It’s been said that a single parent’s hardest job is having to play a dual role, to be both mom and dad. Men who find themselves in that position often struggle to be a patient listener and a nurturing parent capable of caring for a child’s emotional and physical needs. It’s typically considered a more natural role for women. A single father will often have to work at it, perhaps slowly and painfully, while he wonders whether he’s doing his best for a child who needs him to be everything.

Just fix it

Men are inclined to seek lasting solutions when confronted with problems. An “I-must-fix-it” mindset may come naturally to men, but it’s not always the right response for children who just want dad to listen and understand. It can be very difficult for dads to accept that sometimes there is no fix, just a confused and upset child who needs a sympathetic ear. That doesn’t mean, however, that a father shouldn’t try to teach his child to think through problems and learn to resolve them.

Learning to ask

Men may be reluctant to seek help or ask questions about parenting out of a sense of duty; in other words, they may feel guilty that they don’t have all the answers. But the truth is that everyone learns to be a parent. For a single father, it’s important not to be afraid to seek advice from a personal support system that may include family members, friends and even co-workers. There’s so much to learn about parenting from an emotional, psychological and practical standpoint. A trusted source of advice and understanding can make a world of difference to a dad who’s going it alone.

Single fathers who struggle with substance abuse issues are in a desperate situation. Fortunately, there are counseling and rehabilitation facilities that can show men coping with addiction how to  embrace fatherhood. Maintaining mental health is the key. 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.

To discipline or not to discipline

Discipline is one of the most challenging aspects of single fatherhood. Dads may feel so guilty about exposing their children to the emotional agony of a divorce that they shy away from confrontation. It’s very easy to over-compensate by letting children get away with behavioral transgressions that require disciplinary action. Remember that discipline is about measured but firm responses that teach your kids important values.

Getting help

A 2011 Pew Research Center study revealed that the number of single-father homes in the U.S. has risen ninefold since 1960. Fortunately, there are more services available to single fathers today than ever before. Many community-based services can provide female mentors for both daughters and sons of single fathers. These are kids who need the kind of relational role models that women can provide. There are also more support groups for single fathers these days, as well as social services for those who are struggling financially.

Single fathers have a lot to overcome. There’s the perception that men can’t be good parents without women, and the guilt that many dads feel in the wake of a divorce or separation. Unemployment, substance abuse, and chronic health problems place an overwhelming burden on dads who just want to make it work. Those who are willing to learn and ask for help can provide the guidance and emotional support children need to grow up happy and healthy.


Credits : Daniel Sherwin

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