This guest post comes to us from Daniel Sherwin of dadsolo.com. Daniel is a single dad to a 9 year old daughter and a 6 year old son. On his blog, Daniel shares helpful tips for single parents, including how to practice self-care (an important lesson for any parent), managing morning routines, easy recipes and much more.
A Dad’s Dilemma: Tips for Single Fathers on Mental and Physical Health
By Daniel Sherwin
According to the Pew Research Center, households of single fathers have increased considerably from 1960. This points to a changing trend in the country and a shift away from the idea that only women raise children alone. And yet single fathers often have a more difficult time asking for help or admitting that they need help. Parenting, for anyone, is a full-time job with never-ending responsibilities, surprises, and difficult choices.
According to The Good Men Project, a few challenges faced by single fathers include:
- Child care
- Healthy lifestyle
- Maintaining a social life
A Healthy Parent is a Good Parent
It’s not uncommon to find parents who neglect their own physical and mental health as they try to manage a million different things at once, from diapers, to school, to doctor visits, to soccer practice and so on. The Huffington Post writes that taking care of yourself is critical for a single parent, because without you, it all falls apart. It’s important to:
- Know your limit: Accept that you have limits and be aware of when you reach them.
- Get help: Use your community, close friends, and family to help you when possible.
- Don’t neglect basic health: Make sure to keep up with eating well, sleeping, and exercising so that you’re better able to maintain the tough schedule.
- Hold onto your dreams: Make time for what makes you happy.
According to Reuters, men are more reluctant to look for mental health help. However, they should. As mental health specialists note, “The way we eat, drink, love, and cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and sadness all play a big role in the state our mental health is in. Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing for you, and not the easiest thing.”
Maintain a Social Life
It is difficult to maintain a social life as a single parent. Most of your time is spent on your child’s needs and activities. So where does one begin? The Spruce suggests to start with a couple of questions:
- What do you want your social life to be like?
- Does the effort match up to the desire?
A few suggestions include finding local and varied events that can lead you to a new group of people. Consider joining a book club, attending a concert, taking a class on something you’re interested in, or joining a gym.
There are a variety of ways to find support as a single father. The first thing to keep in mind is that you are not alone. The National Fatherhood Initiative suggests:
- You can consider moving close to immediate family in order to have them help you on occasion.
- Consider finding community support groups for single dads.
- Don’t be afraid to use government or social programs available to you.
- Utilize online resources including Single Dad Network and NFI’s resources for fathers.
Mental and Physical Health
Although it is easy to neglect your own health, remember that if you are not well, your child will be in a tough spot too. It’s best to keep yourself ready physically and mentally. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you are already helping mitigate depression. Because you are always running around, grabbing that quick pizza or fast food can seem like the good choice, but by planning out meals and shopping ahead for your whole week, you can better control what you put in your body. And according to Psychology Today, exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, but it releases endorphins the body’s natural antidepressant.
As a single parent, you will be faced with many challenges. Something like having your child do homework becomes a gargantuan task. Being mentally and physically fit will better equip you with the energy to tackle it. Try picking a regular place for homework and removing distractions, setting a regular time to do it, and establishing a reward system to make the process simpler.
Don’t let single parenthood become daunting for you. Use the resources around you, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and do your best to maintain your own life and interests.