Meeting the challenges of being a single father

Single fathers face a litany of challenges that are common to any single parent. On top of the usual worries about finances and keeping the kids happy and healthy, men often face the unfair and spurious charge that they just aren’t as nurturing as women and, therefore, aren’t as effective as single parents.

That’s been the basis of what many consider the unfair treatment of single dads in the courts, which have often ruled in favour of mothers. Today, single fathers have proven to be excellent and successful at parenting their children under the most trying circumstances. It’s a tough job for anyone, one that takes a remarkable degree of patience, sympathy, courage and stamina.

Support network

Every parent, regardless of their marital status, needs moral support and someone to lend a friendly ear now and then. Seek out a friend, family member or co-worker you can turn to for advice and help when things get a little too hectic. If possible, seek support from people who would be good role models for your kids. A female acquaintance, whether she’s a friend or relative, can help your kids adjust to the new arrangement by providing a positive feminine influence, especially if you have a daughter.

Take care of yourself

You can’t be a good father if you don’t take care of yourself. Single parents in particular need to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep and exercise. Your kids need your love and attention, not to mention your help with homework and getting them to soccer practice and games. All that on top of your responsibilities at work, and the pressure of maintaining a healthy and nurturing home environment, means staying healthy is absolutely essential.

“Considering that some of the latest research indicates that single dads have a mortality rate three times higher than that of single moms or married fathers, the need for self-care is absolutely critical.”

Considering that some of the latest research shows that single dads may have a mortality rate three times higher than that of single moms or married fathers, the need for self-care is absolutely critical. Part of the problem is that men are less likely to seek help than women. The other problem is the lack of time for exercise and personal consideration. Try to find 30 minutes a day for some kind of physical activity, even if it’s just walking up a flight of stairs or walking around the block a few times on your lunch break each day.

Being present

When you’re a busy single parent, it can be easy to overlook your children and their needs. Kids need you to listen, offer advice and show your support and affirmation on a regular basis. It’s an important part of growing up. Spend some time each day appreciating what you have and the love of your children. Think how important your role as a father is to their well-being. One of the most important things to bear in mind is that you need to be strong for your kids, who are probably suffering emotionally in the aftermath of their new living situation.

Stand your ground

You may be tempted, out of a sense of guilt, to cave in to your children’s desires. But stand your ground and maintain discipline. It’s important to their development that you not allow them to have Twinkies for breakfast every morning just because they’re asking for them. Another temptation is to talk badly about your ex-wife. Resist this as well. It sets a terrible example for your kids and encourages them to do likewise, which certainly won’t improve the situation.

Raising a teen

Raising a teenager is always a challenge, no matter what the circumstances might be. These are the rebellious years, when children are testing their boundaries. Allow your child to be him or herself but hold the line on discipline. Have a set curfew and make sure they complete homework and do their chores.

It’s also important to have safeguards in your home and to monitor their online activities, no matter how much your child protests. Employ filters and blocking software if necessary. The stakes of not doing so are simply too high.

Being a single father will test your patience, especially if you have several children. Remember to lean on your support network through it all and that it’s going to be a difficult transition for your kids as well. Showing patience will pay off for all of you in the end.

By Daniel Sherwin, author of Dadsolo, single father of two

Also read:

Rules of ‘how to be a dad’ are changing as gender roles continue to blur
Postnatal depression: Men get it too