Raising girls can be complicated – even more so if you’re a father raising a daughter alone. When Tom McMinn lost his wife, Stephanie, to breast cancer last year, he discovered how challenging the job can be.

He knew life with his 10-year-old daughter, Molly, would change after Stephanie’s death, but he was still stunned by the adjustment. "It’s like someone holding a big bucket of water over your head, and then suddenly pouring it on you," he says.

After Stephanie died, Tom was forced to answer new questions he never dreamed of facing, such as: "How do I help Molly grieve while I’m also grieving?" "How do I teach her to grow up into a woman?" "How do I show her God’s love in the midst of her hurt?"

Room to grieve

When Tom and Molly purchased rabbits, Tom thought the bunnies would provide good fertilizer for their garden; they also provided an object lesson to teach Molly about tears and grief. Some of the baby bunnies didn’t make it.

"Molly didn’t want her daddy to see her crying," Tom said, "so she went to the back bathroom with one of the rabbits and cried." Tom tried to be sensitive to her emotions, so rather than say, "It’s just a rabbit," or "Stop crying," he said, "It’s all right to cry. It’s OK to be sad."

Tom is also willing to take his own advice. "If I’m sad, I’ll say I’m sad. I let her see me cry." So now when Molly grieves the loss of her mom and needs to be held, Tom is ready to comfort and hold his daughter.

Not only is Tom teaching Molly that tears are normal, but he’s also showing her that death is part of life. Through a bereavement training conference, Tom learned to avoid vague phrases like "Your mother has gone to a better place" and instead to be straightforward and say, "Momma died." Tom believes that honesty will help his daughter face grief more effectively in the future. However, Molly also knows she will see her mother again in heaven and that death is not the end of the love she shared with Stephanie.

Fashion sense and girly things

One afternoon, Tom took his daughter shopping and asked her to find some shoes to go with an outfit she was wearing. "She’s a terrible shopper," Tom chuckles. Thankfully, Tom does know how to match clothing and shoes, so he could help her along. Yet Tom admits he doesn’t feel comfortable addressing certain questions his daughter raises as she matures. For those, he turns to his sister-in-law. Sadly, Tom’s sister-in-law lost her husband in a car accident around the same time that Stephanie died. This meant she could relate to Molly’s grief, and they were also able to talk about girl issues together.

"If you’re raising a daughter alone," Tom says, "you need female support." Good sources include family friends and relatives. Even a doctor or nurse can step in to offer female counsel.

Faith through hardship

Faith is important to Tom and Molly, and they have a vibrant community of Christians who love and support them. Because faith has always been a part of their family life, Tom understands that Molly will have spiritual questions about why her mother died. When she does, Tom will tackle those tougher issues. Until then, his goal is to keep everything as normal as possible. "I haven’t changed anything. We pray together. We talk about Jesus."

With that faith relationship sustaining their strength, Tom and Molly move forward, holding on to each other, holding on to God – one day at a time.

Calling godly men and women!

You’re needed. Boys are growing up without fathers, girls without mothers. And getting involved in their lives is not as difficult as you may think. Do you know a recent widow or widower? Have any of your friends gone through a divorce? Even if you don’t feel as though you have much to offer, children need a listening ear and a friendly voice from someone who is not their parent. Follow these simple steps to discover if you are the one God is calling to minister to a single-parent family:

1. Pray: As you ask God about this opportunity, He will let you know through Scripture, counsel and circumstance if this is the opportunity for you.

2. Ask: Before talking with the child of a single parent, approach the parent individually. Ideally, you will already have a relationship with him or her and be a trustworthy figure. Let the parent know you would love to serve his or her family in this way.

3. Build slowly: Take the parent and child out for a meal, to bowl, for a hike. Have them over to your home. Give the child time to get to know you. Allow the relationship to build naturally.

4. Be there: Men, being there could mean you head off on a camping trip with rambunctious boys. Women, there might be a visit to the mall to purchase girly things in your future. It’s all about participating in the daily activities of life and offering encouragement and practical kindness. Pressuring yourself to provide Biblical insights and profound wisdom isn’t necessary; your character will be the most effective example.

Is there a child waiting for you?

-Elsa Kok Colopy

Elsa Kok Colopy is the former editor of Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family magazine. She now writes and speaks full time, leading retreats, seminars and workshops. Elsa pens the companion blog, Pure Love, Pure Life. She also pens a second blog, God Has Dimples.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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