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A Letter to Single Parents from Dr. Meg

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dear Single Parents,

In 1984, Ronald Reagan declared March 21 as National Single Parent Day. He wrote in the proclamation, “I call on the people of the United States to recognize the contributions single parents are making, sometimes under great hardships, to the lives of their children.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 12 million single-parent families in the U.S. This number may sound staggering, but as a pediatrician, I am not surprised. I have seen countless single parents walk into my practice with their children, and I can tell you, they deserve recognition for their efforts, and they deserve encouragement.

Single parents deserve recognition for their efforts, and they deserve encouragement.

So single parents, I want to thank you for the work you’re doing to raise a great child.

When I wrote Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters and then Strong Mothers, Strong Sons, I received many questions from single parents: “As a single mother, can I still raise a strong daughter? What if I am a single dad, can I still raise a strong son?”

My answer to that is, absolutely. So often single parents put pressure on themselves to be both mom AND dad. Believing you can be two people at once is overwhelming. It adds pressure to an already tough job of being a parent.

Today, I want to let you off the hook. No, you can’t be mom and dad, but you can be a great mom or dad who raises terrific kids. One of the worst things you can do is blame yourself for failing to be enough. You can’t be two parents, but you certainly can be more than enough as one.

Being a single parent is one of the toughest jobs in the world. They deserve this letter of encouragement and recognition — each and every mom and dad, but they can be a great mom or dad who raises great kids.

Your kids are going to have needs that you cannot meet. Remember, as you blame yourself for not being able to meet certain needs, your child will be blaming himself, too. Children get into emotional trouble not because their needs aren’t met; rather because they blame themselves that they had needs in the first place.

Acknowledge your son or daughter’s needs. Acknowledge what you cannot give him. Grieve that loss and move forward. Pretending like you can do everything will only make life harder. Being honest about your limitations and your child’s desires creates an environment of honesty and a safe, healthy place for healing and growth.

Moms have so much to offer their daughters and sons. Dads have so much to offer their daughters and sons. At least for today, focus on the characteristics you do have, whether it’s kindness, strength or a listening ear. Those things can go very far in your relationship with your child.

Single parent, focus more on what you can give your child than on what you can’t.

I know the days can be long, the road can be lonely and you often feel misunderstood, under appreciated and forgotten, but single mom, single dad, I want you to be encouraged! You have half the time, half the energy and half the manpower that other families do, and you are still doing a great job! In fact, I would bet you’re doing better than you think you are. On this day, and on all of the others, thank you for working so hard to raise great kids. And if you don’t hear it from anyone else, hear it from me… you matter!


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