We Bought a Zoo: Tips for Single Dads
...Fathering Your Children Solo
Click here to watch the trailer for the movie We Bought a Zoo, coming to theaters on December 23.
In We Bought a Zoo, Matt Damon plays a single dad named Benjamin Mee who embarks on a new life with his son and daughter. Their new life is unusual - they take over management of a local zoo - but the prospect of parenting children alone is one that many dads can understand. Benjamin clearly puts his children first in everything he does, and that's something that all dads in every walk of life need to do.
Regardless of how you came to be a single dad and whether you're a seasoned single parent or new to the journey, the tips below will help you navigate the challenges of parenting alone. And if you're married to or in a relationship with the mother of your children, these tips can help you too!
5 Tips for Single Dads
- #1: Kids - and you - need structure: As a single parent, you are juggling all the responsibilities of housework, childcare, bill paying, etc. alone. Establishing routines and schedules will help you balance everything and save yourself some stress. Kids thrive in structured environments where they know what to expect. (By the way, those expectations can and should include helping with chores!) Read these tips for single dads about taking care of housework in an organized way.
- #2: As much as possible, co-parent with Mom: There are some situations where coparenting is not feasible or healthy, but as much as possible, partner with your child's mother to achieve the well-being of your child. Check out the "10 Commandments of Co-Parenting" and read these tips for making a co-parenting relationship work. A key ingredient: treat each other with respect, especially in front of the kids.
- #3: Get support from others: You and your kids need support from others. This is true for any family, no matter the parenting structure. If friends, co-workers, or family offer to help by babysitting, bringing over a meal, or taking the kids shopping to pick out Christmas presents for you and Mom, accept it with gratefulness. Don't be afraid to ask for help, either. Consider joining a local dads' support or play group. Attending therapy or counseling can be helpful for you and your kids if you've been through a difficult experience such as a divorce or the death of their mother.
- #4: Take care of Dad: You're carrying a lot of responsibility alone, Dad. Make sure you intentionally make time for yourself, even if that means sacrificing an extra hour of sleep in the morning before the kids wake up. Eat healthy, exercise, and get your regular doctor check-ups. Your kids need you to be happy and healthy so that you have more energy to spend time with them.
- #5: Be there for your kids: You are not going to be a perfect dad. But, the most important thing is that your kids know you will always be there for them, that you love them unconditionally, and that they are the top priority in your life. As we like to say at NFI, kids spell love T-I-M-E. Don't let the pressures of managing your job, housework, and childcare solo keep you from spending time with your children.