She just barely got by and often felt like giving up.

She told me, “I had no support and no one to help. I had to get up and go to work every day even when I was sick. There were days I felt like giving my girls up for adoption because I didn’t feel like I was being a very good mother, and it was just too hard to go on.”

But then she got some hope. She connected with nonprofit Sunbeam Family Services’ early childhood program. Sunbeam’s mission statement is to “provide help, hope and an opportunity to succeed.” The mother was befriended by one of Sunbeam’s “family advocates,” a staffer who assists families in Sunbeam’s early childhood program with guidance, encouragement and connection to resources.

The mother has now finished her GED. She has also received her Child Development Associate certification and works as an early childhood teacher. She now possesses self-confidence and speaks in front of parent groups. She also has assurance in her ability to be a great mother.

I tell this story not to brag on Sunbeam (well, maybe just a little). Mainly, I tell the story to underscore the importance of reaching out to single moms and dads who are struggling to keep a family together and who, without your assistance, might experience family fall out.

In her blog, Jennifer Wolf itemizes 50 things you can do to support a single mom or dad. Here’s a sample:

•Have their kids over for a play date.

•Invite them over for coffee.

•Make them a meal.

•Give them a gas card.

•Include their kids in your carpooling group.

•Ask if they’d like to drive to a school meeting together.

•Invite them to attend church or a community event with you.

•Tell them something positive about their interactions with their kids.  

I especially like that last one: Positive reinforcement. Many single parents wrestle with self-doubt about their parenting. Your assistance and your encouragement can shine a light into their corner of the world.

Go to https://www.thespruce.com/ways-to-help-a-single-mom-or-dad-2998095 to find more tips.

You also can help by supporting nonprofit organizations that assist single parents, like Single Parent Support Network, http://supportforsingleparents.org.

Centuries ago, in the book of Genesis, Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer then, and up to the present, has always been the same: most assuredly. Being “pro-family” means placing a priority on your own family, for sure. But it means more. It means being a “family advocate,” even if you don’t work for Sunbeam. It means placing a priority on helping other families that might be fragile. You can give help, hope and an opportunity to succeed to a single parent, and that help can make a world of difference, one family at a time.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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