Father’s Day is typically observed on the third Sunday in June and although the exact date may vary, this year it will be marked on June 18 but it holds particular significance for single dads as it acknowledges and honours their unique role in raising children on their own. Single fathers often take on multiple responsibilities, serving as both nurturers and providers for their children and Father’s Day is an opportunity to recognise and appreciate their dedication, love and sacrifice.
For single dads, Father’s Day can serve as a reminder of the invaluable impact they have on their children’s lives and it can be a time for self-reflection, acknowledging their own growth and resilience as they navigate the challenges of single parenting. It is a day to appreciate their own efforts and give themselves credit for the love, care and guidance they provide their children.
The mental health of single dads is an important aspect to consider, as they navigate the challenges and responsibilities of raising children on their own because single fathers often face unique stressors, ranging from financial pressures to balancing work and parenting responsibilities and these demands can take a toll on their mental well-being. It is crucial for single dads to prioritise self-care and seek support when needed.
Engaging in activities that promote relaxation such as exercise, hobbies or spending quality time with friends and family, can help alleviate stress whereas building a strong support system and connecting with other single fathers through support groups or online communities can provide a sense of belonging and understanding. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counselling, can also be beneficial in addressing any emotional challenges and developing coping strategies.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Pallavi Joshi, Consultant-Psychiatrist at Manipal Hospital Varthur, suggested –
- Take “me time”: Carve out moments for yourself to reflect and recharge, whether it’s taking a walk alone or enjoying a cup of coffee on your balcony. This personal time is invaluable for gaining perspective on life.
- Avoid catastrophising: Instead of dwelling on worst-case scenarios, practice thought-stopping and distraction techniques to manage troubling thoughts. This is especially important for single parents who may worry about who will take care of their child if something happens to them.
- Be a good enough parent: Strive to be a loving and nurturing father rather than aiming for perfection. Let go of unnecessary battles and unrealistic expectations. Remember, you’re human and making mistakes is a part of the learning process.
- Foster excellent communication with your child: Establish a strong relationship through open and honest communication. It’s essential for understanding each other, building trust, and resolving conflicts.
- Find a vent buddy: Seek support from someone outside your immediate family, such as a friend or support group. Having a trusted confidant to share your feelings and concerns with can be immensely helpful.
- Maintain a balanced lifestyle: Prioritise physical well-being by incorporating regular exercise and maintaining a healthy sleep routine. A balanced lifestyle will contribute to your overall mental and emotional well-being.
- Plan your finances: Set aside time for financial planning to alleviate stress. Managing your finances effectively ensures stability for both you and your child.
- Seek professional help if needed: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, experiencing low mood, anxiety, or struggling to meet daily demands, don’t hesitate to reach out to a psychiatrist or mental health professional. Proper treatment can help reset your thinking and improve your overall quality of life.
According to Satjyot, Founder and Mental Health Expert at Well-being Action and Research Initiative (WARI), the new age single fathers need to learn to communicate effectively. In Indian context, usually mothers played a role in communicating with children and at the same place we have seen, fathers either scolding or giving silent treatment to their children but this is the narrative we need to change so communication becomes a crucial element as part of parenting.
He advised three simple things for establishing a better communication with your children as a single father and these are:
1. Using I statement – Never start your conversation with “You did this” or “You didn’t do this” instead start the conversation with “I feel or I think or I suggest”
2. Speaking in present tense – not bringing the past as a blame conversation
3. Using positive connotations – “Remember when you scored well, you were happy”, or talking about the benefits of eating healthy food instead of berating the children
Satjyot said, “Being a single dad presents its own set of unique challenges, and it’s vital to prioritise your mental well-being in order to ensure your overall health and ability to be there for your children.” He recommended some practical tips to support your mental health as a single dad –
1. Seek out support: Don’t hesitate to reach out to family, friends, or support groups specifically tailored for single fathers. Sharing your experiences, challenges, and emotions with others who understand can provide a sense of belonging and reassurance.
2. Make self-care a priority: Incorporate self-care practices into your daily routine. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s exercising, pursuing hobbies, reading, or spending time in nature. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally will help you better handle the demands of parenting.
3. Cultivate a support network: Surround yourself with reliable people such as close friends or family members who can offer practical assistance or lend a listening ear when you need to talk. Building a network of trusted individuals can alleviate some of the burdens and provide valuable emotional support.
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Pay attention to your physical well-being by nourishing yourself with nutritious meals, getting sufficient sleep, and engaging in regular exercise. A healthy lifestyle positively influences your mental health and equips you to manage stress more effectively.
5. Manage stress effectively: Single parenting can be demanding and stressful. Explore stress-reducing practices that work for you, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, or engaging in activities that promote relaxation and inner calm.
6. Establish a structured routine: Creating a consistent and structured routine for both yourself and your children can provide a sense of stability and predictability. Set regular schedules for meals, bedtime, and activities, which can help establish a sense of order and ease the daily responsibilities.
7. Seek professional assistance if needed: If you find that your mental health is significantly impacted, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or counsellor can provide valuable guidance, coping strategies, and support tailored to the challenges of single parenting.
Remember, taking care of your mental health is not only beneficial for yourself but also for the well-being of your children. Prioritise self-care, seek support from others and don’t hesitate to reach out for help when necessary.
You are doing an important and valuable job as a single dad and your well-being matters. By prioritising their mental health, single dads can better navigate the journey of parenting, ensuring their own well-being while providing a supportive environment for their children.