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Grief is Normal, Necessary & Healthy

Over the years, I have presented workshops and written articles about

the grief process.  In the aftermath and continuation of COVID-19, the

grief process is just as important now. Yet many still find it a form of

weakness, blame and vulnerability.  Grieving is time consuming but doesn’t stop you from moving forward.  Choosing not to grieve can stop you from moving forward.  Grieving is a natural part of loss, especially when that loss is close to the heart.  Unfortunately, despite all the brain research, books and experts telling us that grief is a natural process, and we must work through our grief, most still want a quick fix via a pill or simple denial.  Today’s society often does not allow for proper grieving.  Keep in mind, even if the loss is under the best of circumstances, it is still the loss of a way of life, known security, support system and change, which all human beings tend to resist.  
Often if a grandparent, older aunt or uncle passes away, parents seem to be more tolerant of the grieving process for themselves and their children as a natural progression of life and tend to be more supportive and patient for grieving. However, if the trauma is due to a more direct loss such as a divorce, telling their children they are adopted or their spouse has died, parents tend to feel that their children’s grief is a negative reflection on them as parents for their child’s pain and heartache.  Often parents will deny their child’s pain if they see them laughing, playing and carrying on like nothing is wrong and/or choose to pre-occupy them with distractions, gifts, activities and refusal to admit their children’s heart is hurting and broken, an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.  There is nothing wrong with distractions, gifts and activities, but not as a permanent substitute for or avoidance of grief. To pretend nothing is wrong, dismiss their pain or tell yourself or your children “that’s life and move on” does not help work through their grief any faster.  You would never deny your children their medication to keep them healthy, why deny them the ability to grieve?  To allow grieving also keeps you and your children healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.  Brain research has proven that if you are not healthy emotionally, you are not going to be healthy physically nor mentally.  As you know, children lack the experience and tools to work through what they are feeling.  Even if they know others who have gone through similar circumstances, like adults, no one feels their pain like they do, because their pain is personal. 

Think about the pain your felt when you lost someone close to you or even when your divorce was final, or spouse died.  You’re an adult with life experiences; yet your pain made you feel helpless, vulnerable or like a child all over again.  If you, the parent, have those feelings, imagine how your children, who have little, or no, life experiences must feel?  Regardless of why the loss occurred, the blame and guilt cannot consume you to the point of long-term denial for yourself, your children, nor can you simply feel that a few months of grieving or short-term support system is all you need.  The deeper the loss, the longer it will take to grieve.  

It is never easy to ask your children how they feel about their parents no longer being together.  Even if you did ask them and they said they’re fine or simply shrugged their shoulders, doesn’t mean they are okay with it.  Often, the reality sets in six months or a year after it happened.  This usually coincides with family and friends that stop coming around on a regular basis to give support or help you and the family, or a move to a new home or state.  

At the end of the day, to grieve (adult or child) takes time.  How much time it takes to grieve is truly unknown.  Simply understand you cannot put a time limit on it.  Part of raising your children is teaching them to cope with life’s bumps in the roads.  Those bumps may be caused by us, the parents, and we must be prepared to help them cope with that also.  Choosing to do nothing and denying the pain will simply cause greater issues and perhaps greater heart ache for you and your children.  I know if a speeding bus was coming toward your children, you would do anything in your power to prevent your children from being hit by that bus.  The unresolved grief is a speeding bus.  

