Actor Chris Pratt has a 3-year-old son. Son Jack “borrowed” Pratt’s phone to take a picture, and dropped the phone in the pool. Such is the life of a dad. Being a single dad (we should point out that Pratt is married to actress Anna Faris) can be even more challenging than the occasional soggy phone.

My son, the budding photographer, may or may not owe me a new phone.

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Life Changes & Achieving Balance

Your life as a newly single Dad will change for good and for bad. Where once you said, “Go ask your mother,” you now have to field every question and mend every skinned knee. Where you and your wife conspired together to provide surprises and celebrations, you have to make the reservations and find the balloon-animal clown.

Find balance. For every skinned knee, you also get to read bedtime stories. For every burned pot roast, you also get to arrange the prom limousine. Expect ups and downs; embrace the ups and forget the downs.

Becoming the Patient Papa

You will—you must—develop more patience. Your children are learning new, amazing ideas every day, so be patient with them. If you have small children, get into the habit of getting yourself in order way before you need them dressed and ready to go, anywhere. Whether you are hurrying out to daycare, school, or the Virginia Zoo, you should get groomed, dressed and ready long before you need to focus on your kids.

Learning the Word “No”

In your marriage, you may have been the disciplinarian and your ex-wife was the soother of hurt feelings. Now you have both roles to fill. That does not mean, though, that you over-react and become a pushover for every little whim and want.

Learn to say no, advise the experts at Empowering Parents. Learn to say it politely but firmly. Avoid being nasty or seeming ill-tempered, but also avoid the “We’ll see,” “Maybe,” “Perhaps later” carousel. A kid who senses an opening will keep at you. You do not want your conversations to devolve to a level at which your kids only ask for things and you delay saying, “No.”

Bringing Important Moments into Focus

As parents, our radar is always up. What unknown horror approaches? What unforeseen disaster awaits? If you fixate as a single Dad on just keeping your kids away from every harm or hurt, you lose sight of who is standing right in front of you. Live in their moments. Embrace the present.

Sure, plan for a secure future. Sock away money—even a little—for college or trade school. Anticipate their next growth spurt and the clothes they will need. But do not do those things to the exclusion of noticing your son’s improvement in playing the trumpet, or your daughter’s newfound ability to knock the ball out of the infield, or the weird fact that your twins have different belly buttons.

Accepting Responsibility & Putting Your Children First

A common thread among young married Virginia men with several kids is the slow acceptance of their responsibility. After your divorce, you need to put away your toys and put on your big boy boots.

When you were married and left the kids in your wife’s care, did you go off hunting, drinking, riding ATVs and hanging out in bars? (Psst—we might know why you are divorced).

Anyway, you are now a responsible single father. You should be rightly terrified of dying. You will leave behind children who need financial support, a decent home, and proper care. Buy life insurance. Sell the dangerous toys. Wear a helmet when you ride. Stop hanging out with reckless friends.

Your kids come first. Worry about them without letting it show. When you are tempted to do something insanely stupid, consider: what will they do without you?

Moving on from Materialism

As a single dad, coin may not be common, but you will be surprised at how much you do not need. Some of the most creative people lived long before television, smart phones and iPods.

The less “stuff” you have to dust and vacuum around in your house, the easier your life and the lives of your children will be. Say you get weekend visitation. Your home can be a welcome respite from too much electronic noise, so long as you provide other diversions:

  • Archery in the backyard
  • An easel, watercolors and brushes in the spare bedroom
  • Filled bookshelves
  • A clean, stocked kitchen with kid-friendly cookbooks
  • A map of Virginia hiking trails and a good walking stick

Do not set yourself up for disappointment by assuming your kids emerged from a Disney movie and will follow your lead. You might need to “sell” your “fewer-possessions-more-family-time” idea before they buy in.

When you call 757-383-9184 we cannot connect you to a babysitter, take-out Chinese joint, or diaper service, but we can put you in touch with one of the experienced men’s divorce and family law attorneys at The Firm for Men. Contact us today, if you can find your phone.

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