Single Parent Q & A with David and Lisa Frisbie

...waiting for my mom - _MG_4741
source: sean dreilinger

Q. My ex is never on time to pick up the kids. We arrange to meet at McDonald’s or somewhere—then my ex is either way late or he doesn’t show up at all. This is really wrecking my schedule and giving me some anger issues.

A. Your ex is behaving in ways that are childish and irresponsible. While you probably can’t change the values of your ex, you may be able to speed up his maturity and modify his behavior.

Your best approach may be to set and keep some good boundaries. However, before you begin this process, make some firm decisions about what you are willing or not willing to do. Think through all your options: begin with the end in view.

Here’s how it might work: Tell your ex that you and the kids will be at McDonald’s from 7:00 to 7:15. Explain that you are not able to wait for him past 7:15—so if he can’t get there on time, he can’t have the kids this weekend. Just as you do with your own children—say what you mean and mean what you say.

Expect to hear every excuse in the book. Expect him to text you at 7:14 and say that he is running “a little late.” Think through all of these likely scenarios before you establish your boundaries. How flexible are you? How long will you actually wait? Once you have decided your boundaries—keep your boundaries. There are only two likely options if you do so—your ex will mature and start showing up on time, or else your mediator or family court representative will back you up on your clear, fair boundaries.

Dr. David and Lisa Frisbie serve as Executive Directors of The Center for Marriage and Family Studies in Del Mar, California. They are family counselors and authors, specializing in the post-divorce family. Frequent speakers at conferences and seminars, they have traveled to all 50 US states, 9 provinces and 2 territories of Canada, and more than 40 world nations to teach, speak, and train family counselors. Lisa and David are the authors of 19 books and dozens of articles about marriage and family life; their articles are frequently featured in ParentLife and BabyLife magazines.

Real Life Solutions: Divorce and the Holidays


We are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include “? for Dr. Mintle” on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.



Q: My husband and I are divorced. Last Christmas was our first year apart, and the holidays were a nightmare. This year, we want to minimize the stress on our two young children during the holidays. What can we do to help them and have less fighting this year?

A: Both of you need to be respectful to each other at all times and stay calm and relaxed so as not to pass along stress to your children. Children can feel parental stress, but they don’t know how to cope with it. Whatever issues you fought about last year, talk about them ahead of time and try to come to agreement on those issues. Next, make sure the children see both parents during the holiday time. Work out a schedule before the season begins and stick to your plans. It helps to post a calendar for the children to see the plans on paper.

If your children are going to both homes on Christmas Eve and Day, stick to the pick-up and drop off times. Tell them to have a great time as you drop them off; sometimes kids need permission to have fun with the other parent. Encourage them to give you a few highlights of time with the other parent, but don’t prod for information.

Finally, build in some down time. Kids need rest and time to enjoy their new gifts. Take the time and make every effort to drop unimportant issues during this time of year. If you and your ex approach the holidays with a positive attitude, this will be passed on to your children.

How do you deal with holidays if you are divorced or separated?

Single Parent Unemployment by Shannon Stegall

In the October 2012 print article “Status Update: Unemployed—Practical Tips for Single Parents,” author Shannon Stegall addresses the areas of Pause and Pray, Family Talk, Schedule, Networking, and Reality. Here are a few more areas that apply to the issue.


Internet. Single parents’ financial and time resources are limited, so utilize the Internet. Send e-mails regarding your search, attaching a resume. Ask them to forward to coworkers and industry colleagues. Utilize social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Look to online recruiting sites such as,, or Visit organization Web sites where you’d like to work. Stay on top of local news for companies moving to your area or expanding. Set up a Google Alert to capture Internet posts concerning particular companies.

Finances. If you are fortunate and have a financial cushion, be realistic and realize it could deplete before finding another position. Look for temporary jobs. Offer to do tasks for family and friends, such as cleaning houses, raking leaves, cleaning out flower beds, babysitting, assisting the elderly, and so forth. Involve older children by including them in clipping coupons, holding garage sales, consigning clothing, or other money-saving activities. Kids are never too young to learn the value of money and how a family can work together.

Have you experienced unemployment as a single parent? How do you pull through?

Faith Differences

What if only one parent is a Christian and the other parent has very different beliefs? ParentLife has a monthly department "Single Parent Life" that addresses the needs of single parents. This month ParentLife writer, Tammy Bennentt, asked this question about parents with different beliefs. See her practical helps below that will help any family dealing with faith differences.


This question is common, not just after divorce, but in traditional families as well. Many times a mom and dad have been raised with different belief systems, or they may have a change of belief later in life. One parent who used to attend church and confess to be a Christian then decides this is no longer true for him. With divorce, there is a high level of frustration that happens to Christians who, unfortunately, may feel judged or isolated by their church because outsiders do not understand or agree with the reasons for the divorce. And there is the all-too common concern of a believer who may become angry or distant toward God because he wanted God to save his marriage and it ended anyway. There are many reasons a person might decide to turn his back on God after divorce — or even before divorce. If you are coparenting with someone who finds himself frustrated and confused about his beliefs, here are a few suggestions.

Remember the most important impact you have. What your child sees in your daily living will speak louder to him than anything. You cannot control what the other parent believes or what happens related to church when your child is with the other parent. What you can do is be the Christian example you want for your child to become. This does not mean being a perfect person or a perfect parent; it simply means letting your whole life radiate Christ and His love and life lived out through you! Years and years of this example will stand strong as a foundation to the faith being built in your child.

