Be a Dad First, Then a Friend

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a single dad and need some advice about my teenage daughter. She’s 13 and It’s just been me and her for the past five years. She is extremely smart and independent and even helps me with household decisions. I admit that I am very laid back in my parenting and our relationship is more of friends and equals than father and daughter. I feel guilty because she does not have the ideal two-parent household and I often work long hours, so I let her get and do pretty much whatever she wants. To complicate things even more, I will be remarrying within the next year to a woman that I have had a long distance relationship with. I am concerned that when she comes to live with us, the new family dynamic will be too much of a change for my daughter. I want to try and restructure our relationship and instill boundaries now before it is too late. Where do I start?

A: The good news is that you’ve already taken the first step: you recognize that there’s a problem and you’ve asked for help. The bad news is that you’ve got a huge amount of catching up to do.

The relationship you have with your daughter is incredibly common among single parents: they feel guilty about putting their children through a divorce and, as you say, for depriving them of the perfect two-parent family. And they feel guilty about working long hours and depriving them of having more time with even one loving parent. As a result these guilt-ridden single moms and dads do exactly what you’re doing: try to make themselves feel better—and make amends to their kids—by backing off on discipline and letting them get away with whatever they want. Big mistake.
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Single Dad, Create More Space in That Bachelor Pad

With divorce rates remaining high in the United States, so does the number of single dads and moms raising children in a co-parenting scenario. A report issued by the US Census revealed: “An estimated 13.7 million parents [have] custody of 21.8 million children under 21 years of age while the other parent lived somewhere else.” The report went on to say that 26.3% of all children under age 21 live with only one parent while the other lived elsewhere. While mothers everywhere are often praised for their ability to create a child-friendly living space, single dads may find themselves struggling to strike a balance between a bachelor pad and a child-proof home.

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Google Hangout with Single Dad, Comedian, and Author Josh Wolf

[amazon asin=1455511676&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]In case you missed it, Paul Banas from and I did a terrific Google Hangout with comedian and author Josh Wolf. His new book,It Takes Balls, is a hilarious look at dating, coaching, raising kids, and the mysteries of being a single dad. But there’s something there for everyone.

Watch the Hangout here:

Dating a Divorced Dad: Patience and Bravery Required

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a sixth grade teacher and one of my students became very attached to me during the school year. Her parents divorced eight years ago and I began emailing with her dad a couple months ago. We started seeing each other but didn’t let many people know because we wanted to wait until school was out. The daughter got wind that something was going on and told her dad it was wrong for him to date her teacher and begged him to date anyone but me. I wasn’t expecting this reaction and we stopped seeing each other. He said he had to do what was in his daughter’s best interest. I completely disagree with this, because the girl has not liked any of the past girlfriends either. I’m absolutely devastated. He thinks she’ll come around now that school is over but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Is there any hope? What should I do?

A: Being a single dad myself, I can assure you that dating a divorced father is never easy (that’s what women I’ve dated have said and I know I’m not the only one…). We come with plenty of baggage and there are always unforeseen complications. Plus, children tend to be very protective of their dads (interestingly, they’re often more protective of dads than moms—perhaps because they see that moms already enjoy much more social support than dads).

Part of problem may be that the girl feels betrayed by you. Because the two of you had such a strong bond during the year, chances are good that she looked at you with admiration and respect and even considered you a friend. To have you suddenly dating her father might have made her feel that you were just using her to get to her dad.

It’s also possible that the girl is worried about betraying her mother. Most kids with divorced parents secretly hope that mom and dad will get back together—even if the divorce happened long, long ago. And there’s nothing like having dad start dating someone else to show a child that (a) she has no control over the situation, and (b) that her fantasy of a reunited family might never happen. So the fact that the girl really likes you muddles things even more by making her feel that she’s actually helping shatter he own dream.

As far as the dad goes, you need to understand that his first responsibility (and loyalty) will always be to his child—as it should be. And while it’s certainly worth trying to convince him to give things another go, his primary motivation will be to do what’s right for his daughter, whatever that looks like to him.

One thing you can do to help both dad and daughter come to grips with the situation is to slow the relationship down. In other words, be friends instead of dating each other. While it would have been better to have started the relationship from this angle, going the friend route now might work by giving everyone a little extra time to get used to the new dynamic.

At the same time, be sure to give dad and daughter some space to talk things over alone. I know you want to be there to give your side of the story and try to show them that you’ve got the best of intentions, but don’t.

Dating a divorced dad can be frustrating and infuriating, and the key to success is being very, very patient. Rushing things will only backfire.

How single fathers navigate the delicate balance between their kids and their love lives

Nice Chicago Tribune article on the ins and outs of dating for single dads, featuring some quotes from me:

… Single fathers have a tendency, more than single moms, to “feel incomplete” without a partner in the house, so they risk rushing into a new relationship that may not be right, said single dad Armin Brott, author of several books on fatherhood including “The Single Father: A Dad’s Guide to Parenting Without a Partner” (Abbeville)…

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A Single Dad’s Guide to His Daughter’s Puberty

I’m a single dad and my daughter is 11. I know I’m going to have some kind of discussion with her about puberty, but I don’t have a clue where to begin. I also don’t know what and how much I should say to my daughter about her body and about sexual feelings she is going to start to experience. Help!

Congratulations! You’re about to deal with something that most dads spend a lot of time worrying about. Luckily, though, it really isn’t all that bad.

Whether you’re a custodial dad or you share custody, it’s reasonably safe to assume that your ex will be having some discussions about puberty and menstruation with your daughter. But sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way you planned. Even if they do, it’s a good idea for you to prepare yourself to deal with these issues anyway. Women’s bodies have always been something of a mystery to most men and it’s perfectly normal to be confused, embarrassed, or even somewhat put off by your daughter’s physical changes.
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