Single parenting for fathers: Common issues you and your kids will face

This article addresses some of the issues faced by a single father. It stresses the need for the parent to take care of himself, as well as the child.
The truth about single parenting is it is never easy. It is a complicated situation, fraught with emotions, both negative and positive. The circumstances under which a person is left to single parenting are numerous. Some are more permanent than others, but the truth is, all can be hurtful for the child. If the greatest care isn’t taken to help them understand the reason for the absence many kids will attribute it to their own shortcomings. The prime directive of any single parent should be to guard the emotional well being of the child by reassuring them that they are free of any guilt, and that the actions of adults can be unpredictable at times. It is of equal importance to have dealt with one’s own issues in regard to the missing parent, so as not to release negative emotions to the child. Seek another adult to hear you out.

Most of the other facets of parenting are the same, as far as discipline, training and care. There are some exceptions. It may not have come to your attention yet, but there are issues with taking a little girl into the men’s room. Most of the time, it is solely men and boys in the men’s room, and there is usually a bank of urinals. This can pose uncomfortable issues for a single dad. Personally, I recommend a hand clamped over the eyes as you enter the room if she is too small to be left a few feet away while a quick check is done. There is the issue of fashion, also. Some little girls know what they want to wear, and others need guidance. Try to observe your daughter’s dressing habits in relation to those of her peers, and make sure she feels comfortable. There can often be a great deal of information gleaned from the teacher or from her friends’ mothers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

I find that the best advice I have ever received about parenting came from a single parent. It is, simply stated, get a routine, and stick to it. One way you can cut down on stress is by laying out everyone’s clothes the night before, and preparing the lunches as well. Make the time spent on chores less by coming up with a system, such as having your kids strip the sheets off the beds, collect the dirty towels, and bring them to you. While you are starting the washing, they can be distributing the clean linens, even if they aren’t big enough to make the beds yet. Sweeping and vacuuming can usually be mastered by age 8, even if it isn’t perfect. If your family is small, solidify it by pulling together. Make sure your child(ren) know you need their help.

Another difficult situation can present itself in the area of childcare. Often a single parent, whether mom or dad, cannot afford to pay for childcare. If there is no family or friends to provide support for the parent, the stress can be debilitating. It is hard as a parent to have any free time. People need time to step out from under their daily stresses and unwind. Single parenting is especially trying, because you are solely responsible not only for the physical needs of the child, but for the emotional and social interactions they need to grow into a healthy adult. Don’t worry; there are ways to unwind. Books on tape are a fantastic way to relax, whether during a play session at the park or during your commute. This way, you never have to lose sight of the task at hand, but your mind is transported to an easier place. While your child is sleeping try working out to a physically challenging routine like kickboxing, or try aiming for calmer, meditative exercise like Tai Chi. Exercise can be a great outlet, as well as raising the levels of healthy chemicals in the brain, making you feel better. If it’s social interaction you crave there are lots of groups found nationwide for single parents, playgroups for parents and toddlers or preschoolers, and organizations like the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts of America. Alternately, the Internet can provide an excellent outlet for creativity or curiosity. Do a search for whatever interests you, and investigate your possibilities.

The best thing you can do, as a single parent or part of a couple, is love yourself. Do what is necessary to take care of your needs, and in turn, your kids will benefit from it. Be aware of the fact that, as a human, you have limits. Respect them. This will help you be a good father, as well as teach your kids to do the same for themselves.

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