To help you and your children start the grieving process in a healthy manner, consider some basic steps:
•    All technology is off or put away.  No distractions. 
•    Acknowledge the loss and validate their feelings (often that starts with sharing your feelings). 
•    Crying is ok and healthy.
•    Make time to discuss “their world” and the impact the loss is making on them. 
                o    Don’t set a time limit, facilitate the discussion, don’t run it. Guide it.  
                o    If it must stop, try to end it on an upbeat note and a promise to continue. 
                o     Reassure them you will be there to help them every step of the way. 
•    Understand, your children’s time to talk may not be convenient.
                o    They may very well wake you at night to talk.  
                o    They may do very little talking…but they are listening and watching.
•    Consider counseling or a peer support group for your children.  
                o is one form of peer support.  
•    Parent your children consistently with appropriate boundaries.  
                o    Parenting out of guilt tends to have negative long-term effects on your children. 
•    Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just “are.”  
                o    It is how the feelings are expressed that should be monitored. 
                o    Never dismiss their feelings even if they are angry at you.  
               o    They need to verbally express themselves and may not know how.
               o    Listen more than give reason or excuse.  Be empathetic.  
               o    Pity and sympathy usually don’t work…especially with adolescents.  
               o    Conversations with younger children may be limited, and you may need to ask them to                              draw what they are thinking and feeling while explaining it to you as best they can. 
•    Tell them each night you love them and reassure them you are in this together.  
Parenting is never easy.  


Adding an emotional trauma such as a divorce, death, pandemic, deployment, incarceration or deportation, makes parenting more difficult.  Anything worth doing is often difficult and, regardless of how hard parenting is or becomes, your children are counting on you!  When tackling grief, try to break it down into chunks.  Sometimes looking at grief long-term can be overwhelming.  Chunking the process may not make it easier, but it will make it more manageable.  

Being the Best School Dad

Kids are back in the groove of school- studies, activities, events, and friendships.  Undoubtedly, they will have this year’s circle of friends, they know which subjects (and teachers) they like and the ones they are struggling with, they have decided which extra-curricular activities to participate in and are even looking forward to the holiday breaks that are right around the corner.   While great strides have been made with getting people vaccinated, there are still children and other adults who are on opposite sides of the fence regarding the vaccine.  You must remember, from your children’s perspective, school is not only about the learning, but also the social component. It is important that you support both components of their education. Your districts and schools are doing what is in the best interest of your children and their staff (whether you agree or not).


Where do you fit in your child’s school community?  For our children, school is where they spend most of their awake time each day. Just like adults with work.  Our kid’s teachers, classmates, and activities mean the world to them.  There are fantastic days and there are bummers. This is the very reason we, as their parent, need to be involved in their school world too.  They need our guidance and support. Since a return to home schooling still may be a possibility, especially in some states, it is even more important you are on top of what is going on with their education.


All too often, as a single dad, you might feel awkward or unwelcome in the school community.  Perhaps, your child’s Mom tries to keep you away, or you believe the school is her domain with the kids, so you do not get involved.  It is important for you to realize that your child wants and needs you too.  Get engaged.  Do it for your child, if for no other reason than they deserve and want to know you care!  It helps them succeed too!


What about those kids you have in college?  Yes, they are young adults and 18 or older, but that does not mean you stop being engaged.  Your adult children may not need you to tell them to do their homework, what time to go to bed or meet with their professors on their progress, but you DO NEED TO BE ENGAGED! Being engaged does not mean you are a helicopter parent.  Find that balance.


Dad’s Homework:

  1. Attend Parent- Teacher Conferences

  2. Call or video chat nightly to find out how your child’s day went

  3. If your child’s school does not have their calendar & events online, ask the school to send you the calendar.

  4. When you are having parenting time, help with homework

  5. Volunteer with their activities, such as a field trip or sports team

  6. Ask the teacher to email/mail you your child’s report card

  7. Get to know your child’s friends – if covid-19 conditions allow, take them for pizza

  8. Display their school picture, schoolwork and report card on your refrigerator

  9. Find out their favorite subject so you can find interesting information to share with them and use as conversation starters


Dad’s Homework if you have children in college


  1. Go to Freshmen Orientation and help get them settled. Simply don’t drop them off and leave.  Determine your departure based on the schedule created by the college or university.

  2. Make sure your name is on any release forms giving you permission to have access to their medical records and in some cases, their academic progress. 

  3. Laws now govern that colleges DO NOT have to release information regardless of who is paying the bills.  Your child is 18 or older.   

