Posts tagged ‘solo parenthood’
By Beth Neuman
When a dad’s relationship with his children’s mother ends, there are only two ways for him to (legally) ensure that he will remain an active, involved parent: a negotiated custody settlement or successful litigation. In either situation, the father must be prepared to demonstrate his competence, character and commitment as a responsible parent. No court will approve a sole or joint custody agreement, unless the custodial parent provides a clean, safe home and effective and attentive child care. So, despite the emotional chaos and legal wrangling that surrounds him, divorcing dads must find the time and energy to maintain or strengthen their relationships with their children.
For many fathers, the advice to become more involved in child-rearing is unnecessary. These dads have been significantly involved in every aspect of their children’s growth and development. Unfortunately, economic forces, misplaced priorities, or outdated notions of fatherhood have kept some dads from proving they can be effective parents.
There is no official checklist or magic formula for fathers seeking to prove they can be responsible caregivers, but there are some basic do’s and don’ts for any newly single father:
1. Spend time with your children and get involved in their after-school activities, such as athletics, music, dance, etc.
2. Take an active role in the children’s academic development by helping them with their homework and meeting with their teachers regularly.
3. Foster positive moral development and encourage attendance at church, synagogue or mosque.
4. Assist in helping solve your children’s problems, whether they be large or small.
1. Lose your temper in front of your kids. Despite the stress of divorce, you must try to control your emotions.
2. Try to be your children’s buddy. Impose and enforce (but not with corporal punishment) reasonable rules of behavior.
3. Interfere with the children’s relationship with their mother.
The bottom line is: get involved. If you have been hovering at the edges of your children’s lives, it’s time to get down on the floor or out in the park with them. Meet their friends and their friends’ parents. Take the kids biking, to the zoo, ballgames, to plays. Read to them, play games, fly a kite, go sledding. Reinforce a sense of belonging together. To the extent possible, share your hobbies with the kids and become involved in activities that interest them. Adjust your schedule to spend more time with your children. Talk, and listen to them.
Prepare for single fatherhood right now, even if you are still living with the children’s mother. Improve (or develop) your performance of child-care chores, such as cooking, laundry, housework, and grocery and clothes shopping. Learn by doing, or enroll in one of the numerous parenting classes at a community college or an adult education center.
The work and responsibilities of solo parenthood sometimes can cause a father to lose heart and doubt his parenting skills. These anxieties can lead to fathers accepting the role of a secondary parent with limited involvement in their children’s lives. But research shows that fathers need not worry. Several studies comparing the child-rearing skills of single fathers with those of single mothers found no difference between the two groups. If you think you can’t be an effective parent because you are a man, think again!
Many divorcing fathers will find that the transition from married dad to single dad can be accomplished with only a minor increase in effort and commitment. For others, a major realignment of priorities and lifestyle. In either case, when compared to the value of fatherhood to children, to fathers, and to society, the price is small.