Juggling work and family can be tricky for anyone, but when you’re a single father in the military, this balancing act can get downright precarious — and considering nearly 8% of the military population is made up of single parents, it’s a sizable issue to take into consideration.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that so many single military parents turn to support groups to help find a system that works for them. Support groups provide a consistent opportunity to relate to peers in a safe setting. A support group creates an environment in which single parents can express frustrations and fears, while exchanging tips and strategies with people in similar life situations.
What Defines a Support Group?
If you’re unfamiliar with support groups, the term refers to any gathering of people facing the same challenge or going through related life experiences. Groups for single fathers have been emerging more in recent years, as people realize how important it is to have an outlet and support network to deal with the challenges of single parenting. This is also partly driven by the fact that single-father households have increased nearly tenfold since 1960.
Support groups often start off informally as small gatherings and develop from there into something more organized. Some groups are designed for single fathers in general, regardless of career. If you live near a military base, you may be able to access specialized groups dedicated to single military fathers, where you’re likely to meet people who can relate to the unique struggles of being a military parent, such as navigating deployment or military divorce.
Meetings are usually held on a regular basis in a comfortable, accessible space with refreshments. Attendees will first check in and then have an opportunity to share experiences or participate in organized activities as a group.
Finding a Support Group
Local newspapers or news websites will usually list or advertise parenting support groups, as will networking websites like Meetup.com. Hospitals, clinics, churches, and schools are other community spaces that feature listings or keep track of local resources for single parents.
If you’re having trouble finding a support group through these methods, you could also consider talking to a therapist or social worker to get their recommendations. If you know or work with other single fathers in your area, ask them if they know of any resources. Many times, these groups thrive by word-of-mouth and just asking around might open the door to finding one.
Benefits of Support Groups
Here are a few key benefits you can expect to gain from attending a support group:
Single father support groups are an excellent source of information. Whether you’re looking for a local doctor, don’t know how to interpret your child’s recent behavior, or just how to get through the morning routine with young kids, it’s likely the other members of the group have been through the same situation (or something similar). They’ll be able to give you the information you need and may offer specific tips they’ve learned from experience.
You’ll also find that your perspective is valued and validated in the group setting, which can build your own confidence as you navigate the world of parenting.
Beyond gaining information, a support group is an excellent opportunity for skill development as a single father. Oftentimes, the challenges of being a single parent can wear on your patience and energy. At a support group, you can learn some of the strategies other fathers use to stay calm and get the job done without burning themselves out. Some groups might even involve specific activities based on skill building, like cooking classes.
This one seems a bit obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. At its core, a support group provides a much-needed sense of shared community and support for single fathers. Single parenting can be a lonely experience at times; just knowing that other people are going through similar experiences, and having the chance to share your story with peers, can be undeniably cathartic. This simple exchange can help prevent emotions from becoming pent up or manifesting in unhealthy ways.
While you may start going to a support group for the opportunity to gain tips and skills, chances are you’ll develop some strong friendships out of it; or even a community. Your children may have the opportunity to make friends and find support through the connections you make, if other parents in the group have children going through similar situations or life stages.
If you’re a single father and think you could benefit from a support group, try seeking one out in your local area. If you can’t find one that suits your needs, chances are you’re not alone — why not consider branching out within the community and starting one of your own?
No matter what you decide, remember that a support group is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to caring for your children. For more tips and advice on single parenting, check out the Father’s Rights blog. Our experienced team specializes in father’s rights and family legal matters, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.