Single parents have it hard enough without the added burden of fending off the dumb and thoughtless remarks onlookers make. There are countless comments that can fall under the category of what not to say to a single mom or single dad, most of which are good-intentioned but do not come off as such.
The worst things to say to single parents are not only hurtful, but they can shake a mom or dad's confidence in their own parenting and the choices they've made. All of this can impact the kids as well; a rude comment could have negative effects on the entire family unit. Ultimately, there is a basic rule that should apply to any notes or observations you're hankering to share with a single parent: think carefully before you speak. Even better, don't speak at all.
My Partner Is Out Town, So I Know What It's Like To Be A Single Parent!
Just don't with this one. If this comment pops into your head, take a deep breath and think about what you're about to say. Your partner has been out of town for, what, a couple of days? Maybe a week? And because you've been flying solo with the kiddies for a few days, you suddenly know the hardship of single parenthood? In all honesty, you've only gotten a tiny sample of what it's like to raise a child on your own. Don't presume to know how a single parent feels and how hard they have it simply because your partner is in Scranton, PA, on business for 48 hours. Single parenthood is much more difficult than you can imagine. Trust.
Don't Your Kids Need A Father/Mother Figure?
No, they don't. Your child does not require the theoretical figure of the missing parent to be a complete, healthy, well-adjusted kid. How else would you explain the normal levels of maturity and emotional/psychological health found in children of same-sex parents? Or the complete lack of sanity in some people who were raised by both a mother and a father? The idea that you need a father or mother figure to substitute for the one you're missing is archaic.
Did You Think Of Getting An Abortion?
A single mother does not have to disclose to you whether she considered abortion before deciding to become a parent. Choosing to have an abortion is a private medical decision between a woman and her doctor. And no one else. Chances are that the woman you want to ask this question of has thought long and hard about what it means to be a parent and has made a conscious decision to be one. That's all you need to know.
Deal With It
As the great Anne Lamott once said, "Figure it out is not a good slogan."
Figure it out is saying the same thing as deal with it: you're on your own, use what you know to find a solution. It's an abandonment, of sorts. When a single parent comes to you to vent, to find support, to seek advice, telling them to figure it out or deal with it is the least supportive or helpful thing you could say. You're telling them you don't have the answers, and you're dropping them where they're at to fend for themselves.
Don't you think if they knew the answer to a problem or had identified possible solutions, they would have done so by now? Sometimes venting is nothing more than venting, but sometimes real assistance and insight may be needed. Don't abandon a single parent who trusts you enough to ask for help.