The Challenges of Being a Single Dad

Single DadSingle parenting is a very difficult job, so many of us need clear guidance. And the Bible does speak to us from cover to cover. “Good,” you reply. “I’ve been looking for some help. Give me some verses aimed at single parents that tell us what to do with our kids.” Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t always answer questions in the way we ask them or give us truth in the categories or format we want. There are no “Ten Commandments” in Scripture that exclusively address single parents.

What should we make of the absence of biblical commands specifically for single parents? When God spoke to his people, he spoke to married parents and single parents without distinction. In other words, the general commands given to all parents pertain to you. Single parents are not a special subcategory.


God’s directives to fathers

Biblical parenting duties can be summarized in various ways, but the basics include the call to:

  • Provide physical and emotional care,
  • Provide verbal instruction,
  • Provide physical discipline,
  • Model dependency on Christ that grows into his likeness, and
  • Pray for and with your children.

You will not be able to give as much time, energy, skill and creativity to these five tasks as two parents could. But God does not expect double effort from you. You cannot do, and must not try to do, the work of two adults. But what you should do, in dependence on God, should include these five ministries toward your kids.

Further, while you may receive help from others — your parents, friends, church family and so forth — you remain the God-appointed parent of your children. Do not concede to others this authority, responsibility and opportunity. There is no biblical doctrine of “grandmother’s rights.” In God’s providence you are parenting the children God has entrusted to you.


Some challenges facing single fathers

It may be assumed that single dads face hurdles in the legal system, which has historically favored the mother’s rights over those of the father, and that the schools and churches are more sympathetic toward their needs and rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. Courts and judges often assume that the mother is best suited to be the primary caregiver, and the father’s main role is to pay child support and have occasional visiting rights.

This attitude is also prevalent in the Church (meaning the Body of Christ including all believers), which typically usurps the biblical role of the father as the head of the household and gives it to the mother if she has sole custody. In the same way, public and Christian schools have the mindset that only the mother is equipped to nurture the children. It is the children that pay the price for this non-biblical reversal of the traditional roles


Pay attention to your children’s response to your single parenthood

Whether your child’s other parent has passed away, or has left the home, or you have not been married to the child’s mother, the issues that the children are dealing with are similar. Do you know how your children are handling the event that left them with just one residential parent?

Do not lose sight of your child’s responsibility to love, trust and obey God despite unpleasant circumstances. A broken home does not excuse unbelief, rebellion, ingratitude or idolatry. Teenage rebellion is, at the end of the day, rebellion. And rebellion is sin to be compassionately but wisely confronted.

Learn to reject hopeless notions that “doom” your children to future problems simply because they lack two married parents living together or because of the negative influence their other parent may exert. Your children are not “victims” or “products of broken homes.” They are little people — people in God’s image — who can know Jesus, follow Jesus and live meaningful lives that please him.


A biblical example to follow

Consider Timothy in the New Testament. We meet him in Acts 16:1 where we learn that his mother was a believer in Christ, but his father apparently was not. What future did this hold for this young man? Listen to his spiritual “father,” the Apostle Paul, describe what God brought about despite a lack of Christian belief in one parent.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14–15).

God used a godly mother, a godly grandmother and a godly mentor to teach and model the gospel for Timothy. He can use similar influences in your child’s life, confirming the promise in 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”

There are many resources available to help us through the challenging task of raising godly children as a single dad. These include Christian support groups, extended family and friends and co-workers who may be in similar situations. You don’t have to go it alone.


Bob Woods is a Senior Project Manager at AECOM Technical Services and a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected].

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