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Raising Your Kids as a Single Dad: Tips for Keeping Your Sanity

January 3, 2018

Raising children is difficult, and it’s especially so if you’re doing it alone. The support systems that are available tend to be geared toward single mothers. What’s a dad to do? Here are some things to be aware of when raising your children as a single dad.

First, know that you’re not alone, and you can’t do it alone. No one can. As many as ⅓ of the families in America are headed up by single parents, and in 2013, 17 percent of custodial single parents were men. Yet few set out to be single parents. Finding yourself in this statistic means that you’re most likely separated, divorced, or widowed.

In any case, you were planning on raising children together with another person, and now you’re doing it alone. It can be a depressing state to be in. In fact, it can lead to depression, as well as binge drinking and poor eating and sleep habits, which in turn affect your physical health. While single mothers tend to face more financial difficulties, which may also affect single fathers, the latter group likely faces more stress in the caregiving role. 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.

The good news is that you can do this. You will need help, but it’s available. And the sooner you realize that you need help and that it’s okay to ask for it, the better. Ask your family, your significant other’s family, or your pediatrician. See what community services are available for single parents. Look into a good childcare program if you don’t already have one. And if you get negative feedback, do the best you can to ignore it. Our society tends to view single dads as anomalies, so you may not get positive support when you ask for it. Keep asking and know that you’re trying to do what’s best for your kids and yourself. That’s all that matters.

Further down the line, you’ll need to allow yourself to grow into the role of empathetic, listening parent. Know that your children are confused and hurting too, so they need you to be strong and consistent for them. Vent to someone else when you need to but stay positive and supportive with your kids. They love both you and their other parent, and they don’t need to hear about anyone’s shortcomings. They need you to listen to their fears and hopes and to be honest with them, but also reassure them that you will all be okay.

Make sure that you’re eating and sleeping well and getting enough exercise. Help your children to do the same. Men tend to compartmentalize things and focus on work at work and family at home. You’ll need to learn to multitask and pay attention to your kids when they ask for it, which will not always be when it’s convenient for you. That’s okay. Work will still be there, so take some time each day to focus on your children. Sit with them and let them talk to you about what they’re thinking and feeling or worried about. Do something fun that they like to do, whether it’s playing, school work, listening to music, or reading. When your kids know that you’re there for them every day, they will feel more secure. Then it will be less stressful when you do need to get out of the house and vent or spend time with adult friends.

Being a single parent is a day-to-day learning experience. Focus on the present and what you and your kids need and let the future unfold in its own time. Be honest with your kids about what you’re all feeling but be sure to stay positive. They need you to be tough and consistent but also sympathetic and understanding. Learning to be all of these things takes time. You will make mistakes. But they love you and want you to be happy, just as you want the same for them. And it will get better. You will all learn to navigate this new version of your family together.

Article written by single dad, Daniel Sherwin of DadSolo.com