A Guide to Raising Kids as a Single Dad

Jaron Pak
A single father hugs his children on the couch.

Fatherhood is challenging even when you parent with a partner, but taking on the responsibilities of raising a child as a single parent is a whole other level of intimidating. The thought of having to solely care for another human being (or more than one) who is utterly dependent on you can feel overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to be.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you navigate the formidable task of raising kids as a single dad. These tips are aimed at easing the transition to single parenthood and making sure that you’re available to give your child the care and attention they need from you going forward.

Table of Contents

Challenges of Being a Single Dad

When fears are left undefined, they can put even the boldest person on edge. Sometimes, though, all it takes is talking through something in order to overcome those fears, create a plan, and begin to thrive. With that in mind, here are a few primary challenges all single dads face.

Financial Costs of Single Parenthood

One of the most pressing questions of parenting is “Can you afford to raise a kid?” Research has indicated that the average family dishes out between $12,350 and $14,000 per year to raise a child, with the top contributors to that pile of child-induced bills being housing, food, and childcare.

With such a high price tag and no partner to lean on for help, financial costs are naturally one of the highest concerns for any committed single parent.

Behavioral Management

In the past, fathers have iconically been the disciplinarians that maintain an emotional distance from their children. In the modern-day, many self-aware dads have flipped the script in an attempt to spurn the stigma of the heavy-handed dad by becoming overly permissive of negative behaviors.

Unfortunately, neither of these approaches is best for your children. As is so often the case, a happy medium between the two is required. While the specifics are different in each scenario, single dads should eschew overtly punitive measures while simultaneously providing a sense of structure and discipline that can encourage their children to thrive.

This tightrope of teaching socially acceptable behavior without alienating your children can feel completely overwhelming to a single dad.

Finding Time for Yourself

With financial concerns, full-time jobs, and around-the-clock parenting already on their plate, it can be hard to find any time for yourself.

The simple act of tapping out to watch a football game, participating in a hobby, or going out on a date can feel like a pipe dream as everything perpetually revolves around the needs of your children.

Tips for Single Fathers

While the financial, behavioral, and personal concerns outlined above can feel crippling, they don’t have to be. Often, all that is required is a little focus and determination in order to take stock of your situation and find the best options available.

Here are a few ways to navigate the single parent life as smoothly and successfully as possible.

Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is a completely normal part of life, especially when it comes to single parenthood. One of the best ways to combat stress is to understand that it isn’t against you, it just is.

Situations and circumstances can and will be stressful at times. The important thing isn’t how you control or minimize it, but rather how you react to it.

Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, it can be incredibly helpful to take some time to manage your stress. A few common stress management suggestions include:

  • Spend a few minutes meditating each day. Focus your mind, put things into perspective, and think about the positive.
  • Take the time to write out everything that you’re grateful for, even when things are difficult. It sounds cheesy, but it can be a huge help and no one even has to know that you did it.
  • Get some exercise. No, holding a baby doesn’t count. Finding a window of time to jog, go to the gym, or even do a 7-minute workout in your living room can be an excellent way to destress.

Be Open With Your Employer

Don’t be afraid to talk about your home situation with your employer. Opening up a conversation and communicating what you’re dealing with on the home front can be enlightening for a boss and can even create the opportunity for flexible work hours or the ability to work from home at times.

This can allow you to watch your kids while getting work done, although it’s important that you approach working from home with the proper strategy in place — e.g., set boundaries and maintain a work-life balance — or you won’t be able to get anything done.

Know When to Seek Out Help

Even if you manage to pull off everything that’s been suggested, you’re still going to hit those times when you feel dispirited, overwhelmed, and alone. That’s why it’s critical that you also take the time to set up a proper support network for yourself.

This can start with an online search or two (the next section includes a few excellent internet resources for single dads).

Eventually, though, you’re going to need more than the internet. While you establish yourself as a single parent, take the time to build your human support network as well.

You may not have a co-parent by your side, but there are always others who are willing to help in one way or another. Identify your best supports, whether they’re family members or friends, and then don’t be afraid to reach out when you need encouragement or help.

Resources and Financial Help for Single Dads

Here are a handful of resources aimed at helping single dads in need of some solid support:

The Father Factor – 4 Great Resources for Single Dads.

This resource provides a number of support suggestions. These include helping dads raise daughters and identifying government aid and social-service programs tailored towards low-income single parents. In addition, it helps fathers discover communities of like-minded single dads.

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

This resource provides a search tool that can help single, responsible fathers find fatherhood programs in their local communities. All you need to do is plug in your geographical information and start looking through the results.

Single Parents Alliance of America – Government Assistance for Single Parents.

If you’re feeling the pinch of tight finances, you’re absolutely not alone. Single parents can have profound struggles as they constantly tend to family and full-time work. If you’re looking for a little boost to help make ends meet, this site provides a list of some of the most common government assistance programs for single parents.

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