When you’re a single parent, you have a lot on your plate. Parenting with a partner is challenging enough, but living life as a single parent is even tougher. In fact, single parents—both moms and dads—wake up every morning to new challenges. Being a single dad comes with its own unique challenges, and takes courage, patience, and compassion to get through the day. It’s not always easy to stay positive. Here are some common ways to keep moving forward on your single-parent journey.
Challenge #1 – Support
Your parenting success hinges on having a reliable support system in place. As single parents, dads more often than moms, tend to hold back when seeking out other men for help. But, keep in mind, you are not alone; there are other fathers out there tackling similar day-to-day challenges. When you come up against an unexpected roadblock—like how to deal with your child dating earlier than you imagined—you can bounce ideas off another single father who may have already gone through a similar situation. You can also find support groups at local churches, schools, community centers, or through your healthcare provider.
Challenge #2 – Discipline
Another challenge single fathers face is discipline. Even though you’re the adult, it can be terrifying to go into battle with a teenage son or daughter. In addition, it’s not uncommon for single parents to be weighed down with guilt after watching the kids struggle through the divorce. You may feel compelled to avoid quarrelling with your children, thinking that a dispute might stress them out even further. In some instances, single dads go too far and start over-indulging their kids’ whims or even hesitating to discipline in the first place.
Making discipline a part of a healthy relationship with your children means establishing rules and standards that you can enforce consistently and fairly. Yes, your child might be angry or upset, but tell yourself it won’t last, no matter how strong his or her feelings are now. The challenge may be immediate, but the values you instill through discipline will make a substantial impact for many years.
Challenge #3 – Communication
As a single father, you may struggle to find ways to communicate with your children. You might find yourself trying to fix all their problems instead of listening to their feelings. Communication means being a good listener and an understanding parent. You can practice this by asking questions when your kids come to you with problems instead of offering solutions.
Be sure to keep the lines of communication open, letting your kids know they can talk to you about anything at any time. Communication helps teach your kids how to solve their own problems, while also helping you stay in touch with their personal lives.
Challenge #4 – Overprotection
When it comes to dealing with the challenge of personal lives, single fathers often try really hard to protect their children. However tempting as it is to swoop in and save the day, single dads have to try to resist the urge to rescue or overprotect. One of the biggest challenges for single dads to overcome is standing back and letting their kids struggle through some of life’s problems and challenges. As a single parent, making room for a few limited risks will be hard, but it can increase both your confidence and your child’s.
Challenge #5 – Balance
Your child’s personal life isn’t the only balance you’ll need to find—single fathers often find it challenging to have their own personal lives while raising a child on their own. Keeping a detailed schedule can help you handle the logistics, allowing you to find time to hang out with your friends, go on dates, and keep up with hobbies. However, balance is about more than tracking activities. It’s about emotions, too.
Single fathers often show signs of decreased mental and physical health, so be sure you keep some of your focus on your needs and wants, as well as ways to reduce stress. It’s important to learn small ways to face that stress head-on and reduce it no matter where you are, because having effective coping mechanisms handy will allow you to get through even the most challenging times. You can use your new skills to immediately start feeling better, and to prevent the emergence of chronic mental health problems.
Most importantly, remember the best way to overcome the challenges of single parenthood is to be involved. There is no one certain path to successful parenting; it will always involve some degree of trial and error. However, if you listen carefully, be involved, and don’t get too upset if expectations don’t quite play out, you can overcome any challenge.
Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At DadSolo.com, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.