As the saying goes, raising happy, successful, and well-adjusted children takes a village—but in many cases, the only person around is a single parent. Most people associate single parenthood with mothers, but there are more than 2.5 million households in the U.S. led by a single father. That’s a nine-fold increase since 1960 when there were fewer than 300,000 nationwide.
Single dads are every bit as capable of raising children as single mothers, but they face a few unique challenges. For example, their social support systems may be weaker and less reliable, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. They also may face a tougher time getting away from work to be there when their kids need them, such as on sick days, field trips, and other days when their presence makes a big difference.
If you’re a single dad, you know that juggling the responsibilities of work and parenting can feel overwhelming at times, especially if you don’t have family members nearby who can help out or take some of the burden off your shoulders. But there are a few important steps you can take to reduce your stress levels while making sure your children get the love and attention they deserve:
1. Find a positive female role model for your children – If the mother of your children isn’t in the picture or isn’t an ideal role model, it’s important to find someone that they can look up to, especially if you have a daughter. A female relative or close friend who gets along well with your children can provide a much-needed presence in their lives.
2. Listen instead of acting – Men have a tendency to want to immediately spring into action when problems arise. But children don’t always open up because they’re looking for solutions. Instead, they often go to their parents for comfort and reassurance. Keep an open mind when your children are upset or angry—in many cases, they simply want to share what’s bothering them without judgment.
3. Befriend other parents – Having a social life can sometimes seem impossible for single parents. But it can be much easier when you can bring your children along for get-togethers and events. Whether you seek them out at your children’s school, at church, or at any other social event, having other parents that you can connect with is a great way to unwind with people in similar stages of their lives—especially if their children are the same age as yours.
4. Take time for yourself at least once per month – Take at least one true mental and physical health day per month to focus on yourself. Getting time away from your obligations can be incredibly difficult as a single dad, but having a day to relax and focus on your hobbies and interests is important, as it allows you to recharge and refocus. Coordinating the logistics of such a day isn’t always easy, but with enough planning, it can be done—and both you and your children will be better off for it.
5. Avoid the temptation to be overprotective – As a single dad, it’s easy to feel like you’re bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders—and much of that weight comes in the form of keeping your kids safe and happy. The thought of anything bad happening to their children is so devastating to many single parents that it causes them to become extremely overprotective for years. It’s important to strike the right balance and allow your children to safely push boundaries while knowing they’re loved and accepted at home no matter what happens.
6. Stay healthy – Your kids need you more than anyone else in the world. That’s why it’s vital that you stay healthy and active for as long as possible. Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet and find time to exercise at least 15 to 30 minutes per day to maintain cardiovascular health. When you stay in shape, you’ll be better able to handle the demands of being a single parent, including long work hours and playing with your kids when you get home in the evening.
7. Set goals for yourself and your family – It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind of making sure your kids get to school, working, cooking dinner and helping with homework, and getting everyone to bed on time. Years can pass by in a flash, leaving you wondering where the time went. Setting goals can help you stay focused on big picture ideas that you want to achieve but otherwise might not find the time or energy to complete.
8. Date if you’re ready to do so – Single parents are often reluctant to date, as they may be afraid of upsetting their children by bringing someone new and unfamiliar around—especially at home. But if you’re ready to jump back into the dating scene, it’s perfectly reasonable to begin testing the waters again. However, it’s important to be aware of your children’s feelings during this time and to introduce new partners gradually to help them get used to the idea that a new adult will be in their lives.
9. Schedule fun activities for your kids – Make sure your kids have plenty of things to look forward to each week. Your days out with your kids don’t have to be expensive or extravagant to be memorable. A day at the park, a quick trip to the zoo, a hike on a nearby trail, or even a movie and pizza are all great ways to bond with your children and create memories that will last forever.
10. Don’t badmouth their mother – Whether your children see their mother frequently, rarely, or not at all, it’s important that their opinion of her not be clouded or swayed by anything you say. Answer their questions honestly and truthfully, but do your best to stay civil and neutral. Children are very sensitive to stress, anger, and sadness in others, and bad blood between you and your ex will be easily picked up on by them.
Need a Newport Beach or Anaheim Family Law Attorney? We’re Here to Help.
Andre Ausseresses, Esq. and The Law Office of David C. Stone* know how difficult juggling all of life’s responsibilities can be for single fathers. We’ve helped many men throughout Anaheim and Newport Beach navigate the maze that is single parenthood. Whether you’re going through a divorce or needing help with custody issues, you can count on our experienced legal team to fight for you. Call us today at (866) 774-3237 or complete our online contact form to find out how we can help. (*In Memoriam)