Saturday, April 05, 2014

10 Tips for Newly Single Fathers

After you have won a custody suit, there is often a period of adjustment.  You and your children may be in a much better situation now that you have won your suit, but your family will be facing a whole set of new challenges in the days, weeks and months ahead.   Here is some practical advice on making that transition easier.

Tip #1:  Don't try to be be a Super-Father.

As much as you want to be, you can't be all things to everyone. Being a single parent means that you are trying to maintain a household with less resources of time and energy.  Something has to give. Usually that will have to be work.  Whether it was part of your life plan or not, you have accepted the role as a single father.  Usually this means that your career path will not be the same.  Don't fall into the same frustrating trap that many feminists fell into in thinking you can be a great father and still keep up with men who can devote all their time to work.  Something has got to give.

Tip #2: Consider talking to your boss.

You may want explain to your boss your new living situation.  In some cases, this may make things easier for you. Consider your situation before you do so though.  There are a few places where the boss will think a single parent makes a bad employee.  But you will find this less often than ever before.  Convince your boss of your commitment to the job and you may find they will be more flexible if they know you are a single parent.

Tip #3:  Don't make any major work changes.

If you can avoid it, don't make any dramatic changes to your career or work schedule.  You should give yourself some time to adjust to your new lifestyle and if your work situation is in transitional chaos, you will feel overwhelmed.

Tip #4: Inform your children.

If they are old enough, explain to your children about the demands of your work.  Assure them that you are there for them and you want to be with them, but you also have to work to bring money in.  Explain it to them in a way that will not make them feel guilty for asking for your time.  They should understand that you are under pressure, but they should not feel they are the cause of that pressure.

Tip #5:  Define when you can contact your children.

If non-emergency calls are allowed at your work, then you are lucky, and your children can call you when they want.  But in any case, you should make your children understand when it is appropriate to call.  Explain the what is a real emergency and what is not. If you can call your children at a certain time, such as a lunch break, let your children know you will be calling them to check in.  Keep it consistent.

Tip #6:  Don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to.

Chances are that you are not the only person at your work who is in a similar situation.  Talk with your co-workers.  Find out how they are handling their child care issues.  By asking a few questions, you may be able to tap into a whole network of resources you didn't know existed.

Tip #7:  Pick your day care -carefully.

No matter what your occupation or situation, you will eventually need day care for your child.  Your selection of day care is critical.  There are many options out there and you have to pick a center that make sense for you.  At a minimum, make sure the facility is licensed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services:
Call the TDFPS to see if there are any complaints about the facility.  Ask to speak to other parents who use the center.  If possible, take your child there and see what his/her reaction is (although that should not be the determinant factor in choosing).

Tip #8: Keep your kids in the loop.

If old enough, let your kids know your work schedule and where you will be.  Try to avoid last minute meetings or sudden over-time.  It will reassure your children to know where you are and when you will be back.

Tip #9:  Teach your kids how to handle strangers.

Your children should know how to deal with callers or visitors when you are not home.  For example, they should not tell a stranger that you are not home, simply that you can't come to the phone right now.  No one should come to the house when you are not there, and they should not open the door at any time.  These rules should be in place even if you have a caretaker in your home.

Tip #10:  Be Firm, But Be Flexible

Be consistent with your rules, but be willing to renegotiate your rules as your children get older.