You’re now a newly single dad. What was once a two-parent household with a one set of rules is now two households and to say only your lifestyle has changed would be an understatement. Life post-divorce brings a new routine, new systems and new rules.  Adjustments will be made by both new households as the dust settles as life gets back to what will be the new normal.

Manage Your Single Dad Expectations 

Take a few extra steps ahead of time and be mindful of what may come to pass. Prepare yourself for emotionally charged events that could put you into a tailspin of guilt-induced decisions. You’re a single dad packing an emergency roadside kit to handle what lies ahead.  Let’s hope you don’t have to use it, but it’s nice to know you have a flare in the trunk should the need arise.

But Mom Said We Could. 

The age of your children will impact their ability to adapt to the fact that they now live in two sets of households with varying sets of rules. It will also impact the pitch and level of whininess with which their protest will be delivered. Save time and your eardrums by giving some thought to your rules, boundaries and abilities ahead of time. Communicate those rules to your kids with a tone of understanding and compassion. They’ve been through a major life event.  Knowing what they can expect from you and their new life will help them settle in more comfortably.

If you’re in a new house, it may be awhile before you allow their new friends to come in. If your work hours have changed, Saturday night sleepovers may be out of the question until things settle down. If you need some time to yourself, it may be lights out at 8 now instead of 9. Calmly, firmly and in a neutral setting, explain the new changes to your children at an age appropriate level. The younger the child, the less of an in-depth explanation is needed. Expect tears, exhaustion and allow yourself a heavy dose of patience as they, and you, adjust to your new routine.

The advantage of explaining the new rules to older children is that they have a better understanding of the divorce itself. They may have less difficult questions than the younger children as they have seen your marriage unravel. The potential downside to older children is their ability to verbalize their displeasure with varying levels of sarcasm, guilt and the occasional door slam. What flies as their mom’s house may not at yours.  It’s neither good nor bad, it’s just what’s so. Explain the logistics behind your decisions and they will be better suited to understand and come up with creative solutions that will help everyone’s new life run smoother.  They are your kids after all, allow them to surprise you with their brilliance and understanding.

Because I Said So. 

Have you heard that come out of your own mouth yet? If not, just wait. It’s only a matter of time. And you know what? You’re damn right. You know why? Because at the end of the day, you’re the adult. What you say, goes. Period. I cannot stress this point enough. Yes, you are a divorced single dad. Yes, you have put your children through a life event that likely hurt them. Yes, you are likely carrying some guilt along with that, no matter how good your intentions were or what potentially hellish situation you left behind in the hopes of a better life without your ex.

Do not, I repeat, do not, allow a spinout by letting guilt control your new life and the decisions you make surrounding your children.

You are doing the best you can and that’s all anyone can ask for. Remind yourself of that fact on a daily basis and you will avoid tremendous amounts of unnecessary, battery-draining guilt.  There will be times when the answer is no and it will stay that way, regardless of the methods of persuasion on behalf of the brilliant and understanding fruit of your looms.

Stay Out of the Pit 

Keep your hands firmly at the ten and two position and avoid the possibility of allowing your children to pit one parent against the other, run rampant or be bought just because your marriage didn’t go the way you planned. When they get older they’ll understand, once they have your degree of life experience. At their age and with their vantage point of life, they simply cannot. Remember that and stand firm in your decisions. You are the adult. You’re in the driver’s seat

Remember that this is an adjustment period for everyone involved. At the end of what will surely be a long day in the not so distant future, pour yourself an extra glass of patience.  You’re learning. You’re new to this whole single dad thing but you’ll get the hang of it. You’ll be a kick-ass single parent and you’ll hit your stride again very soon. Go easy on yourself in the meantime. And go easy on the kids too. Just remember, you’re the driver. You’re in control. Oh, and send up a flare if you need to.

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