Pray for the other parent. Sincerely and fervently pray for the other parent but do not confuse prayer with control. It is not your job to fix or change the other parent. It was not your job when you were married and it certainly is not your job now. The power of a praying parent can reap invisible but valuable rewards — for your child and for the other parent.

Do not openly criticize the other parent. There is a big difference between criticizing the other parent’s beliefs and having neutral conversation with your child about lifestyles, belief systems, and faith. Always be available to listen to your child’s thoughts and be prepared for these “deep talks” at the most unexpected times. If you badmouth the other parent with hopes of getting your child to “side with” you, it will probably backfire! Not only will he feel the need to protect the other parent and stand up for him, he will likely begin to resent you (silently) and a wedge will build between you and your child.

Be respectful. The words your child hears you speak about the other parent will be life or death to his soul. Choose words of life so your child can live find other details (besides religion) that you can point out that are good and positive about his other parent and say them aloud to your child.

Find an appropriate support system. Find an outlet to talk to another adult or counselor about these concerns and problems, but do not process these with your child. Be the parent and let him be the kid.

Enlist a leader at your church. Depending on the age of your child, enlist the leader for his age group and have an honest dialogue with that leader about your concerns. Encourage your child to spend time with that leader, outside of regular church activity time, to develop the friendship. Many times the extra outside voices you help cultivate with your child can be the best influence ever! It also can allow your child to have someone objective to bounce ideas off, ask questions, and to talk about the differences they see between his parents’ beliefs without the worry of hurting feelings or making a parent angry.

No matter the other parents’ beliefs, be the example your kids can follow!

Tammy G. Bennett, The Coparenting Coach, is the founder of Christian CoParenting. She and her daughter, Angelia, live in Nashville, Tennessee. For free e-newletters and resources, see

Recommended Reading: Spiritually Single Moms: Raising Godly Kids When Dad Doesn’t Believe by Nancy Sebastian Meyer (Navpress, 2007)

The Bigger Picture — Help for Single Parents

Tammy G. Bennett, known as the Coparenting Coach, offers help for single parents in our January 2010 "Single Parent Life" department. If you find yourself in a coparenting situation that causes your child to have to choose between two churches, Tammy has more help for you.


Why do you, as a single parent, take your child to church? Is it with aspirations that one day he will ask Christ into his heart? Are you hoping your child will love God and follow His will for his life? Are you planting seeds of God’s Word into his soul so his adult life will have faith as a true foundation?

Before addressing “what about church,” I challenge you to zoom out and think about the bigger picture. Your child will learn more about God from watching you than he will from attending church. Your passions shape your child’s values. He is watching how you worship and read your Bible, and from that he is learning how to love God. You must be the Christ-follower that you want your child to become. You cannot leave it to Sunday School teachers. Your child’s faith will be formed by watching you. What does he see?

Does he actually see you reading your Bible? Does he hear you pray? Do you enjoy worship music at home or in the car together as a family? Are you talking about your child’s life concerns and offering Christ-based solutions? Are you asking him “What would Jesus do?” Or are you shipping him off to church and hoping someone else will do that?

It is your real-life example, as a godly single parent, that will be engraved upon his soul forever. Yes, there are outside influences that can be a positive addition to this journey (pastors, Christian peers, etc); however, lifelong faith begins at home.

In the case of children of divorced families, both the mother’s influence and the father’s influence are equally important. Children need to hear their parents’ voices on spiritual issues. Some single parents may want to leave it to ‘the other parent’ to be the spiritual leader or example; however, children look to both parents for answers. No matter the disappointments of the past, a single parent who is sold out for Christ can have the most significant impact on her child’s lifelong view of God. Whatever circumstances that have created your “single parent” journey should not keep you from going after God with your whole heart and life! God can use it all, every detour and difficulty.

If you feel your example has been ruined because of divorce, don’t lose hope! If a child can watch his single parent consistently seeking after God, year after year, no matter the difficulties or mistakes, that one parent’s example will create a firm foundation that will outlast any pain. Giving God center stage in a single-parent household is more important than how many times a week you go to church or which parent the child goes to church with. Church is a secondary solution. A Christ-centered single-parent household is first!

Be sure to check out “Single Parent Life” in the January 2010 issue of ParentLife where we discuss: What do you do when your child has two churches?

Money-Saving Web Sites


Everyone likes to save money, right? The Web is packed with tons of money-saving Web sites. The following sites are just a sampling of the sites we thought you might find most helpful!

Educational/Informational Web sites

• Fly Lady —

• BeCentsable —

• BillShrink — —


Centsible Sawyer —

Money Saving Mom — —

Baby Cheapskate —

Coupon Cravings —

Deal Seeking Mom —

Mommy’s Wish List —

Online Classifieds

• —

Hand-Me-Downs —

Online Shopping Helps —

• —

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Coupon Web Sites

The Grocery Game —

• —

• RedPlum —

Shopper Card Coupons —

• P&GeSaver —

• Cellfire —

Other — —

For more information, check out our January 2010 ParentLife article "From DINK to SIWK: Living a Single-Income Lifestyle" by Jeff Land.

Do you have some great money-saving Web sites you could recommend?