19 December 2003

5 pointers for single dads

When you're a single dad the truth is that whether you have full or partial custody of your kids, you’ll have less time with them than two-parent families.

The basic principles remain the same for married dads as for single ones, with one major difference. Whether you have full or partial custody of your kids, you’ll have less time with them than two-parent families.
  • Learn positive reinforcement: Make a promise yourself to compensate every negative comment with five positive ones. More than anyone, you have the ability to shape your kids’ view of themselves;
  • Harness technology: Your kids are likely to be at least as internet-savvy as you. You can use e-mail or SMS, as well as sending them cards, tapes, or photo albums you compile of the times you’re able to spend together;
  • Get help: Don’t be afraid to ask relatives to lend a hand where appropriate. If you’re tired and overworked, you might be better off taking a break and leaving the kids with granny for an hour while you go for a run;
  • Keep your promises: Whatever their age, kids know what commitment is. One broken promise will break down all the credibility built by five kept ones. Your kids need to be able to count on you;
  • Watch your mouth: Never say anything bad about their mother and never let them overhear you doing so;
  • Spend time face-to-face: Make a point of spending time with each child individually. This needn’t be seem like counseling: you can go fishing, cycling, hiking or walking. It’ll do more to create strong bonds than any time spent participating in child-centred group activities. One rule – no TV;
  • Learn to listen, show them how: Help your kids to learn to express their feelings in acceptable ways, such as: “I can understand why you’re upset. You’re allowed to talk about it, but not to hurt someone or break something because you’re feeling cross”. The best way to do this is to have self-control. You should set parameters and an example.

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