After a marriage or committed relationship ends, dads facing single parenthood often feel depressed. Many feel they’ve lost a teammate in the parenting struggle. Others find themselves parenting alone for the first time. Kids aren’t all emotionally volatile in the wake of a divorce/separation, but many struggle with the emotional fallout. Given these compounding issues, it’s not surprising that divorced/single dads become highly permissive or toy crazy. But giving kids what they want is different than giving kids what they need. Being a great dad is all about managing circumstances to create normalcy while being thoughtful and loving. It is difficult, but doable – so long as fathers prioritize self-care.
Dads need to make sure that they are taking care of themselves if they are going to be able to be the best dad for their kids.
When fathers don’t give themselves time to heal, it may set up a situation where children may take on a caretaking role. That’s simply unhealthy for everyone involved. More importantly, this “caretaking” may involve the kids’ acting out in an attempt to distract their preoccupied fathers – the dads might see their children’s behaviors as more disruption rather than real caring. The dads’ perceptions of their kids’ intentions may place the relationship at risk, especially if communication has broken down.
What can you do?
Figure out what you need for yourself. Accept love and support from family members, friends, and colleagues. Do not drop whatever it is you do to feel good, to feel loved, to feel empowered and even attractive so that you can put your energy into helping your kids. Of course, part of what makes self-care so important is that it allows fathers to regain their emotional stability. That’s very important, since children thrive on structure, routine, availability, love, and consistency, whether it be emotional or physical.
How to Be a Great Single Dad
- Take time for self-care: Denying your own needs may inspire children to act as caretakers.
- Don’t overcompensate: Trying to make things better with material goods and permissiveness might just prolong the pain.
- Be consistent with discipline: Children want to know parents can be trusted to keep a family life stable and structured.
- Spend quality time: Regardless of how long fathers might have with kids, it’s important that the time spent is active and interactive. No passive TV watching or game playing.
- Redefine family traditions: Some traditions may be impossible, so it’s important for fathers to create new ones with their children.
- Keep it simple: No need to spend enormous amounts of money on fun. A kid just wants to be close to their dad.
- Keep it civil: Absolutely do not engage in hostile behavior with an ex-spouse. Keep conflicts out of site and never tear down the other parent in front of your kid.
Spend quality time, not quantity time with your children. Your children will remember going to the parks, playing boards, and going on ice cream dates. They won’t remember watching movies together or sitting in the same room with you as you do work.
By being thoughtful about his own needs and careful about what he says with his ex-spouse, a father can find a sense of strength. Adding stability in discipline and novelty in play will also help a divorced dad be a good dad and guide their children through the difficulties of watching their family be redefined.
Show Love Every Single Day
- When our children behave badly, we may become angry or upset with them, leading us to feel miserable because we become angry or upset. These feelings are different from not loving our children. Children need adults who are there for them — connect with them, communicate with them, spend time with them, and show a genuine interest in them. This is how they learn to care for and love others. Parents can love their children but not love what they do — and children need to trust that this is true.
- Provide support. Children need support as they struggle with problems that may seem unimportant to their parents and families. They need praise when they’ve done their best. They need encouragement to develop positive interests and personal characteristics.