How To Disciple Your Child as a Single Parent

July 13, 2023

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Today's question says, "How do I disciple my child as a single parent?" Listen as Elizabeth Urbanowicz answers this question in a way that is not only beneficial for the single parent but also for anyone that is part of the body of Christ.


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "How do I disciple my child as a single parent?" And this is a great question and I know that it applies to many of our listeners, and I know that there are also many of our listeners to whom this does not apply directly. However, I think indirectly, even if you are not a single parent, you know people who are single parents, so I think the content of this podcast can benefit anyone within the body of Christ.

Now, before we dive into answering this question today, if you have found the content of this podcast beneficial, we ask that you would consider liking and subscribing to make sure that you don't miss any future episodes and also ask that you would consider writing a review and sharing this content with those within your sphere of influence because we really want to equip as many Christian adults as possible with the skills that we need to get our kids to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter. Also, if you have a question that you would like me to answer on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can submit that question by going to

Now this question, "how do I disciple my child as a single parent?" Such an important question because in our society there are a whole host of situations that can lead to single parenting. It can be through death, it can be through divorce, it can be through even just circumstances that we never imagined. I know that when I was a teacher, I had one sweet, sweet little girl in my class one year who she was conceived through rape and her mother made the really brave and God-honoring decision to carry her through to full term and to raise her, and she was such a sweet little girl, but that mom was raising her daughter as a single parent.

And so there's so many different circumstances that can lead to single parenting, and so this is something that all of us within the church need to be thinking through. And so I'm going to speak right now directly to those of you who are single parenting, and first of all, I just want to affirm you and encourage you and to say that you should be encouraged by the fact that even in the midst of these difficult circumstances, you are seeking to be faithful with the children that God has placed in your care, that we know that in this life, our call as Christians is to daily deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Jesus because he is worth it and the cross or crosses that Jesus asks us to bear, they're different for each of us, but we know that we can trust that God is faithful and that he will give us the grace to sustain us in whatever situation we find ourselves, whether it's an expected situation or an unexpected situation.

Now, the first thing that I would recommend to single parents is make sure that you are rooted in a local church because none of us as believers is called to do this Christian life on our own, and especially the task of raising children on your own can be a very overwhelming one, but that's where the body of Christ is called to step in and really to be your family. So as you think about the church that you're part of or if you're currently looking for a church, I would say don't focus mainly on kids programming because kids programming is one, two maximum three hours per week. What you should focus on is making sure that the body of Christ that you're involved in is actually functioning as the body of Christ and is doing daily, weekly life together. That the church is the body. It's not just a place, a physical location that we go and we meet for corporate worship and then never see one another again until corporate worship on the next Sunday that the body of Christ should be doing daily life together.

And as a single parent, make sure that you're being open and honest with those within your local body of Christ about your needs, whether those be financial needs or relational needs or just needs in wisdom and guidance and help in your parenting. For those of you who are listening in the West, especially within the United States, we have this very individualistic mindset and we think it's just me and Jesus are just Jesus and my family. Where nowhere throughout scripture are we led to believe that it's just me and Jesus. Yes, God does save us individually, but He saves us unto Himself and into His body. And so we just have this idea in the United States that individualism that as longas we can grit our teeth and bear it, that that's the ideal person where that is not what is ideal within the body of Christ.

That Paul gives us that example in 1 Corinthians about how the body of Christ is the physical body and we can't just take an eye out and expect the eye to do its job on its own, that the eye needs to be attached to the heart. It needs to be attached to the brain so that it can survive and so that it can function. Same with all of our different parts. And so we need to make sure that we are actually rooted in the body of Christ.

Then be honest about your needs. It's really hard for us to admit our needs because then we suddenly realize that we are not capable in and of ourselves to provide for ourselves every single thing that we need. And this should be a no-brainer because we are dependent on God for our very life and breath. Literally our heart would not continue to beat. Our lungs would not continue to breathe if God were not at this very minute holding every single atom in our body together. But we tend to have this idea that we're so, we've got this under control where we don't. We are dependent on God every moment of our lives and we're dependent on one another within the body of Christ. Make sure that you're being open and honest about your needs and not just you as a single parent, but every single person within the body of Christ.

