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Before You Get Discouraged, Single Dads, Recognize Your Value

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It's easy for single dads to become discouraged. While shared parenting is on the rise, and is being recognized as the standard in a number of states, there are still far too many non-custodial parents--mostly men--who are sidelined in their kids' lives or considered to have limited significance. If you're reading this as a single dad, consider how you can become a change agent within our culture, proving the importance of dads through your own active role in your kids' lives.

Recognize That You Play a Critical Role in Your Children's Lives

Whether you're a brand new first-time single dad, or a divorced father who remains active in his children's lives, know that you are needed. In fact, there is a relationship principle that can help you remember this. It's the old adage, "We teach people how to treat us." When you act as though you are an important part of your kids' lives, you show that you are an important part of your kids' lives. Don't wait to become involved when someone else validates your role. You're already validating your importance by your own actions!

Your Value is About Much More Than Child Support

Technically, if the state is involved in your case, your involvement is, at least in part, about dollars and cents. That's because there are many custodial parents out there--moms and dads, alike--who would need financial assistance from the state if they were not receiving child support on a regular basis. So, to them, as a single dad who does pay child support, it's as though you're a stop-gap that potentially saves the state money.

But let's set that aside for a moment: To your children, your involvement is not about money.

Your Presence--or Absence--Impacts How Your Children View Themselves

One of the main life questions your children are asking is "Am I worthy?" Am I worth knowing, loving, and spending time with? Children whose fathers are not involved will, to some extent, answer those questions negatively. Now that's not to say that kids can't resolve those issues, or move beyond the hurt and pain they feel at a parent's absence, but why should they have to? Rather than having to wonder whether they're worth knowing, your active, involved presence in their lives answers that question with a resounding "Yes!"

Look to the Future

No two parents will ever agree on everything, and particularly when your children are young, the two of you will need to make compromises often. Don't allow yourself to get stuck in that mode, though, believing you'll only ever be the one making compromises. Eventually, there will come a time when your children will be able to think for themselves, and they're going to need multiple influential, encouraging adults in their lives to help them find their way through the often-turbulent transition we call young adulthood. Look ahead toward that time, because your kids need you to be one of those influential adults!

You Have a Unique Point of View to Share

The very fact that your perspective is different from their mom's may help your children open up to you, and listen to what you have to say, at a critical time in their lives. The wisdom, grace, and connection you will share with your children through the years is different from what anyone else on this planet can give them. The bonding relationships they've built with other people--like their mom, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, or even a step-parent--are still important. But no matter how close those relationships may be, no one else is your children's father.

Believe That Your Involvement Makes a Difference

Adults who wish to be influential in kids' lives must first earn the right to be heard. You're doing that every time you have a conversation with your kids and you focus entirely on what they're saying, each time you show up at a game, or help them with their homework. These small efforts say to your kids: I'm here. I'm involved. You can count on me. Single dads have many opportunities to send that message to their children, in a variety of ways. It's something that your kids wait for and long for, and it does make a difference.

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