A functional guide for single dads to spend quality time with kids

New Delhi (IANSlife) Parenting is a mammoth task and a rollercoaster ride, and modern times have brought with it a redefinition of roles and normalisation of certain forms of parenting and family units, including those with single dads. In a conventional, patriarchal society, the division of labour was absolute and almost watertight. However, these boundaries have become more porous and flexible as things progress.

Fathers are no longer expected to be the sole provider of finances, and multiple studies have repeatedly emphasised the importance of their contribution to caregiving. While this is required and beneficial in the case of families with both parents, it’s almost inevitable in the case of single-father families.

The rising number of single dads and the dynamics

Single dads are becoming increasingly common. Many factors contribute to this change — the loss of a partner to death, the increasing incidence of divorce, and the trend toward adoption and surrogacy. Irrespective of the reason, this form of parenthood comes with its own set of challenges. One of the major hurdles is the outlook of society toward boys.

In most families, male children are brought up in a way that delegitimises emotional expression and sensitivity. This may mean that the child grows into an adult who feels uncomfortable performing caregiving duties or emotionally interacting with children. For example, psychologists suggest that fathers express love through physical activities like pretend wrestling, games, or roughhousing with the child, while mothers engage more in cuddling and enunciating with the child.

The first challenge for single fathers is overcoming this conditioning and expressing much-needed love and affection for their children. Not only is this important in the cognitive, emotional, and social development of the ward, but also essential in outing an end to this cycle that perpetuates stereotypical roles. Finding avenues to spend more time with their wards can also be a roadblock. Here are some ways in which this situation can be navigated to provide a fulfilling life to your child by spending quality time.

Allow emotional communication

Being a single parent can be challenging. This is especially true for those who have lost their partner to death or divorce. It may be a confusing time characterised by anger, disappointment, and grief for you and the child. Allow the child to express these emotions and take time to process them. There is nothing wrong with appearing vulnerable in front of the child and communicating to them your concerns in a manner that is not too overwhelming or scary.

Assure them that you will be there for them and that they are loved. Some children may resort to delinquent behaviour to express their anger. Understand and acknowledge this behaviour and seek help if required.

Time management

As a single father managing professional obligations while bringing up a child can be difficult. Many fathers may prioritise financial provision over emotional comfort. This approach to parenting is detrimental. Irrespective of your schedule, keep some time for talking to the child or engaging in a shared activity. Even if it is an hour, use this time to bond with the child and ensure them that you are available. Additionally, given the emotional toll that this form of parenting can take, it is also essential to set aside some time for yourself to recuperate and recharge. Remember that you can parent only when you are mentally and physically healthy.

Security concerns

A single parent may have to leave the child with caregivers for a part of the day. During this time, it is important to ensure that the child is safe and secure. Communication about good and bad touch and accepted forms of disciplining is vital. If the child feels uncomfortable with a particular person, it is advisable to probe into it and immediately cease contact with the said adult.

Another challenge that single fathers may face is discussing issues of gender and sexuality with their children and particularly their daughters. For example, most men are not aware of the needs of menstruating women. Take the time to educate yourself and talk to your daughter using scientific terminology, free of stigma. Allow time for follow-up questions and any doubts that they may have. Remember, it is your responsibility to educate your children on sensitive matters.

A family with a single dad, like all other families, has its own communication problems and roadblocks. If you are a single dad and are unsure of the path ahead, you are not alone. Most people in similar circumstances feel this way. Give yourself and your child time to adjust and keep channels of communication open.

Remember, you are not a dysfunctional family, and it is possible to give your child the right upbringing with the required love and support, irrespective of the family structure.

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