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Tip Sheet for Recently Separated Dads

Jeff Steiner | Executive Director Dads’ Resource Center | June 29, 2019

The Dads’ Resource Center had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Raymond Petren, an assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State Scranton. He has done extensive research on how parental roles change following separation.

There is a lot of good advice available for single dads from practitioners relaying what they have encountered in their work with separated parents. Dr. Petren’s studies offer unique insight from a large pool of participants with academic rigor targeted at specifically drilling down on what is working for separated fathers.

The following is a tip sheet for newly separated fathers based on his studies:

1) Challenge yourself to take on new roles and responsibilities. Dads’ who embraced new roles in their children’s lives were satisfied with themselves as parents and men. “It has made me a better man. Now I have to do more.”

2) Make the most of opportunities to spend time with your kids. Dads who were successful thought about new ways to connect with their kids and often made sacrifices to do so. “I don’t care if I have to sit in the concert venue parking lot for 4 hours. I get 4 hours to hang out with her and talk.”

3) Tune in to your children’s needs and development. Thriving dads made adjustments based on children’s needs and changes in their development.

4) Let each child know they have a special place in your life. Dads created special experiences and spaces for each kid to let them know they’re important. “She picked her own color. So we started painting her room together.”

5) Work together with your ex-partner for the children’s best interests. Dads who were able to find ways to cooperate with their former partners felt good about the benefits for the kids. “We just looked at it and I said it is easier for me to get my stuff and move out and for her to stay there.”

6) Find new ways to stay informed about your kids without relying on your ex-partner. Successful dads get information about their kids from places like school and doctors without having to depend on their ex-partners.

7) Find ways to support your ex-partner as a parent. Finding small ways to support your ex-partner’s parenting can help your relationship. “I told her, ‘My son better be respecting you, so I will make sure he does that.’ Since then, she has been nice to me.”


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