  4. Get their college calendar which is available online. Stay appropriately engaged.

  5. Reach out to your college student often.  Even if it is a text or email.  Simply to check in.  Remember, they don’t need you to hover even though you may want to do that. 

  6. Avoid just showing up to surprise them.  If you want to surprise them, communicate your intentions.  If it can’t be the dates you had hoped, I am sure there are other times.  Be flexible. 

  7. Allow your college student to problem solve when discussing issues they are having. Even if they ask you for the answer, guide them to the answer.  You want independence and self-reliance. 

  8. Remind them if they need anything, day or night, to call you. 


Okay, you have your homework assignments.  If you complete them on time, I promise you will have an

A+ in fatherhood...

Father and daughter at computer

Single Dads and Covid-19

It is hard enough to shelter in place during this difficult time when you have a traditional family (both parents living at home); however, when you are a single parent, visitation schedules have just become a little more difficult.  It is hard enough when you cannot see your children on a daily basis, but now with Self-Isolation, physically seeing your children may have just become impossible. 

Additionally, navigating the new norms such as e-learning, the stress of the routine changes such as not seeing their friends, playing outside as before, not seeing the parent that doesn’t live with them and all the negativity in the newspapers, on tv and social media.  Being a single parent has just become much harder and for a single parent, stress levels may even be worse.  How does a single parent handle it?  One day at a time just like everyone else; however, self-reliance on your end may prove problematic.  Here are some suggestions to help get through this tough time.


  • While it may be your time to have your children, their safety and your safety are more important than physically seeing your children. Talk with your ex-spouse and determine if their self-isolation is equal between the two homes.  If it is, it could be as simple as going from point A to point B.  Don’t force it if it is not safe for you and/or your children.  This not an attempt to withhold visitation.  No one expected this to happen.  If you find that visitation continues as normal, offer to help our ex-spouse by having your children for an extended period of time.  This includes engaging in their e-learning and other activities that keep the shelter in place a little more palatable (more on that later). 


  • If you are unable to physically see your children, use social media platforms such as Zoom, Skype or the live streaming features on your phone, laptop, tablet or desktop. Set up a schedule so you can video chat with your children.  Older children you may be able to video chat with them directly. 


  •  If you can see them or they are staying with you an extended period of time, FANTASTIC!  It is important to stick to a routine.  Now is not the time to forget about the rules and boundaries.  This includes any e-learning scheduling and a regular place to do homework like a kitchen or dining room table or any place that is free from distratction. 


  • Since you have more one on one time with your children, it is a great time to have family dinner on a regular basis with no technology for interruptions.  Make sure you keep the discussions age appropriate and start with yourself.  You will find your children will be more inclined to open up if you start with yourself.  With the nice weather, take walks with your children as a form of exercise, way to have conversations and get some fresh air.  Walking can give you one on one time with each child. 


  • The grieving process does not stop because our routines have stopped.  Now you can add “grieving the loss” of their routine and not seeing their friends on top of the loss of their traditional family.  Make sure you make extra time to have open and age appropriate discussions. 


  • Just because you lost your job due to Covid-19 doesn’t automatically suspend your child support payments.  This is where having an amiable relationship with your ex is important.  Talking on the phone or email without the children present before you lose your job or right after is important.  Remember, you are raising your children together from two separate households.  While each state is different, it is important to contact your attorney to determine if a reduction or temporary suspension of payments can be done.  If you get that reduction or suspension, usually the missed payments are simply deferred and will still owe the back support.  If you lost your insurance, can your ex cover them, can you do Cobra or get a basic policy to cover you and your children?  Yes, state aid may be the temporary solution.  Yes, this is frustrating and humiliating; however, it is about your children, not you.  I understand you may not have a working relationship with your ex and must keep in mind, you need to do what is in the best interest of your children and your financial stability.  Whatever you decide, document and create a paper trail.  Even if you do it all correctly, the state and Clerk of the Circuit Court may not have documented properly. 


