By Daniel Sherwin.
Parenting is no picnic. While few other adventures in life are as rewarding and fulfilling as being a parent, there are many roadblocks and hurdles to overcome—especially for a single parent. Being a single father can be an isolating experience for some men, while others find themselves part of a small but vibrant community of caring, dedicated parents. Even then, they may not always feel so optimistic about their lifestyle.
Being a single father means being a nurturer and a protector, a caregiver and a fun friend all at the same time—at all stages of your child’s life. Here are a few examples of challenges single fathers face and how you can overcome them.
Lack of Support
Many single fathers share the same hardships of other single parents, but just don’t know who to ask for help. Reaching out to family and friends is a great way to use the network of loved ones you are in contact with every day. However, if you’re looking for people experiencing life situations similar to yours, you can find support groups at church, community centres, or via your child’s paediatrician.
Single parenting is stressful, and the best way to take care of your little one is to make sure you take care of yourself. Single fathers often report feeling depressed and anxious more frequently, tend to get fewer hours of good sleep and neglect basic self-care. As DrugRehab points out, “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.” Remember, your mental health will not only impact your parenting, but also your child. Speaking to a mental health counsellor, your doctor, your pastor, a coworker or a friend are great ways to begin coping with stress.
You’re a 50 year-old-man with a teenage daughter. How on earth can you relate to what she’s going through in life? Many single dads feel this way. Maybe you were a football player and your son is a musician. Maybe your daughter is being teased online but you are out-of-touch with technology. Many single fathers experience difficulties connecting at one time or another. One way to make a difference is to start by being a good listener. Try not to give advice—at least not right away—but just listen to your child’s feelings and emotions first. Make an effort to be involved in their hobbies and activities, even in small ways.
Discipline vs. Leniency
Sometimes single parents have a hard time with discipline, especially if the family has just gone through an emotionally trying divorce or a stressful move. You might want to cut your child some slack considering everything they have been though, but remember that how you parent now can dictate how your child respects you later. Find a balance between compassion and firmness, always making sure the child understands why you’re making these decisions. Conversations are always a good way to make sure children and teens understand why these rules are in place, what happens if they are broken, and what they are expected to learn from the situation.
There is no such thing as the perfect parent. No matter how hard you try, you will make mistakes, but that’s okay. The important thing is that you love and care about your child. As a single father, life will throw curveballs at you that are unexpected and unpredictable. However, with patience, compassion (especially for yourself) and the ability to ask for help when it’s needed, you’ll find single parenting to be one amazing adventure.
Daniel Sherwin is the founder of dadsolo.com, a resource for single fathers.
He’s been a single dad to his daughter (9) and son (6) for three years now and admits to not always know what the heck he’s doing, but considers every day to be an adventure and a blessing. Daniel noticed that there wasn’t a lot of information out there for single dads so decided to share some of what’s worked for him.