Becoming a single father is a huge challenge – but it can also become one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Successfully raising a child on your own takes a great deal of time and commitment, but also carries with it the potential of a strong bond and the joy of seeing your little one grow up into a healthy and well adjusted adult.
Single fathers do get a rough deal, though. People generally expect single parents to be women, so single fathers will find themselves met with curiosity and even suspicion. You’ll doubtless meet some people who think single fathers have no chance of being good parents.
If you’re a single father or just about to face single fatherhood, here are some tips to help you navigate the bumps ahead for a smoother, easier journey.
Get some support
Being a single dad is hard, and having the right support network around you can make all the difference. Do you have friends or family you trust and can easily talk to? Let those people help you as you move forward. Look out for parents’ groups or seek out support online from others in your situation.
You might consider getting a therapist if things are really tough. Making sure you have the help and support you need will make parenting easier and is ultimately better for your child.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, whether that’s babysitting duties or some help filling the freezer with meals. It’s better to get help than to try and struggle on alone.
Find a work schedule that fits
Trying to balance being a single dad with working full time is a huge challenge. Make it as easy on yourself as possible by sitting down with your boss and having a frank heart to heart about what you can offer, and what you need help with.
Think about flexible hours or even doing some of your work from home to help you get the balance you need. Timing your vacation hours to fit with school vacation times can help, too. Of course you need to support your family financially, but getting a balance between that and making time to be with them is vital.
Look for family activities in your area
Getting involved in family activities gives you the chance to get to know other parents, and gives your child the chance to socialize with other kids. Knowing you can get out and about and take part in fun activities with others can help stave off isolation.
Look online, or check out local libraries, schools, museums and newspapers for upcoming events. Whether you go for an arts and crafts morning at the library, or join in on fall hay ride, you and your child will both benefit from making bonds with other local families.
Refrain from speaking badly about your ex
Hearing you speak badly about their mother will confuse and upset your children, especially if they’re still in contact with her. Becoming the child of a single parent is a raw and vulnerable time, and hearing you criticize their mother will only add to that.
Be especially careful not to speak badly of women in general as a result of your relationship with your ex. This will only teach boys not to respect women, or teach girls that there’s something inherently wrong with them. Watch what you say and talk with respect and kindness whenever you can.
Give them good female role models
All children benefit from having both good male and good female role models in their lives. Sometimes as a single father it’s hard to give your children that balance. There’s no doubt that you can do a wonderful job of being their role model on your own, but adding good female role models into the mix can help give them a balanced view.
Try to maintain good, healthy relationships with aunts, grandmas or godmothers. If your kids are still in touch with their mother, encourage that relationship too and be respectful of it.
Plan for the future
Being a single dad can seem overwhelming. Planning for the future will help you gain a sense of control and make everything feel much more manageable. Think about your future financial and work goals, your children’s schooling, and even where you would like to live with them. Once you know how you want your future to look, put some plans in place to help you get there.
Planning for the future doesn’t just mean the long term. Plan for the short to medium term, too. Keep a daily and weekly planner to stay organized, and make sure you’re always prepared for upcoming trips, events and school work or exams.
Make time for fun
When you’re in the midst of adjusting to life as a single father, it’s easy to forget to just make time for fun with your child. As they grow older, they’re going to remember how much you made them feel loved and valued, and the good times you had together.
Set them up for a bright future by building good memories now. Set aside time each day to read, play, or listen to how their day went. Make time each week for a movie night, game night, or trip to the pool or beach – and stick to it. Decide on fun activities you’d like to do together, and make some plans.
Being a single dad is hard work. Be patient with yourself and your child, ask for help when you need it, and put a good support network in place to help you both adjust.