As a single father, your life will be a lot of things. It will be busy. It will be fun. It will be rewarding. And it will be full. One thing it will never be, however, is easy. Single parenting is a challenge from day one.
Here are 10 essential tips that will help single dads everywhere make things just a bit more manageable.
- Figure out a routine and stick to it. Whether you’ve always raised your child alone or just recently found yourself in a single parent role, the life of a single parent family can be chaotic. A routine — meals, homework, playtime, bedtime — can help keep you and your kids’ lives from devolving into a hectic mess.
- Consistency is key when it comes to discipline. As a single father, you may be wary of enforcing rules in an effort to stay on your child’s “good side.” While understandable, what your child really needs is to know what to expect. “Children thrive when they know which behaviors are expected of them and which rules they need to follow,” notes Parents.com. Don’t give them mixed signals. And if you must share the discipline with another parent or family member, talk to them and make sure you’re on the same page.
- Every day should contain some fun time. It doesn’t matter what you do – watch a movie, go skating, play hide-and-seek, go swimming, etc. Every single day should have some playtime. No excuses.
- Seek out a mentor for your children. You don’t have to be the only adult influence in their lives. As The Spruce points out, kids are more apt to develop higher self-esteem if they know that other influential adult figures care about their well-being and progress.
- Take care of yourself. You cannot be an effective parent if you are not healthy. It may seem easier to sacrifice your own well-being for the sake of the kids — but it’s damaging. “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,” says DrugRehab.org.
- Don’t hide your challenges from your employer. You’ll find that it’s hard to find a perfect work-life balance. Don’t be afraid to talk to your employer. While it’s not always the case, many employers are willing to work with single parents on scheduling. As The Good Men Project notes, you should give a little to get a little. Offer to come in early so that you can leave early. Offer to work from home when you must be there with the kids.
- Encourage your kids to get involved. Whether it’s after-school programs, sports, clubs, or community groups, your kid will benefit from participating in activities outside of school. And for a single father, the time your kids spend here is time you can have for yourself. You deserve a recharge; don’t feel guilty about it.
- Never speak negatively about your children’s mother. Sure, you can be angry and upset at times. In certain instances, their mother may deserve your ire. But your children are not your therapist. And they deserve to have you treat their mother with respect — no matter the circumstances. As AllProDads says, “never return disgrace with disgrace.”
- Your social life must take a backseat. This is not to say you can’t date or still have strong friendships, but you must be prepared to let most of that go, most of the time.
- Love is all you need. You may feel like you’re failing at times. You may feel hopeless. But if you love your children unconditionally, you’re on the right track.
As a single father you will struggle — on a daily basis — to be everything to everyone. You are dad. You are mom. You are a friend and a confidant. You are a teacher. And you’re a disciplinarian. Cut yourself some slack. It’s a tough but rewarding job. Make sure to take enough time to focus on your own health and happiness. Your overall wellness affects your parenting.