I am a single individual, and so a lot of my life is done just alone in my house because I work for myself and not out in the community quite as often because of that. And so I had to be honest with those within my local body of Christ saying, Hey, you know what? I eat dinner alone most nights, like I need to be involved in family life. So there are different families in my church that will just have me over once or twice a month, and we do that on a regular basis to meet this relational need that I have in this stage of life. So as a single parent, make sure that you are telling your local body what your needs are.

For those of you who are parenting, but you're not single parenting, make sure you're keeping an eye out for those who are single parenting within your body of Christ and asking what is that parent's needs? How can you help out? And then for those of you who are single parenting, I would also encourage you just because you're in this situation and that this is the cross that the Lord has asked you to bear at this time in your life, it doesn't mean that you get a pass on helping to meet the needs of those within your local body that you also are called to be part of the local body and you are called to serve. You're called to reach out.

One of my dearest friends, she has three children, and shortly before her youngest, her daughter was born, her first husband left her for another woman, and obviously a very distressing situation that she was raising two young boys and was pregnant with her daughter and was doing this as a single parent, and the church that she was and is involved in really came alongside her to provide for her needs because she didn't even have a place to live and so provided a place for her to live, helped out financially in different situations. But this friend of mine, she didn't just sink within herself and think, oh, this is so hard for me and this is not what I expected to happen with my marriage. Instead, she chose to be faithful where she was at with what God had placed in her care, and she also continually looked out for the needs of others and was serving others alongside in the body of Christ.

So that's my first discharge. Just make sure that you are in a church that is truly living as the body of Christ.

Then I would encourage you to ask God for strength and for wisdom that God you can trust that God is going to give you the grace that you need as you need it. And we are told in scripture that God has special care for orphans and widows, and even if your situation in single parenting is not because you are a widow or a widower in God's eyes, you're still in that position, that same position of a widow who is raising her children by herself who might be in a situation that's destitute so you can trust in God's special for the orphan, the fatherless, and for the widow, and just trust that God is going to give you the grace that you need.

It doesn't mean that it's going to be easy, but it means don't look around you and compare your situation to everyone else's and think, "oh, if only I had a spouse" or "if only I had someone else to help me with this." Is that God's original design and what is ideal? Yes, it is, but God has promised us even in this broken and fallen world that he is working all things together for our good by using all things to conform us more into the image of His Son.

I learned kind of the hard way that God's grace is personal and it's situational. When I was teaching third grade at the Christian school where I taught for most of my teaching time, there were two sections of third grade, meaning that there were two classrooms. There was myself and another teacher, and for most of that time after the kids graduated from third grade, there were three sections of fourth grade and three sections of fifth grade.

So frequently I would have anywhere from 26 to 29 students in my classroom, and then the next year they would get broken up into three classes. So the fourth and fifth grade teachers would frequently only have 16 to 20 children in their classroom and in devotional time when the fourth or fifth grade teachers would share about how difficult their class was and what they needed prayer for, in my mind, I was kind of silently rolling my eyes and thinking, are you kidding me? You have 18 kids in your class this year. Last year I had 27 or 28 or 29 of those kids in my class and I survived, so please stop complaining. And then that was my attitude unfortunately. For most of that time, I was just rolling my eyes thinking, "yeah, you have no idea how difficult it was last year." But then my final year of teaching, they actually had three sections of third grade that final year of teaching, and I only had 16 children in my class that final year, which I think the fewest children I had ever had in my class before that was 24. So I had eight fewer children than I ever had before, and that year of teaching was the most challenging year of teaching in my entire career that there were some days I didn't think I was going to make it through because it was so challenging.

And through that situation, God showed me just the extra measure of grace he had given me all of those other years when I had 28, 29 kids in my classroom, and I was so humbled to realize, oh my goodness, here I was sitting in teacher devotions all haughty and proud and thinking, oh, how can those teachers complain about having 16 or 18 children in their class? When I was able to handle those children with 28 or 29 in my classroom, and God just really showed me "no Elizabeth, it wasn't that you were able to handle 28 or 29 children in your classroom. It's that I was sustaining you each step of the way." And so you as a single parent, don't compare yourself to those who have spouses who are faithfully parenting alongside them because you have the grace that you need to raise these children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.

