Being a single dad is tough. Even though it is the 21st century and there’s a diversity of family configurations, being a single dad is tough. It can be rewarding and gratifying too. But it’s nonetheless tough.

It is tough because one person is on for the all of the responsibilities. There are schedules to organize and adapt to. There are too many days when you are simply too tired to do one more thing. Maybe you don’t feel equipped to handle the challenges, much less calendars. Perhaps you are not convinced your instinct or decision is the correct one.

Complicating this is the fact that, in most instances, society has painted your role as a single dad with a negative color — even if you are in this position because of the death of a spouse. If that is not enough, there are very few resources available to hone your skills at being a successful single dad.

What does being a successful single dad require?


Be yourself. Share with your kids the person you are …strengths and weaknesses. You can communicate who you are without comprising your role as the paternal guide through your child’s life. Let your kids know your values, your beliefs, and even your shortcomings. This sets the tone for building a deep, honesty parent-child foundation that will endure through life.


Be resourceful. You will need to be cleverly inventive …from preparing a spontaneous dinner to tending to a sick child. Keeping your sense of humor is essential. In the middle of these times, be patient and forgiving. When presented with taxing times, keep in mind that this event will be tomorrow’s memory.


Being a single parent is an acquired skill that takes practice…usually eighteen years worth of practice. About the time you think you have conquered it, your child jumps into another developmental stage that requires you learn again.


There is no better gift than being a parent. Each child you parent is your legacy to the future. The richest reward for your effort is the phrase, “I love you, Dad.” Maybe being a single dad is not what you envisioned but it is your reality. Accept it and embrace it!


Unconditionally. Your child loves you and craves knowing you love them. Not once but every time you talk with them, end the conversation or the day by telling them you love them. Showing love to a child is really quite easy – attend their activities, scouts, school, or sports,  if only for a portion of the activity.

It means the world to your child to know you care enough to be there to watch and encourage them in any pursuit they are interested in. If you don’t live with your child call them daily if possible or as regularly as you can. Keep in mind that “no” is a love word. Your child wants you to be a parent, not a Disneyland dad, which admittedly can be tempting. He/she needs to have guidelines, discipline, and consequences. You are their parent to guide, nurture and encourage them into becoming the best person they were created to be!


There a few bonds stronger than a dad and his child. Because of the complexity of being a single dad, your relationship can often be highly charged. Listen to your child for what they say and for what they don’t say. Always, always keep in the forefront of your mind and heart that you are the adult and must go the extra mile for the child. When you struggle with issues, seek out another adult you respect for assurance and guidance.

Remember you will never be a perfect parent, the only requirement is to be a loving parent. That is what successful parenting is about… never giving up – just giving.

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Suzy Yehl Marta

Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three sons, gave up the security of her three jobs to do something she knew in her heart had to be done for our youth who were grieving a life-changing loss. She established Rainbows, now the world’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated solely to helping families cope with loss. While growing up, Suzy dreamed of being a good wife and mother. She never considered the possibility of divorce and was devastated when her marriage ended. She was relieved when family and friends told her there was no need to worry about her kids. “They’re resilient. They’ll bounce back,” she was told. But soon Suzy realized her sons were hurting as much as she was. She searched for the type of support that she was receiving as an adult. There was no place accessible for them to talk about what they were feeling. Certainly, there was therapy available, which she tried. At the end of the counseling session, she was advised not to return. The therapist said they were just fine adjusting to their loss. But he never told them how to do it. What Suzy learned later was that they were all grieving the death of their nuclear family. In addition, her sons needed to be with other children their age going through the same experiences so they could understand their feelings. Working with other concerned single parents, Suzy began organizing weekend retreats for children in single-parent and step-family homes. In three years, more than 800 youth benefited from the retreats. After hearing their stories, Suzy was compelled to do more. She began working on a formal curriculum- the foundation of Rainbows. Rainbows has served nearly 2 million youth throughout the U.S. and 16 countries. Now the nation’s largest not-for-profit organization dedicated solely to helping families cope with loss.

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