Single parents are usually under a great deal of physical and mental strain as sole care provider. Work demands, the emotional needs of their kids and the day-to-day tasks of running a home can be overwhelming for anyone. For a single father, it is a challenge complicated by the need to be both nurturing and strong for kids who are still acclimating to life as a one-parent family. That’s a daunting prospect for many men, particularly those who struggle to maintain a balance between a full-time job and their family’s full-time needs. Mental and emotional health can quickly become a problem, particularly if there’s no time for dad to focus on his own needs. Failing to meet those needs can have consequences for the entire family.
For everyone’s sake
There’s a close connection between a parent’s well-being and that of their children. Kids will adapt and cope more successfully with problems if they see a parent handling things well. That’s why taking care of your mental health is so important. You can’t be an effective dad if you can’t maintain your own mental and emotional stability. The good news is that there are a number of steps you can take to achieve a healthy lifestyle that works for you and your children.
Physical activity is known to be an effective antidote to sadness and lethargy, feelings that often plague single dads who are feeling stretched too thin. Movement is essential: at least 30 minutes of steady activity each day can do wonders for your mental state by releasing endorphins in the brain, which make you feel happy. It doesn’t have to be a steady 30 minutes, just an accumulation of physical movement adding up to a half-hour. And it doesn’t matter what kind of activity. Try walking to the store, or riding a bike at a nearby park. Even better, take your kids along with you and turn it into a family bonding activity.
If your responsibilities won’t allow for enough physical activity each week, try doing some isometric exercises at home, or at work while sitting at your desk. Walk around the house or your block in five-to-seven minute intervals each day. Another option might be to hire a sitter or ask a friend to watch the kids once a week while you take some time for yourself. You’ll feel better and your kids will notice the improvement.
Get your rest
Feeling worn out means you’re far more likely to give in to stress, frustration and anger than if you’re well-rested. The last thing you want to do is lash out at your children because you’re exhausted, so make a point to get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. It’s important enough to your frame of mind and physical well-being that you should avoid doing extra work at home or giving in to every demand on your time if it means losing sleep.
Talk it out
Everyone needs to blow off a little steam now and then. For single dads, it’s essential. Take the time to have a long lunch with someone who understands you. You might be surprised how much another perspective can help ease mental and emotional burdens. If there’s no time to get together, try to block out 20 or 30 minutes each week to talk on the phone with someone you trust. It may be worth taking part in an online forum for single fathers – dailystrength.org is one that can help you find the support you need.
Finding ways to relieve stress is vital for your mental health. It’s important to learn small ways to face that stress head-on and reduce it no matter where you are, because having effective coping mechanisms handy will allow you to get through even the most challenging times. You can use your new skills to immediately start feeling better, and to prevent the emergence of chronic mental health problems.
Daniel is a single dad to his daughter (9) and son (6). Daniel noticed that there aren’t a lot of resources out there for single dads so he shares tips on what has worked for him. For more from Daniel, follow his blog at http://www.dadsolo.com/