Another thing I would encourage you to do is as you're talking with your children, be honest with your children about your family's situation and speak about it through the lens of the gospel. If your spouse has died, be honest that like this loss, this ache that we feel for our dad or for our mom, this is a real ache and we're right to ache in this way because the last enemy to be destroyed is death, and Jesus has defeated death. We are just waiting until His second coming when He finally stamps out death forever. So speak about the situation through the gospel.

If you're a single parent because of divorce, speak to your children about that, that this is not God's original intent. God's original good design is one man and one woman become one flesh for one lifetime, and our marriage is broken. And the hurt that we feel is because this was not God's original intent, but you know what? We can trust that God is working all things together for our good even in this divorce because he's going to use all of these things to make us more like Jesus.

If you're in a single parenting situation because you weren't married when you got pregnant or because of even a difficult situation like rape, just be honest with your children. You know what? Our family might not look like what God originally designed, but you know what? We can trust that God is using this for our good, that God is going to use the things that we walk through to make us more like Jesus and who knows who he is preparing us to minister to and to encourage in the future because of the hard things that we're walking through.

Now, just on a really practical level, I would encourage you just establish the same rhythms and routine in your home that you would establish if you had a spouse there with you. I mean, there might be some ways in which you're limited, but you're not limited in your ability to do family Bible reading. You can do family Bible reading, whether you it's a two-parent married household or whether it's a single parent family. You can still regularly pray, pray for your needs, pray for others, pray, thanking God, confessing your sin. You can still discipline your children. That's necessary. That's a biblical command that we actually raise our children in the fear and instruction of the Lord. And we know that as we reflect God as parents to our children, that God disciplines those he loves. It's through God's discipline of us that we are proven to be real sons of God.

So discipline your children consistently. Is that maybe more challenging as a single parent because you don't have someone there supporting you in that? Yes, it may be more challenging, but that goes back to what we talked about before, that we can trust that God's grace is sufficient.

Also, as you're thinking through education options for your children, you can make similar decisions to what you would make if you were a two-parent family. A lot of times we think that we're much more limited than we are. Maybe you are a single parent and you think that public education is your only option and you don't want your child to go to the public school because they're going to be getting an alternate worldview for eight hours a day, and you might think, you know what? I'm a single parent. There's only one income in this family and it's very small, and so there's no way that I could have the finances to send my child to a Christian school, or there's no way that I could homeschool my children.

Start to pray through that. If you really think that your education options are limited, pray that God would provide, because I've seen so many just very creative situations. I know that the school where I taught when I was teaching at a Christian school, it was a very wealthy private school, but we had students there who were on huge scholarships. Almost all of their tuition was covered because of the family situations in which they were. I know other families, I had a few students that came from families that were in dire financial need and others in the community actually came alongside them and paid for their child or their children to go to that Christian school. In my current church situation, I know that there's a mom who works and she wants her kids to be homeschooled, and so there's another mom in our community that's homeschooling her children right now.

I know that there's groups in Chicago, I always forget her name, but I think it's Latasha Fields, but she has a ministry that's really equipping parents within the body of Christ to reach out to other parents who are in different financial situations or parenting situations and homeschool their children. And so your education options are probably not as limited as you think they are. So just start praying through that. Go to the elders at your church, talk to them about where you are and your needs and what your hopes and prayers are for your children educationally and academically and where you land, and is there any way that they can help you financially or is there anyone that they know in your local body that could help you with the education of your children? So just know that even in education, which is a huge thing, your options are not as limited as you probably think they are.

And just to circle back, because I think this is the most important, just remember that God has promised to give you the grace that you need, that his grace is sufficient. He has not promised that it will be easy. Jesus has told us, behold, in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. So single parenting, many times, even most times, is going to be overwhelming, but you can rely on the promises of God.

And for those of you watching and listening who are not in a situation where you're single parenting, I would really encourage you to think through the things that I just shared in this podcast and pray through. How can you reach out to those in your local body who are single parents and help meet their needs and come alongside them in this difficult situation?

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that you would trust that no matter this situation, you and the children in your care find yourselves. You can trust that God is working all things together for your good by using those circumstances to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.

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