Single Mother


I am a single mother due to a marriage filled with domestic violence. I am raising three children, ages 6, 5, and 3, on my own. I am working two jobs and going to college full-time, also. Sometimes I feel guilty because I am so short tempered with my kids. I am only 26 years old and feel so overwhelmed and inadequate for the situation in which I have been placed. My oldest son has ADHD and I am not sure how to discipline him because nothing seems to work.


You are amazing. Honestly, you are amazing. To do all you are doing, plus raising three young children, including one with ADHD, is phenomenal. Quite frankly, you’ve got a bunch of legitimate reasons to feel overwhelmed and inadequate.

If your biggest problem right now is being short-tempered, then you are a blessed woman. If you were to take the Holmes-Rahe Stress Test your score would be off the charts. Excess stress sets us up for all kinds of spiritual, physical, and emotional problems, which in God’s hands can also become opportunities to learn, deepen, develop, and mature.

It’s common to feel guilty when we don’t do it right, especially when the “it” involves the emotion of anger. Anger is the least understood and most misunderstood of all the emotions. Anger is always a secondary emotion. Underneath the emotion of anger is always one or more of the primary emotions of hurt, frustration, and/or fear.

When we react to the secondary emotion of anger, we are likely to say and do things we will regret. When we learn how to respond to our hurts, frustrations and/or fears, we’re more likely to make our anger work for us rather than against us. Norm Wright and I coauthored a book, A Woman’s Forbidden Emotion, which will give you some very practical and biblically-consistent ways to deal with this powerful emotion.

The first step in dealing with a child who struggles with ADHD is to understand exactly what their ADHD is like. There are a wide range of symptoms and levels of severity for ADHD and an approach that might be great for one child might not be as helpful for another. We encourage you to find a counselor trained in treating ADHD to have your son evaluated for some recommendations that will fit for him. The encouraging news is that there are a lot of options for working with this disorder.

When all is said and done, you are only as good for your kids as you are good to yourself. Please don’t neglect the importance of appropriate self-care during this difficult season. Things like friendships, fellowship, praise and worship, exercise, healthy eating, etc. can make a huge difference in your spiritual, emotional, and physical health and allow you to maintain the kind of perspective you need to “be more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37), which is God’s desire for you.

Seek out spiritually and emotionally healthy friends who will pray with you and pray for you. Some churches have support groups for single moms that are a gold mine of encouragement and resources to help you through these challenging times. We would also encourage you to find a counselor or mentor who you can meet with on a regular basis to help you maintain perspective and explore valuable options for your situation.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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