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Hero Dad: Single Fatherhood in America

This may or may not shock you, but single mothers are heading 25 percent of the total homes in the U.S. Single fathers come in at 6 percent U.S. households. With a little simple arithmetic, we can see that single parenthood is roughly a third of our nation's family households. So, for anyone reading this and feeling some sense anxiety or shame for being a single parent man or woman, don't; you’re in good company.

If you find yourself in the role of single parent, then you may have experienced the death of a spouse, divorce and/or marital separation--one of the three most stressful events an adult can endure. Then there are those who simply are in the position of being the only parent who is in any position to do the job properly. There is a bit of a bright spot: March 21st has now been declared "National Single Parent’s Day", which recognizes the heroic contributions/efforts made by single parents to U.S society.

The childless and/or co-parenting demographic cannot undersell the difficulties single parents suffer. These are difficulties that are only compounded by common misconceptions and prejudices held by those who believe only certain types of families are valid in modern society. These families also share in happy memories and tender moments they will never forget. They enjoy the love of their children and the hopes for great care to be taken with the futures they fight for. The problem is that the parent is not the only one that needs care. The single parents have their kids to think of as well.

Daunting is a good word to describe the life of an untested single dad. The concept of a male (dad) primary or sole caregiver is counterintuitive, to say the least. The reality is, fortunately, men have successfully raised kids alone for decades. Even more, fortunately, many of them have shared their experiences as advice to other single dads. Here are some things everyone should know about single fatherhood.

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15 Accentuate the Positive

The sincere and generous love of a parent is an invaluable thing and is just as valuable if not more than the love provided a two-parent home. It is a simple reality that just because a person is a single parent, that does not preclude them from bringing up an intelligent, even-tempered child.

In keeping with the goal of being positive, there is a better than average chance that the children of a single parent are much less likely to have problems with grades at school or behavior because the main factors there are family conflicts and arguments among spouses. It is highly likely that will not happen in your household. There are perks to being the only adult deciding how things should and should not be in your kid's life.

14 Work Wiser Not Harder

A single dad will be challenged to make the best use of his time. Many single fathers manage time to such a meticulous degree as to make a Swiss watchmaker green with envy. This precision in keeping the schedule of life so perfectly synced with life’s needs is borne of necessity, not simply pride. These dads should be a role model for leaders and many other parents.

When a person has no one to fall back on but themselves, and your little ones depending on you, you have no choice but to succeed. They know how to plan ahead and organize, and they also know how and when to get extra support when they really need it. Above all, he cannot be afraid to ask for help. No one expects you to do this all by yourself.

13 Two-Way Communication Is Key

On occasion, there are problems with boys who become very aggressive with their fathers over the loss of their mothers, and with it the perception of a loss of female love. It is a “Hero Dad's” obligation to know that you have to tell a female figure your child respects about this misbehavior and ask for his support in helping you maintain your authority.

It is still even more important to establish common boundaries for behavior so that when kids are with one parent, there is no good cop-bad cop parenting. The best way to ensure this happens is to always keep the lines of communication open. Theses lines of communication are needed between the parent and the child and other caregivers. A father's children are sweet, but not above using your animosity or distractions to their own advantage.

12 Don't Be Ashamed to Feel Overwhelmed at Times

Coming from a hard day's work and then coming home to his real job--being the dad--could put a fellow at risk of suffering from depression, chronic fatigue or some other debilitating illness. If he feels he cannot meet his child’s demands on top of running the home, a “Hero Dad” must accept his failing as well as his success.

He must admit that there have been times when you resorted to physical punishment when you were pushed over the edge. Once it's acknowledged, you can prevent it in the future. He knows that the best way is to get support from other single parent groups or get help from friends and family. If dad feels overwhelmed, use your support networks. There is no shame in needing help; “Hero Dad” is doing the work of two.

