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Being a single dad can feel overwhelming, but it’s important to realize that there are 1.7 million men in the United States that are right there with you. Not to mention, 10 percent of these single fathers are raising three or more children younger than the age of 18. But even if you’re only raising one child, it doesn’t mean the experience doesn’t come with its fair share of challenges. Understanding what those roadblocks are is the first step to overcoming them.
While it’s less typical for men to reach out for help than women, a reliable support system will help with your success as a single dad. Along with friends and family, join a support group with like-minded dads. Look at it as a safe space to talk about your struggles with someone who may be going through a similar situation. You can usually find groups through your doctor, local community center, school, or church.
It’s not uncommon to feel guilty about disciplining your children after a divorce, death, or breakup. Perhaps you don’t want to play the role of bad cop because you’re worried they’ll become even more stressed or unhappy; but over-indulgence is one of the worst things you can do. Instead, make discipline a part of a healthy relationship with your kids by establishing expectations and rules that you can enforce in a fair manner. Sure, they might get upset, but discipline is key in order to give your kids values that will last for years to come.
Finding balance is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges a single dad faces. Research suggests single fathers are just as apt to have poor mental and physical health but are less likely to seek help. It’s important to find ways to reduce stress and have coping methods for dealing with challenges. Staying organized by keeping a detailed schedule of your kids’ priorities will help you pencil in time to keep up with your own hobbies, see friends, or go on a date. According to a popular website, “The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health is in. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing.”
Raising a Daughter
Between puberty and dating for the first time, many single dads are in the dark about how to raise a daughter as she transitions from daddy’s little girl to a woman. Being patient, communicating, and getting involved in your daughter’s life—without being overly protective—will create a bond of trust between the two of you. Be open about why you have fears about her dating versus making her think you want to lock her in her room. If you’re completely uncomfortable with talking about certain situations like getting her period for the first time (she may also be uncomfortable), ask for the help of a trusted female such as a family member or close friend. But no matter what the issue is, always make sure your daughter feels like you’re supporting her and that she can come and talk to you about anything, anytime.
Communication is key no matter how many kids you have or what their gender is. Being a good listener and understanding their side is part of being a good parent. Instead of always instantaneously giving them advice, ask questions to become more engaged.
Embrace the fact that there are also many benefits that come with being parent. The relationship is often close because there are more opportunities for quality bonding time. Single dads also tend to use positive parenting techniques such as problem-solving strategies over punishment. Remember that parenting is difficult even when there are two parents in the picture, so cut yourself some slack once in a while.
Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At DadSolo.com, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.
I am honoured to feature Daniel, the writer behind DadSolo.com in my Guest Post series on my blog. Daniel reached out to me late last year and offered to write a post on the challenges of single parenting from the dad’s perspective. I hope you find this piece both encouraging and empowering as a resource for single parents.
Daniel, thank you for this piece.