With the 'Me Too' campaign in full swing, I think it is difficult for men to navigate and TEACH their children how to 'claim power' without overstepping and/or disempowering their children.....especially the girls!
I think that the most loving thing you can do is honour their boundaries from a very young age. If they say they don't want a hug then it's important to hear that. It's important to teach children that if someone is telling you that they love you then their words need to match their behaviour. Make watching TV shows and spotting the incongruence a game so that they get practiced around identifying when someone's behaviour doesn't match their words. Point out that no one is perfect and then reinforce it positively when you see a celebrity or movie character apologize and change their behaviour. That's love. They are thinking about the other person rather than defending their right to have behaved that way. All of these things are 'teachable moments' that help kids to know when they see and experience real love vs charm or entitlement. Love that is authentic is the important thing to learn. Any kind of relationship where two living beings are connected. Love can be from you to your dog or towards a friend. Anyone to anyone. Connecting positively is one of the most important things that you can do for your mental health. Solid scientific evidence shows that social relationships affect a range of health outcomes, including mental health, physical health and mortality risk. (National Library of Medicine: Debora Umberson and Jennifer Karas Montez) So have a strategy about how you will send love into the world and let the world love you back.
You deserve that. We all do!
Here is an article written by Daniel Sherwin about how to cope with the stress of being a single Dad.....
How to Remain Resilient and Handle Stress as a Single Dad Today
Of all the things that I am, I list being a dad first. My kids are the best things in my life, and that’s why I work so hard to be the best dad that I can be. But, I have to be honest—making the transition to being a single dad was hell. This is a balancing act that I don’t always win. But, I do my best, and I’ve learned how to be a better person and a better dad so that my kids can grow up happy.
Making the Transition
Realizing that I wasn’t going to have as much time as I wanted with my kids was the worst part of my divorce. I didn’t want to go a day without seeing them, and I worried about how they would handle living between two homes. I wanted them to like my new place just as much as our old house, and I wasn’t sure if they would miss their mom and their old rooms and be miserable during their time with me.
I stressed about everything. I didn’t know if I should try to replicate their rooms or make brand-new rooms for them. I finally ended up letting them decide how to set up and decorate their rooms at my new place because I figured it would be a project we could work on together. I wanted them to take pride in helping me paint and build shelves and make their rooms exactly how they wanted them. It also gave us something to focus on and distracted us from the fact that things weren’t no
Wrmal for our family. If you’re looking for projects to do with your kids, check out this list from Instructables.
It was important to me to keep the rules and expectations the same, at least as much as possible. My kids do better with structure and routine, and it’s even more important for them to have that during a time of upheaval. Even though I’m not a morning person, I make sure that I get up before my kids do and help them get ready for school. They have spots in my new place for their backpacks and school work because I want to help them stay organized, since I’m usually totally unorganized. I also want them to know that their education matters to me, too.
We also set up a family calendar in my new place. This was another totally new thing for me, but I wanted the kids to write their special events and activities on our calendar so they knew that I would be there for them. We also plan fun things to do together next time, so we all have something to look forward to. I thought this was something I was doing for them, but the truth is, it ends up helping me more than it helps them. When they’re with their mom, I’m lonely. I hate missing out on their daily lives. I hate having them wonder if I’m going to show up at their next game or practice, since I’m not the one driving them there.
Dealing With the Loneliness
The loneliness is the thing that I hate most. When the kids are with me, the house is full of noise. It’s too quiet when they aren’t here. That’s also the time when I struggle the most to avoid feeling guilty and being depressed.
In the beginning, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I started drinking more and felt lost. It took awhile for me to cope with how I was feeling, and it took awhile to realize that I needed some support. I found a support group for single dads, and once I talked myself into going, I was glad that I did. I talked with other guys who felt like I did and who made a lot of the same mistakes. I learned that having a support system helps me be a better dad, and I definitely appreciate having a place to vent my anger, guilt, and frustration. I attend the support group when it’s not my turn with the kids, so I have something to look forward to and something to fill the lonely times.
Coping With Stress
All parents deal with stress. But, I feel like it’s more stressful for me now that I’m a single dad because I worry about so much more stuff. I worry that the kids aren’t going to want to leave their mom to spend time with me. I worry that they blame me. I worry that I’m being too hard on them because I’m frustrated with the situation. I worry about how safe and happy they are since I don’t see them every day. That’s the problem, really. I worry about everything a lot more now because I don’t spend each day with them.
Like I said, I dealt with the stress at first by drinking too much. It was easy to fill the time that I wasn’t spending with my kids with alcohol. But, it wasn’t a good time for me. I got lonelier and more depressed, and I knew I had to cut back. The support group helped me find other ways to cope with stress. Just talking about things instead of drinking made me feel a little better.
I also started feeling better when I started taking better care of myself. I joined a gym, and it helps a lot. Going to the gym has become part of my routine, and I listen to music and work out to distract myself. I relax better after I work out, too. Relieving stress in these healthier ways is making me a better person, and that makes me a better dad. I run with some of the guys from my support group, and that helps me stay focused and relieves stress, too.
Being a single dad is a challenge. Making the transition wasn’t easy, but my kids and I are okay. We are making a new normal, together. I’m finding healthy ways to cope with loneliness and stress, too. I want to be a good role model for my kids, and I know that participating in the support group and taking care of myself are helping me reach that goal.
Thank you so much Daniel! Such amazing insights and advise from first hand experience. It is not uncommon AT ALL to turn to drinking and isolating when things shift to single parenting and it's common for parent's to report that the weeks that parents don't have their kids are the WORST! It's really good to hear that joining a support group actually helps with those stresses. I also loved that you chose to parent from your values and were clear enough to keep the expectations and structure the same. Often parents will gravitate towards parenting out of guilt. Normal, however, not ideal. Nothing a truck load of patience and grace and self-care can't cure. Although it's hard to maintain structure and give yourself that much grace and time for self-care when you're tired and grieving.
Do your best. That's all we can ever do when life throws those left turns. Know that others are going through similar situations and feeling similar to what you are feeling. Above all know that you matter and are loveable and good enough no matter what is going on in your life.
Here is John Mayer's song 'Father's be good to your daughters' Enjoy!