11 Don't Forget to Share Knowledge

No matter what the cause of his single fatherhood is--be it a divorce, a death or some other event--becoming one is a traumatic transition for both “Hero Dad” and the children. A man should never think this change is easy for anyone. More importantly, a single dad can't think that he is the only man who has gone through this or to have ever gone through this in history. Though it may feel like he is alone in a crowd, it's just not so.

Modern U.S. dads should be grateful. He lives in the age of the Internet, which is stuffed to bursting with online support groups and forums where other single dads offer advice and parenting tips. There's absolutely no shame in asking questions on parenting. Parenthood is a work in progress and now that he's a single dad, you may find there are times when you have to think on your feet quickly. Caring for your kids is much better when you get a second opinion if you don't know a better way.

A single dad will come to realize how much easier things can be with two parents once his daughter has to use the bathroom during a movie at the theater. A "Parenting Magazines" recount how he had to ask a mother seated nearby to keep an eye on his older girl while he took his youngest to the bathroom. To add to the sheer terror of failure, he wrote about it and shared his experience with other single dads. The recitation of these events and how he handled them will prepare another father for this, and spare him the terror. Learning from others is more important than being a stand-alone monolith of strength.

10 Create Daily Routines

In the beginning “Hero Dad” is going to need a steep learning curve, especially if the onset of his single fatherhood is sudden. There will be an unending onslaught of responsibilities that were once borne by the kids' mother. These are all suddenly yours, and it can be overwhelming.

One of the best ways to traverse the pitfalls of raising kids alone is by forming routines that are iron clad and well practiced. If dad is seriously pressed for time in the mornings, he'll have to make an adjustment. He still has got to get ready for work as before, but now he also has the kids to prepare for school as well. “Hero Dad” gets a head start by making lunches the night before. Those fathers not adept at quaffing a little girl’s hair should practice braiding his daughter's hair the way she likes it on the weekends. Make sure everybody has clean clothes for the next day, if not the week.

Dads tend to be hard on themselves when they are not masters of parenthood right off the bat. At first, you may be late to just about everything but after a little while, you'll realize you've become an ace at getting everyone ready in a timely manner. There is no shortcut to experience.

9 You Are Your Child's Superhero

As an independent, responsible and hopefully well-adjusted adult makes him an excellent role model for children, boys and/or girls alike. He is the one who puts on the brave front, gets things done, and soothes the fears of the young. He is becoming “Hero Dad” for himself as well as his children. The confidence of a single father is important in making his children feel secure.

A single father may find himself faced with loneliness at times, but he should take heart in his accomplishments. He has built support groups, created emergency measures for coping with the unexpected shifts in life. He may not be famous and he may not be rich, but to his kids "Hero Dad" goes that extra mile to make everything comfortable for them. He is better than Superman or Batman any day.

8 Rules for (Not) Criticizing Mom

In the case of a separation or divorce, the kids will have to get used to switching between two homes. In the case of a single dad, the children are being raised in a more stable single parent environment. It’s less complicated for children of single parents who do not remember or never really bonded with the absent parent. The one thing a dad must never do as a single parent is to insult the other parent in front of your children. No matter what others may do, always speak in positive terms of the children’s mother.

It's important for a child to have the choice to freely love both parents without emotional guilt or recriminations. No matter the circumstance, children will always love their mothers, and you should not discourage that. It goes without saying if the mothers are a danger to their children, the kids must be protected.

7 Get Adult Companionship

"Hero Dad" can give his kids every bit of his love and energy, however, he still needs mature company. As a single dad, he may critically need to have a card game or organize a singles night out after finding a good babysitter for the kids for a few hours. Single dads usually have a problem with this as compared to single mothers as they do not have as extensive interpersonal networks as the mothers normally do.

Many fathers cannot get emotional under pressure because of male stereotypes of macho cool. "Hero Dads" are not macho; they are reasonable and they get the emotional support they need. No matter the topic, be it sexual, financial or just the need to have an adult conversation, he comes to terms with what he must do. Do not allow yourself to be terribly lonely because your kids can tell.

