What "NOT" to Say to a Single Parent

This blog post is two-fold.  For the reader who is a single parent, please read this with the intent to realize that people do not always know how to question or support a single parent.  We need to recognize the intent from the spoken words and not take everything so heavily.

For the person who is not a single parent, please read this post to acknowledge how things are worded when speaking to a single parent. Remember that they more than likely did not choose to parent alone and your questions can come across, "loaded" or uncaring.


"Mr. or Mrs. Right is out there.  You'll find each other some day and then you won't have to be alone."
Not every single parent is looking for a significant other.  Sometimes the pain is so deep that cultivating another relationship would be detrimental to the children involved.  This statement can make the single parent feel inadequate and that they should be with someone to live up to societal standards.  This simply is not the case.

"You look exhausted! Where do you find your energy?"
To a single parent, this is the last thing they want to hear. Typically they do not have energy so finding it would be amazing, but telling someone they look exhausted is nothing short of an insult.

"This must be really hard on your kids"
People assume that single parented kids are damaged. The single parent strives with every ounce of their effort to ensure that their kids are taken care of and have the best life possible.  Confirming their fears that their kids are not okay and that they as a parent may not be doing "enough", is hurtful.

"You should be proud of yourself!"
This can be very demeaning.  You wouldn't walk around telling this to married parents, so why the single parent?

"I don't know how you do it!"
The simple answer is because we have to and we want to.  Circumstances aren't always as bad as they seem and we enjoy being parents too.  The load is just different.

"What do your kids do while you work all day?"
Again, you typically wouldn't ask this of a married parent, so why the single parent? Their kids do what your kids do; they are busy being kids.  Answer is simple.  The kids are most likely in daycare situation or are being watched by a relative.
You might say: "What kinds of activities have you planned for your kids while you are at work?"

"You need alone time."
The urge to say this is understandable because everyone needs alone time.  Problem is that single parenting can be very lonely at times.  Even with kids running around, the lack of adult communication can be isolating. 
You might say: "When can I babysit for you?" or "Do you need time without the kids; how can I help?"

"Where is your kid's father/mother?"
A question you really shouldn't ask anyone.  This is very personal and you'll know if the single parent wishes to confide in you.
You might say: "If you feel comfortable sharing, I'd love to know how to pray for your children's father/mother."

"You must be so lonely!"
This statement is really rude and makes it sound as if anyone without a significant other is lonely.  Some single parents are perfectly happy and for those that are lonely, this is a painful exploitation of their feelings.
You might say: "I'd love to hang out with you sometime."

"My husband/wife was out of town for a couple days and so I know how you feel!"
OR "My husband/wife was sick over the weekend and I had to care for the kids alone.  It's exhausting and my heart just goes out to you!"
The single parent day in and day out experiences parenting alone.  There are great days and not so great days. Spending a few hours or days without the other parent is absolutely not the same.  When this is said to a single parent, it belittles the world they live in.  No one can imagine what they have not experienced.  Spouses spending a short time away is not equivalent to single parenting.
You might say: "I have had a taste of what it could be like to be a single parent. Let me know how I can come alongside you!"


Most people mean well with what they say and ask and it can be difficult to know how to relate to anyone in another life circumstance than yourself.  The key is to think before you speak.  In most cases, the single parent if they know you well enough, will recognize your true intentions in these questions and statements and will not or should not take offense. 

Co-Parenting Alone

I remember the struggles of co-parenting when I was married to my son's father.  He and I were not on the same page when it came to discipline, expectations and the overall parenting structure.  Now that we are divorced it seems that has just amplified the pains of co-parenting.   

At the very least when you are married to your children's father or mother, you are in a position of commitment and respect for your spouse that centers around compromise. (well that is how it is supposed to be anyway)  Parenting is very difficult to do with someone whom you may be struggling to respect or trust with your child's future.  Each person has different opinions and convictions on what is right, healthy, "normal" and what is not. This can make for some pretty heated debates about the passion both people feel for their side of spectrum. 

I have heard many stories of hurting men and women who are struggling to do what is right for their children with little or no help from the child's other parent.  This is very difficult but almost a blessing in comparison to the other side of the coin.  The worst stories I have to say however, are in those where one parent is road blocking every effort from the other parent to set a stable and healthy foundation.

How are you expected to support the child's parent being a part of their life when they are standing against every grain of your efforts to raise a healthy child?  How do you handle these situations when your kids think of you as the "bad guy" for taking a stand for righteousness and discipline? You aren't the "fun" parent to them and that hurts you.  Feeling at a loss for answers? Sure, we all do at different times.  

Bottom line is that you are only going to answer on judgement day of how you handled yourself when these situations arose.  You will have to answer to how you have trained up your children regardless of how the other parent is influencing their lives in an unhealthy way and standing against you.   Being that this is the case, we have to do everything in our power to show God through our actions at all times.

My mom once told me, that one day my son will know that I acted with his best interest in mind at all times.  It may take years and he may be a grown man with kids of his own when he realizes this statement of truth, however it will happen.  This statement alone keeps me going when I feel I can't anymore.  My hope is that it inspires you to do the same.


The other parent to your children plays a very important role even if your kids are not expressing the desire for relationship to you.  It is difficult to be responsible for the daily care and discipline and to watch your children go off and have fun.  Here are some tips when dealing with visitation.

1) Children want to love and care for the other parent without feeling guilty.  It will make a huge difference if you show enjoyment in their connection with the other parent.

2) Make hand-offs of your children to the other parent as pleasant and relaxed as possible.  This is not the time to bring up sore topics or to criticize each other for bad decisions.  If disagreement ensues, take it away from all earshot and visuals of the children.  Sometimes bringing a friend or relative with you helps to relieve the desire to pursue such conversations.  There are also centers that have been designed to help with the exchange without either parent having to see each other.  In my opinion, this is a last resort as the children need to see that their parents can act like mature adults.  If one of you cannot then this center is a great option.

3) Allow your child time to adjust to being back home with you.  They may act out or become emotional over leaving the other parent and feeling guilt about feeling disloyal to you.  If their visit wasn't enjoyable, they may feel upset. Allow them to talk about all feelings with you in a safe environment and never badmouth the other parent.  Be sure to seek professional help if your child is not adjusting to being home after a few days.

4) Do not for any reason use your children to spy on your ex.  I cannot stress this enough.  Children already feel guilt for living with one parent and visiting another.  They feel guilt for not being able to share all of their great moments with both parents.  Your child is not a sounding board for what your ex is doing. 

5) Understand that your children may misbehave when they come back or while they are gone.  It is important to be on the same page with the other parent on disciplinary actions and consequences so that there is a common ground on what is expected.  I realize that in my situation as in many others, parents rarely see eye-to-eye on this topic.  It is important that you uphold all of your standards without giving in to the guilt that comes with a child moving from parent to parent.  It may feel like an endless battle, but it will pay off in the end. Your child feels secure within boundaries and by giving them these boundaries you are showing them how much you care for them.

If there is little or no contact with the other parent it is your responsibility to educate your children on how the other parent fits into their lives.  You only get one chance to do this right.  Make it count.