Being A Single Dad (Part 2)

By Katherine Elias

Child Custody Evaluator

Note: This is the second part of a two-part series on being a single dad. Click here to read Part 1.

Studies show that children of divorce need a father interested in their behavior at school. They need a father, who does not hesitate to discipline and is an authority figure. In other words, it is important that the divorced father fill all the roles of a parent – not limit himself to being the “ATM” or simply as a provider of entertainment and amusement.

Involvement of parents in children’s lives varies with the age of the child. Relationships develop in early childhood through physical therapy with a child (eating, washing, etc.) and expressions of warmth and love.

For children of school age, school and parents contribute to their psychological development by providing assistance with their homework and providing training and encouragement in learning about values, behavior and society.

A vast field of research has focused on fathers, who were unusually involved in their children’s lives. It was a wave of research that began in the mid-70’s by people like Graham Russell, which followed families in which fathers were the primary caregivers for their children or participating in childcare evenly, and explored the impact of this fact on the development of children.

The first wave of research findings presented surprising results for the studies. Children brought up mostly by fathers did better than children who were educated in traditional settings. I think the reason is that fathers raise better children than mothers, but the studies took families that constitute a unique population – families in which fathers and mothers were able to divide their responsibilities in a manner consistent with their personal values and goals. These were studies of families where men wanted to stay home and work where they could organize their time flexibly. All mothers in families studied did not want to settle for staying home with the kids as a full-time mother.

However, these studies emphasized the tremendous importance of the recognition that fathers are a fundamental part in the family. In these families, the important point was that harmonic relationships and harmony between the parents spread the benefits among children. In other words, we see evidence that instead of examining only the individual characteristics of mothers and children, we must also examine their relationship with others.

Parenting is a challenge to us all, but an increased challenge for divorced dads is sometimes having less time with their children. Some divorced dads give up their pain and gradually reduce the contact with their children. Others put an emphasis on entertainment and amusements and buying expensive gifts so children will want to be with them.

The truth is, kids want a good relationship with the father, and that requires a balance between all the parts that apply to a good parent. Despite the fact that time together is limited, there is no need to sacrifice the quality of the connection.

Fathers should be encouraged to take as active a part in their children’s lives as possible. A father’s decision to remain committed and dedicated to his children after divorce contributes greatly to the development of his children.

Note: This is the second part of a two-part series on being a single dad. Click here to read Part 1.


Katherine Elias has been a licensed psychotherapist in private practice since 1998. She is recognized as a Child Custody Evaluator with specialties in Parental Alienation (PAS), Relocation, Adoption, Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence, Termination of Parental Rights, establishment of Parenting Plans, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Family Issues. She is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychology Law Society and The American Counseling Association.

End of Content Icon

One comment on “Being A Single Dad (Part 2)

    The Limitations on Fathers
    Very nice article. I would add only the following. Not only is it “important that the divorced father fill all the roles of a parent – not limit himself to being the “ATM” or simply as a provider of entertainment and amusement.” It is important that the divorced father not [i]allow himself to [u]be[/u] limited[/i] in these ways. All too often, it is not the father, himself, but the courts, or a gate-keeping mother, who limits a father’s role in the children’s lives. Not all fathers are able to prevent this from happening. I’ve seen far too many good, loving fathers forced into the ATM-only role. But it’s important to remind divorced fathers that they need to guard against not only ways in which they might limit themselves but ways in which others might try to limit their role as fathers.

    Don Hubin
    Columbus, OH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *