It is not uncommon for single fathers to worry about balancing income, care of the kids and their relationship with the other parent.
It may be at a time when one is unaccustomed to carrying concern for the kids 24/7/365. When with the co-parent, some of these things may have been taken for granted. Now it is all on you, particularly when the kids are in your care. You may also be juggling the concerns of the other parent about you or the kids. All with the kids in your care.
As these worries may overwhelm you, your kids too may be struggling with adjustment. They are at least adjusting to you as a single parent, as well as their living between two homes. As well as dealing with the ongoing relationship between their parents with themselves caught in-between.
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In the midst of all these concerns, it can be easy to fall into a defensive mode, feeling a need to portray you are fine and can manage everything. With that, you may find yourself distracted from keying into what’s going on with your kids and they may feel that as an emotional absence creating greater loss for themselves.
So as a single father, first and foremost, check in with your kids. Ask how they are doing.
Worry less about feeling the weight to right all their concerns and attend more to just hearing them through. Do not take their concerns as an immediate call to action. Some things are just to be heard and others can sort themselves out with the passage of time and adjustment. Just listening helps a child feel safer and more connected.
Do share information that you would want shared with you, with the other parent. Make the effort to be transparent and vulnerable as well as open to opinion. Do know, you never have to follow the advice of another yet with an open mind we may still hear something of value.
Do not set out for your transparency and vulnerability to be paid back. Given the separation, there may be issues of pain, fear, and trust still to heal. Your transparency and vulnerability may facilitate that.
Parenting is all about the connection we have with our kids. Affection, relationships, and respect cannot be bought. These are all outcomes of listening, being present as well as your transparency and vulnerability.
Tall order, but hey, you’re dad.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Canadian Social Worker in private practice. He is recognized from his 65 episodes of the hit show Newlywed/Nearly Dead, to over 650 columns as the parenting expert of a major metropolitan newspaper, to more than 600 media appearances, to his book, Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout Canada and the US and helps family peacemakers grow their practice.