Just because you’re raising your children as a single parent doesn’t mean you’re alone. The number of single dads has grown nine-fold since 1960. According to the most recent survey released by the Pew Research Center, there are more than 2.6 million single fathers in the U.S. That same research also found that single fathers are at risk because of a lack of educational attainment (only 17 percent of single fathers have a bachelor’s degree), poverty (24 percent of single fathers live at or below the poverty level), and age (collectively, single fathers are younger than married fathers).
Current public opinion holds that a father’s greatest role is to provide values to his children, followed by emotional support, discipline, and income support — a far cry from the traditional “breadwinner” rhetoric. As the role of what it means to not just be a father — but a good dad — evolves, reaching your potential and feeling fulfilled as a single father (while providing everything your children need), can feel overwhelming. That’s why single dad support groups are on the rise, and that’s why they’re necessary.
“Both single mothers and single fathers are unfairly stereotyped and stigmatized, but there are some differences between the two,” Dr. Bella DePaulo, Academic Affiliate of Psychological & Brain Sciences at University of California Santa Barbara, specializing in the practice and study of single life, explains. “Sometimes people assume the worst about single fathers — that they are ‘deadbeat dads.’ There could be something uniquely fulfilling about getting to know other single fathers in single father support groups.”
Aside from being a place to meet other single dads and make relationships with others whom you can relate to, DePaula credits support groups as a safe space to put those relationships to good use. Support groups allow participants to both get help and give it. “Dads may not even realize how much they know and how good they are at parenting until they get a chance to share their experiences with other dads,” DePaulo says. “And, at the same time, they can learn things from other dads they never thought about before.”
Support groups for single fathers provide unique opportunities to exchange ideas with people who — more than anyone else — understand where you are coming from and what you are going through. If you need suggestions or help, it may be easier to ask for it from other single dads than other people. Additionally, it’s been proven that participation in support groups for single parents (both mothers and fathers) improves not only a parent’s situation but also a child’s. Research from the School of Social Work at Portland State University found that parent training group for single parents contribute directly to behavioral improvements in single parent and child relationships.
And support groups for single dads are easier to find than you might expect. The National Parent Hotline offers resources for single dads and provides support through the Single Parents Network. Additionally, there are single father support groups popping up all over the country, and chances are, near you. Just type in your location on Meetup to find a group that is right for you in your city.
While support groups are a great way for some dads to gain a community, don’t feel pressured if it doesn’t feel right or work for you. “These kinds of groups aren’t for everyone,” DePaulo says. “Every single father needs to find his own way, and do what works best for him and his kids.”
Single Dad Support Groups: A Cheat Sheet
- There are more than 2.6 million single dads in the U.S.
- Support groups are a great way to create a community of guys who can relate to your situation as both a sounding board and listening ear.
- Studies have shown that support groups can create behavioral improvements for both single parents and children.
- You can find a single dad support group near you through Meetup.