Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Help My Single Parent?
“Being a single parent is like being a juggler. After six months of practice, you have finally been able to juggle four balls at once. But just as soon as you are able to do that, somebody throws a new ball to you!”—A single parent.
A SINGLE parent’s job is tiring, often unrelenting. And if your mother is a single parent, you no doubt realize that she could use some help.* But as a teenager, you face what one writer called “the most stressful and threatening time of life.” It might seem that you have enough to do just coping with being young.
Nevertheless, like the single parent quoted at the outset, your mother may from time to time feel overwhelmed, trying to be both mother and father to you. True, Jehovah does not expect the impossible from anyone. As one Bible principle states: “The important thing is to be willing to give as much as we can—that is what God accepts.” (2 Corinthians 8:12, Phillips) But still she may feel under considerable pressure. Should you simply ignore her plight, or is there good reason for you to try to help out?
“Paying a Due Compensation”
At 1 Peter 3:8, Christians are told: “Finally, all of you be like-minded, showing fellow feeling.” So at the very least, should not fellow feeling for your parent move you to help her? Indeed, it is “acceptable in God’s sight” for Christian youths to “keep paying a due compensation to their parents.”—1 Timothy 5:4.
While this text no doubt refers to rendering a bereaved parent financial aid, it does teach an important principle: We owe our parents more than we could ever possibly repay. And when they are in need, it is our duty and privilege to try to compensate them. For example, some youths will use some or all of their earnings from part-time jobs to help pay household bills. This demonstrates real gratitude and appreciation!
Financial aid, however, is just one way to pay your parent “a due compensation.” Not that you should try to fill the shoes of your absent parent—that would be impossible—nor do you need to wear yourself out emotionally, feeling you are fully responsible for all the goings-on in your household. That is still your mother’s job as parent. (Compare Proverbs 31:27.) But there are many practical ways in which you can prove yourself a real asset to your mother if she is a single parent.
Obedience Lightens Her Load
One way is simply to follow the command at Colossians 3:20: “You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” You may well be able to recite this text by heart. But do you sometimes fail to heed it?
One single parent with a teenage son works long hours to provide for her family. But she says with a sigh: “My son makes life harder when he disobeys me.” Her son counters: “I’m the only male in the house. I’m bigger than my mother, so sometimes it’s very hard for me to obey and respect her as family head.”
Neither your physical dimensions nor your gender exempts you from Jehovah’s command: “Do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Proverbs 6:20) Your mother is authorized by God to make laws, or house rules. You owe her respect and obedience. If you are a male, Mom may affectionately call you the man of the house. But she is head of the house! And by obeying her—not arguing with her every time she asks you to do something—you lighten her load and make for peace in your family.
Help With Housework
Another way to lighten your parent’s load is to help with household chores—not waiting till you are nagged into doing them. ‘But Mom doesn’t ask me to do anything,’ you object. Surprisingly, this is often the case. As Carol V. Murdock writes: “Single Mom or Single Dad staggers through the living room with a load of laundry big enough to buckle the strongest knees—and three kids’ eyes never leave the television screen.”—Single Parents Are People, Too!
Why do many single parents require so little from their offspring? One single mother reasoned: “I don’t want my daughter to have to miss out on any fun because I have to work. I’m afraid she will resent me for it.” Another said: “You want to make up for the absence of the other parent by making it easy for the kids.” At the core of such feelings, though, may be your parent’s unwarranted sense of guilt. She may feel guilty because maintaining a job keeps her away from you. Or she may feel guilty about her failed marriage, reasoning that she is to blame for your having to live in a one-parent home.
According to Dr. Richard A. Gardner, author of The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce, some youths take advantage of the situation. They demand pity and refuse to share in household chores. This reminds us, though, of the callous attitude shown by religious leaders in Jesus’ day. Jesus said of them: ‘They fix up heavy loads, yet they aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help carry those loads.’—Matthew 23:4, Today’s English Version.
Show a different attitude. Refuse to add to your mother’s load; do not exempt yourself from household chores.
Taking the Initiative
This may mean doing what needs to be done without being asked. Consider how young Tony lightens his mother’s load. He says: “My mother works in a hospital, and her uniform has to be pressed. So I iron it for her.” But isn’t that woman’s work? “Some think so,” replies Tony. “But it helps my mom, so I do it.”
Besides offering practical help, you can do much to buoy up your mother’s spirits simply by making expressions of appreciation. One single parent wrote: “I often find that when I am really low or irritable from a particularly trying day at work and I come home—that is the day my daughter has chosen to set the table and get the supper going.” She adds: “My son puts his arms around me and hugs me and says, ‘You’re the best little mom in the world.’” How is she affected by such thoughtful acts? She continues: “My whole mood changes for the better again.”
“Go On Walking in the Truth”
“No greater cause for thankfulness do I have than these things, that I should be hearing that my children go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) The apostle John here spoke of his spiritual children. If your mother is a Christian, she no doubt feels the same way toward you; she wants you to walk in the truth. To that end she may arrange a regular family Bible study with you.
Conducting that study may not be easy for her after an exhausting day’s work. And if you are uncooperative or complaining, family study can be an ordeal for everyone concerned. So cooperate! Be ready to study when the scheduled time arrives. Prepare your lessons beforehand. Your cooperation may be just the impetus your parent needs to keep that study regular. When you attend Christian meetings and share in the house-to-house preaching work without having to be prodded, you also demonstrate that you are walking in the truth. (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) In this way you assure your mother that her efforts are not in vain!
Proverbs 3:27 says: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it.” Clearly, you owe your parent such consideration. And when you give it, you please not only her but Jehovah God himself. Another benefit: Your parent will be in a better frame of mind to give you help when you need it.
Finally, helping others builds good qualities. As one writer notes: “Young people need opportunities to feel that they are helping and giving to others. When they have none of these experiences, they cannot discover their own strengths and durability [that come] with knowing you are a good person helping others.” As Jesus himself said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) And great happiness can be yours if you care enough to help your single parent.
Since the majority of single parents are women, we will use the female gender. However, the principles discussed here apply to single parents of either sex.
[Pictures on page 19]
A lazy or unconcerned youth adds stress to his parent’s life . . . One who helps with the housework lightens her load