  • With a Shelter in Place and limited interaction, it may be time to resurrect things you did as a child with your family or perhaps what your parents did as children.  Remember, technology was not like it is now in the 1980s or earlier…if children did not play outside, they played with toys, colored, wrote letters to loved ones, meals regularly at the table without television, play board games, or card games. 


  1. Now is the time to teach your children some self-reliance and teach them some skills they may not have done before such as learning to do such as cooking, laundry, folding laundry, ironing, how to check the oil in a car, filling the fluids.   Chores are also teaching your children life skills. 


  • It is a great time to have your children go through their clothes/toys and donate what doesn’t fit, they don’t wear, use or play with any longer.   


  •  Lastly, reassure your children, this is temporary, and things will return to normal. It is ok to be worried, frightened and even angry of what has happened. Remember to tell them you love them and be available to them when they need you.  You have the time, use it to improve your relationship with your children, take care of yourself and support them as you go through this temporary normal. 


Covid-19 will redefine how we interact with our children, our families, coworkers and friends.  The silver lining in all of this is we as a society are learning how to improve communication, reassure those that are close to us and work together as a family. 

Helping Hand

Building Your Child's Self-Esteem

Parents, whether single or married, have a responsibility, not only to feed, clothe and house their children, but also help build their self-esteem.  When an emotional trauma happens, this simplest of lessons is often lost specially to single dads.  For me, I was so self-absorbed in working and going to school, I always assumed his mom was handling it, or school would take care of it.  I am not saying I never encouraged him nor watched what he was doing.  I am saying we must be mindful that building your child’s self-esteem is just as important as feeding them.  Most single dads who do not have residency with their children tend to fall short of this important life lesson.  Without it, children will find other, mostly unhealthy ways to build their self-esteem or erode it.  We cannot assume it is someone else’s job or someone else will do it.  Ideally, both parents should be building it together.  While other adults in your child’s life will help build self-esteem, the key lessons start with you. 

When single dads have their children, often the parenting takes a back seat to “fun” and wanting your children to enjoy their time with you.  I get it and understand it; however, you are always the parent first and their friend and buddy second.  These simple suggestions may seem like a no brainer to you, but ask yourself, do you use these strategies on a regular basis?  Are you quick to blame others for your children’s actions or behaviors?  Let’s look as some easy steps to put this life lesson into play when you interact with your children.

     Your actions model behavior.  For example, my dad smoked, drank beer and drank coffee.  I always thought part of being an adult is to smoke, drink beer and coffee.  I would ask to sip his coffee in the morning and asked to sip his beer.  He would always say just a little. He wold say, “You need to be an adult to drink this.”   Yes, I would sneak out a cigarette or two and try to be grown up.  He caught me once and was punished but I never remember him telling me cigarettes were dangerous or addicting.  Now, keep in mind, in the 1970’s smoking was the social norm.  You smoked in restaurants, planes, and yes, in the car with the family.  If you watch old movies, you see this habit all over the place.  My dad would simply say, “When you’re 21, you can smoke and drink all you want.” While you could argue that his responses were indicative of the time, I will ask you, are all your actions in front of your children something you want them to pick up?  Modeling behaviors trickle down to your children.  You can’t expect your child to want to go to church, if you don’t model it.  You can’t expect your children to not swear if you are swearing. Today it could be preoccupied with social media, never putting down your cell or tablet to help your children with their homework.  How many times have you not looked away from your computer, cell or tablet when you child needs help with something and say, “In a minute.”  You are indirectly telling your child that you are not as important as what I am doing right now.  You can expect that behavior from your children at some point.   A better tool would be to pause what you are doing and look them in the eye and tell them that you be done 5 minutes and you will be happy to help.  Family serves at that foundation for positive, proactive behavior.  Having a healthy, functioning family does more to build a child’s self-esteem than anything. 

Edited Image 2016-01-23 13-53-35_edited.jpg
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