8 TIPS FOR SINGLE DADS

Being a single father, especially if the mother figure is completely absent, can be hard work, but also very rewarding.


Single fathers face a variety of challenges, not least of which is that they are in the minority as most single parents are mothers. In the New York Times parenting blog Adventures in (Single Male) Parenting, William McCloskey writes: ‘In the early days I felt like a freak – shuffling to the back of the room on parents’ night at my son’s school; shying away from the gaggle of young mothers when I took my boy to the playground; feeling myself an object of curiosity and pity for the moms who were fully engaged and seemingly very skilled and collaborative in their role… That’s because I didn’t have a peer group.’

THE NEW TYPE OF FAMILY
Elmarie Venter, a psychologist in private practice, says, ‘In my experience, single-parent families are one of the fastest-growing types of families. The factors at play are changing values, freedom of choice and greater acceptance of divorce.’

While McCloskey did eventually muddle into an informal single-father peer group of guys in the same boat, society is still much more supportive of single mothers. Perhaps this is because they are known to struggle more financially, as women still do, on average, earn less than men. And men generally seem to move on sooner in a romantic sense than women.

Single father-led families are still rare in sub-Saharan Africa, with the SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) revealing in a 2013 survey that only four percent of children live with just their father.

Venter explains that the term ‘single parent’ refers to a variety of family structures. Some single parents are completely on their own, without the presence of the other parent to any degree. Sometimes both parents are still living in the same geographical area but not under the same roof. This can also play out in different ways, from an absent mother who is not involved at all in parental work and responsibilities, to a non-resident mother who is still equally involved in the lives of their child or children – which is the most desirable scenario for the well-being of the children.

'Worldwide, 320 million children live in single-parent households. – globalissues.org'

WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
Psychologists have found that children from single-parent families, on average, do not fare as well as children reared in two-parent families – regardless of race, education or whether the parents have remarried. ‘These children are more likely to experience increased academic difficulties and higher levels of emotional, psychological, and behavioural problems,’ says Venter.

ON THE PLUS SIDE
On the other hand, psychologists have also found that children of single parents can find the opportunity to develop emotional resilience and independence, as well as life skills such as proficiency with household chores and a stronger motivation to succeed.

PRACTICAL TIPS FOR SINGLE DADS

  • Establish an organised household with clear rules and expectations, as well as appropriate consequences for misbehaviour.
  • Ensure that there is open communication regarding your child or children’s emotional needs.
  • Accept help from family, grandparents, schools, churches, neighbours and school-based programmes.
  • Join a support group for single fathers.
  • Let your children join youth sports leagues and take part in cultural activities, which can optimise their healthy physical and psychological development, as well as provide other healthy role models (and give you some time for yourself).
  • Practice self-care – exercise, socialise, eat a balanced diet.
  • If the mother of the children is involved, work with a counsellor or psychologist who can help you create a good co-parenting relationship.
  • Involve professionals such as psychologists, counsellors, social workers and teachers when their assistance is needed.

ABOUT OUR PRO
Elmarie Venter is a registered psychologist working in the Western Cape. She specialises in Imago couples therapy, hypnotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, the Enneagram and Spiritual Intelligence. Go to www.chakras.co.za.


By Vanessa Rogers

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8 TIPS FOR SINGLE DADS 8 TIPS FOR SINGLE DADS Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on May 16, 2018 Rating: 5

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