6 Let the Kids Be Involved in the Decision-Making

What's one of the most liberating things for fathers? Single parenting gives him the final word in decision making. There is no need to rule by consensus with another adult. "Hero Dad" will involve the children or child in the process of making simple decisions. The kids will embrace the control over their fate and the sense of respect you offer them.

The more the children have involvement in simple things, you will not have to struggle over willful disagreement with vacations, food choices or the color of the paper plates you purchase. "Hero Dad" has the final word but he is not a dictator!

5 You Will Need Some Time for Yourself

A single father is going to need time to sit by himself and indulge in a hobby to decompress. A single father may feel this is selfish, but he is wrong. A person has a need to exercise. Interests add intellectual powers in a deeply personal way. These mental catharses, which promotes better health, calm nerves and promote an extreme sense of well-being. A good hobby can be worth more than a prescription for antidepressants in many ways. A single father must always remember he is all that his kids have. If he goes to pieces, they will have no one. This includes your mental health.

4 The Stigma of Being a Single Parent

In modern U.S society, we still find it troublesome to fully accept a single father or mother for that matter and she/he may always wonder why. Many people in the modern world are single parents and achieve great things. They have chosen or been forced to walk a hard road with little to know acclaim from the public or the support of a spouse or lover.

People are still using the terms "unwed" mother or father. The term is antiquated and carries a derogatory tone to it. Single fathers and mothers alike are hard working people, performing a hard task, in hard situations, mostly. One should never look at her/his single parenting situation as the opportunity to demonstrate their extreme skill and raising kids. This single father is "Hero Dad" and thus the opinions of detractors do not matter to you.

3 Do Your Best to Look Presentable at All Times

Dad, you must look like a superhero every day until the sun goes down on your kid’s full day. There are extreme benefits to all the extra hard work. As a single dad, it’s his responsibility that his kids are not ashamed when you pick them up from school. No child wants his father looking like he is homeless or about to hop a boxcar.

Young children draw much of their self-esteem from the perception of their parent. "Hero Dad's" habits become the children’s habits. Good grooming habits will be excellent traits to help them in facing life’s challenges with confidence and extreme joy.

2 You're Your Own Co-Parent

As a single parent, dad can understand too well what it is like to do everything on his own. This everything ranges from running the house, picking the kids up, dealing with the minor crises, and the list rolls on infinitely. Without a co-parent, it can be exhausting.

There is a trend of single fathers getting together and creating a community of support for one another. They act as a community of parents who lend support in all aspects of child rearing. "Hero Dad" is a great dad, and a network of "Hero Dads" is like having the justice league raising your kids . . . unbeatable.

1 Remember You're Dad and Only Dad

"Hero Dad" or not suddenly finding yourself a single parent will almost inevitably lead him to the following conclusions. Firstly, he needs to play both roles of mother and father. Secondly, it's perfectly natural to want to give his kids a female presence in their lives. Thirdly, it is also perfectly natural for him to feel terrified at the prospect of raising his kids, especially his daughters, on his own. Every single dad thinks this is true on the deep, almost cellular level. This does not make it true; it's just a feeling born of misplaced guilt.

Seeking a romantic relationship obviously isn't out of bounds when a man is a single parent, especially when someone special comes along. What "Hero Dad" should avoid is succumbing to the urge to base a relationship on your desire for some help with parenting. Dad should not and cannot simply plug a woman in to take a bit of the load for him.

Now, here's something dad does not know: "Hero Dad" should also avoid taking on the role of both mother and father. "Hero Dad" or not, he is still only a father and can offer only what a father can offer.

If a single dad looks around, there are more than likely many female figures in his life that can fill the void left by the absence of a mom to some extent, if not completely. If dad lacks female relatives who are willing step in and assist, organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters can help.

The key that "Hero Dad" needs to remember is not to be hard on yourself for not being mother and father. No one expects even "Hero Dad" to take up all roles in a child’s life. If dad is sincerely there for his children, they will learn to love.

Sources: Pew Research, CNN, Independent.Com, Dailymail.co.uk, Healthychildren.org

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