Being a single parent is hard, even in the best of circumstances. You want to be there for your kids, but you also have other demands pulling at your attention and time. It can be stressful and frustrating, but it can also be the best time of your life.
Single fathers have an especially difficult time. One Canadian study showed that single fathers were more likely to rate their physical and mental health as poor. According to a Reuters article, single-parent households make up 27 percent of families in the United States, 25 percent of families in the United Kingdom, and 16 percent of families in Canada.
“We know that, in general, men are more reluctant to seek health services, especially mental health, because of the stigmas attached,” lead study author Maria Chiu of the University of Toronto told Reuters Health. “We need to pay attention to the physical health and mental health of single dads in the same way we do with single moms.”
If you’re a single dad, you should be especially cautious of your mental health and seek help if you need it. 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. Single parents often don’t consider their own needs because they’re so focused on the needs of their children. But the mental health of the parent can directly affect the mental health of the children, so it’s important you make the right choices.
If you only have your children part time or for occasional visits, use the time away from your children to focus on your own health and well-being. The healthier and better rested you are, the better you’ll be able to help your children when you see them. Plan to have special times with them to make memories for all.
If you have your children all the time, you’ll have to find ways to cope with stress. Lean on friends and family for help and respite to allow you to get chores done, go to the doctor, and run other necessary errands. You’ll find that others are willing to help you if you ask.
Don’t neglect your time with friends and other parents. It can be difficult to schedule time with friends, but just being able to have a friend to lean on is important. Men are often afraid to discuss their fears and shortcomings with others, but venting is an excellent coping strategy that can help you get through the day when the job gets tough.
If you’re sharing time with another parent, remember to communicate effectively, which can be difficult if you struggled to communicate in your prior relationship. Use a shared online calendar system to stay on top of appointments and school events, and remember that your children pick up on your conversations. Be careful with how you speak to each other, even if your children are in another part of the house. Never speak negatively about the other parent in front of your kids. Children internalize this negativity and see it as their own failure. Even if the other parent regularly disparages you, stay above it and know that your children will understand this when they get older.
Being a dad is extremely rewarding in the long run, and the effect you can have on your children is priceless. When you’re tired and frustrated and you still have 10 things to do before bed, remember that your children will eventually grow up, and you’ll cherish this time you had with them. The fun times you have will outweigh the stress in your memories, and you’ll have a bank of good times to look back on.