What to Expect When Raising Fatherless Kids

Everyone wants to know what to expect when facing the unknown whether that’s visiting a new city, trying different food, or even when expecting a baby.

The book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff​​, proves this point! It is considered one of the 25 most influential books of the past 25 years and has been described as the “bible of American pregnancy.” More than 42 million copies have been sold and it’s published in 38 countries and in 44 languages. And, according to this Harvard Business Review, building trust, eliminating stress, and connecting with a comfortable familiar experience helps a person make it through unfamiliar seasons and situations. 

When I was in college, I was required to take a course called Child Development. During this class, hours were spent behind a one-way mirrored glass observing small children—hours! God knew that this was a small taste of how I would spend much of my life. Observing children, adolescents, and teenagers has been a way of life for me. Now, I am on the other side of raising eight children without a dad (four boys and four girls), but I’m certainly no expert. Although, over the years, I have observed my fair share of how women first respond to losing their husband and how kids respond to losing a dad, and, time and time again, I have seen God faithfully work in their lives. 

Knowing what to expect when raising fatherless kids helps us prepare for unexpected and unwanted seasons. 

These observations are just that – my experience in observing a small group of children under the age of ten grow up without a dad and what you might anticipate or expect in raising your own. The absence and loss of their biological dad will be a reality for their whole lives. Grief from this absence will ebb and flow over time, and children may not grieve until years after the loss.

What to Expect When You’re Raising a Fatherless Kid

  1. Mom will carry the grief for her children for a long while. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV).
  2. Boys will struggle with fear of failure and hurt. As they experience milestones in life, the lack of affirmation from a dad can cause these fears and feelings to arise. “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25, NASB).
  3. Girls will be tempted to find their identity in other things and people. If your daughter is not grounded in Christ it will be easier for her to find her meaning in other things. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, NASB).
  4. The enemy will attack with fear of rejection and abandonment. The fear of being an orphan one day is a real thing. “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not abandon you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:31 NASB). “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you” (John 14:18).
  5. You will do stuff alone but God will help you. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
  6. Loneliness and misunderstandings happen. “God makes a home for the lonely” (Psalm 68:6 NASB).
  7. Traditions will be evaluated – keep those that bring joy and toss those that hurt or do not bring value to your family.
  8. Change will be experienced. Your circumstances have changed, and you will change in your new circumstances. “Behold, I am going to do something new, now it will spring up; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19 NASB).

What to Expect on Your Parenting Journey with God as Father 

  1. Expect God to father your children. Spend your time, energy, prayers, focus in looking for him as Father. “A Defender of the widow and father of the fatherless is God in His holy habitation” (Psalm 68:5 NIV).
  2. God will use others as a vessel for His fathering. Welcome this, be intentional about inviting people into your family. “Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
  3. Expect to feel the weight of the responsibility you have been entrusted with but let God carry this weight for you. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
  4. Expect to work through your own faith and relationship with God because this is what will be modeled and passed on to your children. “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
  5. Expect miracles. “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
  6. Expect God to help you. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-3).
  7. Expect to learn many things. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
  8. Expect hope to grow. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
  9. Expect to be tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Envy, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness are all enemies to healing that you will need to beware of. “Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB).
  10. Expect to walk by faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
  11. Expect to live life different from the traditional family God designed with a father and a mother. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NASB).
  12. Expect God to keep His promises. “…not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14 NASB).
  13. Expect struggles that are not against flesh and blood. There will be conflicts along the way but it is important to understand that there is often a spiritual force working against you and not your own friends and family, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB).
  14. Expect to do hard things. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB).
  15. Expect tender moments. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
  16. Expect what Satan means for evil, God will use for good. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20 NASB).
  17. Expect growth. “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:7-12 NASB).
  18. Expect to learn how to fight spiritual battles. “Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly” (Judges 3:1-2 NASB). “He trains my hand for battle so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (Psalm 18:34-36).
  19. Expect to lead as God leads you. “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV).
  20. Expect to be tested. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV).
  21. Expect your family to bond together and not apart. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23 NIV).
  22. Expect to receive. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24 NIV).
  23. Expect to give. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered” (Proverbs 11:25 NASB).
  24. Expect the need for endurance. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36 NASB).
  25. Expect God to be God. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV).