Raising kids as a single dad is an adventure, to be sure! There will be loads of ups and downs, and the years will be filled with their fair share of memories and hardships. While single parenting is a challenge, tried and true tips and advice can assist dads in being the best solo parent they can be.
Create a Village
It is immensely beneficial to have a village of support to help you raise your children. Surround yourself with reliable, sound people that will be there to help you when you need it. All parents need a support system to count on, but single parents especially need trusted family and friends to turn to when they need emotional or physical assistance with the kids. Your people can help care for kids in a pinch, or pick up the phone when you feel emotionally depleted. Everyone in your inner circle serves an essential purpose in your life, making juggling it all a little easier on you and your kids.
Be a Role Model for Your Kids
Parents are their children's first teachers and role models. Your kid is looking to you to set the example and guide them in all they do. It's a tall order, but you can do it. Think through your decisions, and remind yourself that the little ones are always watching and absorbing your words and your actions.
Uplift Your Kids With Community
Kids need great role models in their lives. Surrounding your children with people who will make a positive impact on them will help build your familial community and network. Role models might include relatives, close friends, church members, or neighbors. If your child's mother is not a part of their life, other wonderful female role models can help enhance and influence them as they grow up.
Create Work-Life Balance
You have to support those kiddos; hence, you have to work. You might have to work even harder since you are a single dad raising kids on a one-parent income. Sure, you have bills to pay, groceries to purchase, and the kids seem to need a million things on a daily basis, but they also need you, in the flesh. It's crucial to provide financially for your kids, but it's also as vital to be available to them by creating a work-life balance. Be home to help with homework, make meals, and spend quality time together.
Master the Art of Listening
If you are the children's only parent, or the parent they spend the vast majority of their time with, then strive for a Ph.D. in listening. Learn how to be a good listener for your children, so they feel comfortable coming to you to discuss anything. Create a relationship where they can trust you and count on you to hear them out.
Don't Speak Poorly of Your Ex
If you and the kids' other parent are no longer romantically linked, that doesn't mean you can't forge a quality relationship for the children's sake. It can be hard to co-parent, but being civil and respectful towards your kids' other parent is essential to their stability and development. Even when you are at the end of your rope with your former partner, be sure to never speak ill of them. Always demonstrate respectful behavior when the children are present or within earshot.
Whether you have the kids full-time or a few days per week, learn to create and embrace routine. Life as a single dad probably looks a lot different than it did compared to when you were living in a nuclear unit with the kids and your ex. Work to create a new routine that kids can learn to count on. The routine will look different, as life now looks different, but that is okay. Make your family routine one that is functional, works for everyone, is predictable, and beneficial. Your routine might include family dinners on nights you have the kids, evening walks or movie nights when it is your parenting weekend, consistent times in the day for homework or chores, or any other predictable set of actions and behaviors that you can incorporate into your parenting practice.
Dads of Daughters: Do Your Research
A father-daughter bond is a sacred one. While loving your little girl is as easy as breathing, learning some of the ins and outs of raising young women might not be innate. Lean into what you don't know, and learn the specifics of raising females. Read what you can on female development, so you are well prepared to support your daughter during times of change. Watch videos on hair braiding and styling, and make connections with the adult women in your life, so you can ask them questions when they arise.
Be Involved in Everything You Can
Regardless of what your kids (especially older children and teenagers) might tell you, they want you involved in their lives. Whatever they are into, get into it as well. Ask them about their interests and make time to share in their hobbies. Get to know your kids' friends, coaches, and teachers. Have their schedules on hand and be at games and performances when you can. Show them through your actions that you are engaged and involved in their lives, and that you're happy to be a part of whatever they love.
Find the Balance Between Fun and Discipline
Single dads have to be fun parents while remaining dutiful disciplinarians. One way to achieve this is to let your kids know what you can expect of them. They can anticipate that you are up for a board game or tossing the ball around in the backyard, but they should also know what your rules are, and what the consequences are for breaking those rules. You can be a fun parent, but fun doesn't mean a free for all. Kids still need structure and expectations in all households that they are a part of.
Focus on Family Activities
When you have the kids, make the activities all about family. Family activities can include adventurous outings, or they can be simply enjoyed in the comfort of your home. The actual activity doesn't matter as much as the time spent together. Be sure to change the activities up and consider everyone's input, so your kids feel like they are part of the planning and the fun.
Be Open and Honest With Your Children
It's okay that you all miss mom/dad or the way the family was before your days as a single dad. It's okay to muddle around and mess everything up as you and the kids learn to navigate this new terrain in the land of single parenting. It is also okay to admit that you do NOT have all the answers. You are learning to fill in some gaps that your partner may have handled previously. Your kids don't need a perfect dad, they need a good dad who is willing to try, fail and try again. Remember, with big changes come big emotions from everyone. Share your thoughts and ideas (and feelings in an appropriate manner) and encourage the kids to do the same. You will all feel more bonded if you are open and honest about the good and the bad.
Questions Are Coming, Be Ready for Them
Your children will probably have some questions for you regarding your single dad status. Be ready for them. They will wonder what happened to you and mom/dad, or maybe wonder where mom/dad is. They might even be curious as to whether or not a new partner will be entering the picture any time soon. Consider the questions your kids might have, and try to prepare answers that will satisfy their curiosity while being emotionally appropriate for their developmental stage.
Make Time for Yourself
Being a single father means there will be very little time for yourself. Between the kids, work, and the daily duties of adulting, the precious minutes for recharging your personal battery will be few and far between. While time is a precious commodity in the world of a single parent, it is still essential to make space to care for yourself.
Find what centers you, helps make you your best self, and aids you in remaining patient and calm with your kids, and do it. You are not a selfish parent for focusing on your needs. You are actually a smart parent who knows that you simply cannot give all of yourself to your kids if you are completely depleted.
Be Selective About Who You Bring Around the Kids
There might come a time for you to dive into the dating realm, with the hope of finding yourself a new life companion. When this time comes, and you land someone worthy of introducing to the kids, remember that this is a major change in everyone's world. Make the transition as seamless as possible for the kids; and be sure to only bring people into your children's lives who will have some staying power and are positive influences and role models for your offspring. Furthermore, be selective in bringing prospective partners home. It can become confusing for children who meet a new "friend" of dad's every other month.
When you fuse a new partner and your children into one familial unit, reassure your kids that this new person isn't taking their place as the center of your world. Make sure the kids understand that they come first, and communicate with any possible new partners that the children are your top priority.
Make Goals for Your Family and Stick to Them
Make goals for your family and prioritize them. If you value fitness and health, be sure to incorporate goals surrounding that value into your family life. If you consider religion a key component to healthy family life, then make faith a goal that you highlight when the kids are in your care. Your goals and values might differ from your former partner's goals, but you can only control, focus on and fuel what occurs in your own home.
Divorced Dads: Make New Traditions
If you once lived with the kids and a partner, you likely had family traditions you celebrated throughout the year together. As a single dad, you might find that some of those traditions remain important to keep. That said, it is also okay to make new traditions as a single parent. Your life is different now, and you might value other things as a single father. Use your fresh outlook and way of life to make new and exciting traditions for the kids to enjoy while they are with you.
Accept That Mistakes Will Be Made
All parents make mistakes... lots of them... all the time. Have some grace with yourself as you navigate parenting without a partner. Learn to admit when you are wrong, apologize when necessary, and know that no parent is perfect, single or not. Do the best you can and understand that making mistakes is all part of the learning process. If you gain anything from those mistakes or grow because of them, then they were worth making in the first place.
When It All Gets Heavy, Seek Help
If you ever come to a space in life that feels overwhelming and impossible, know that getting help and support is always an option. If you are feeling lost or depressed, seek out professional help so you can be your very best self.
Being a Single Dad Is Challenging & Rewarding
Being a single parent comes with a specific set of challenges, but raising your children to the best of your ability can also be immensely rewarding. With the right mentality, support system, and dedication, you can be a wonderful, capable parent to your children. Provide your kids with all the love, nurturing, and guidance they need to grow into stable and successful human beings. Do the same for yourself.