The Best Parenting Advice For Single Dads

I am so impressed by you guys these days! 

No, seriously, I mean it. 

Things are not simple and there’s a lot thrown on your shoulders. You’re balancing way more than dads dealt with even a couple of decades ago. Especially single dads! And you’re expected to do it all. (I’m even guilty of insisting you handle it all!) But it’s true. And you’re stepping up. You’re taking on parenting and being single with such agility. You roll with things more easily than most moms. You’re able to be there for your kids. You know how to cook and manage a home. You shop and work, and date. You’ve got this down! 

So the best parenting advice I have for single dads is to ignore the naysayers. Avoid the negative and stay away from any buzz kill. You and your kids got this!

Saying that you still don’t get to be a teenager yourself. Your kids are looking for your leadership and your ability to care for them in a kind and generous manner - not making them feel less than. Does that make sense? Meaning, you are the adult. And you treat children (even your children) lovingly and with respect. Like dads are supposed to do. You are their parent.

Your ex will step in acting like the mama bear she is when reports come back that you’ve been mean, rude, unkind, drunk, paying more attention to your girlfriend or your new family than your child and of course, if you’re being cruel. (BTW: the state will step in too if you’re being cruel.) If those reports get back (and believe me they do) then you’re in for a dressing down! So don’t do those things. The biggest fear your kids have is that you’re going to leave them too. If you’re the kind of dad who would never leave his children, let them know that. Often. It’s really that simple and the best advice I can give you.

When you’re a single dad, you get to manage your time with your kids. Sometimes, no matter what the parenting plan says, you’re just going to have to ignore the voices in your own head when your kids may not want to be with you. That’s just how little humans behave and feel sometimes. Even when they love you. It may or may not mean that their mom is bad-mouthing you! It may or may not mean that they don’t have fun with you. It just might mean they need to stay in their other room for the weekend and hang out with some friends ‘over there’ instead of seeing you. My advice: roll with it.

All those obsessive thoughts you’ve got going on that accuse your ex of bad-mouthing you have no weight if you behave like a mature adult man. If you and your kids are living your life and getting along; if you’re having fun, doing homework, eating good food, sleeping in a safe (even small) but safe place, ignore any worrying thoughts that “she’s keeping the kid at home.” Is she really doing that? Possibly. Do courts frown on that? Definitely. Is it worth fighting over? Only you get to really decide that one.

You see, those negative stories live inside your mind too. We’ve all heard the horror stories and seen the movies but not everyone has the time or the need to spit on your parade. So be rational and clear with your own negative vibes and worries. If your ex is really and truly trying to keep your kids from seeing you - there’s evidence. (News Flash: be sure not to be the one giving her evidence!)

From your kid’s point of view, it’s really different living with dad on his own in a new home. It’s super scary for a little kid! You’ve got to do the work to help them relax and find it comfortable because it won’t be for them. Especially at first. They are so confused! (And if you’ve got a son, he’s probably not used to being emotionally demonstrative in front of you - meaning, he may not cry in front of you and be able to tell you why he’s upset.) It’s your job to talk about what’s going on. Tell them that you’re both figuring this out. Let them know that it’s different for you too but that you’ll keep them safe, and you guys will work out the details. Answer their questions and don’t indulge their own nastiness. (There are boundaries after all!)

At first, your kids will probably be very upset. And fearful. They might be angry, maybe even irate. They might yell, accuse you of stuff you may or may not have done. Sometimes a kid will lash out at their father for the very first time when there’s a divorce. And it might scare you. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Your child has their own perspective on things. They need to have a voice in this too and sometimes, they simply don’t know how to be rational. Get it?

Not being rational, and instead, being emotional is a good thing for young people. We are feeling beings! 

But you also don’t get to indulge the fear their anger causes in you. Let me repeat that… your child or children might be angry. They might say things that’ll upset you and make you question your own judgment and what you’re doing. If you’ve moved out and are setting up a new home, I sure hope you’ve answered any second thoughts! If you’ve done your work, then be unshakeable. Be the dad they need. It’s time for you to show up as the adult capable of handling your children. They will come around.

They love you. They love their mom. They didn’t ask for any of this. And for them, divorce sucks. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t handle them, their emotions, their fears, their worries. (And they’ve got way more to worry about than you do!) The best advice for single dads is to be your child’s rock. Let them be your everything when you see them. Give them the chance to show up and make you proud. And when they do so, let them know it. They want you to be proud of them - they’re terribly afraid you’re going to leave them too.

If you’re having a difficult time ignoring the thoughts in your head, then reach out laura@laurabonarrigo.com You may need permission to hold firm with how others need to treat you.