A recent study published in The Lancet Public Health revealed that single fathers face a significantly higher risk of early death than single mothers or parents in a relationship. In fact, single dads were twice as likely to die during the research period than other parents involved in the 11-year Canadian study.
While the researchers couldn’t pinpoint exactly why these dads were at higher risk, they did find that single fathers in the study tended to lead less healthy lifestyles than the other parents.
Hoping to gain custody of your kids after divorce? Check out our past post on the five crucial steps dads should take to get custody in Texas.
Could your single dad lifestyle use a little house cleaning?
There is no question that single parenting is hard work. However, that doesn’t mean health should take a back seat to the other responsibilities you’re juggling. More important, your kids need you around for love and support – whether that means walking your daughter down the aisle or giving your son advice when he faces challenges of his own.
If you want to be there for your kids for years to come, take a proactive approach to good health. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling.
Tip No. 1: Put your binge drinking days behind you.
The Lancet study revealed that single dads were more likely to binge drink than other parents. Guess what? Binge drinking poses serious health risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking (typically five or more drinks in a two-hour span for men, four or more for women) increases the risk for unintentional injuries (car accidents, falls, burns, etc.), high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, liver disease, poor brain health, cancer and more. It can also lead to alcohol dependency.
Speak with your doctor if you need help getting sober. If you don’t, it could negatively impact your ability to get custody or time with your kids.
Tip No. 2: Man up and start getting annual physicals.
Whether they see it as a sign of weakness, are afraid to find out something serious is wrong with them or feel uncomfortable undergoing certain tests (like prostate exams), many men avoid going to the doctor like the plague. Unfortunately, avoiding the doctor is another way men put their health more at risk than women, who are more likely to see a doctor annually or when they don’t feel well.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men, however many of the risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure and cholesterol issues, don’t present symptoms people can feel. Fortunately, heart disease can often be prevented when risk factors are diagnosed and treated early on. So, pick up the phone and schedule a physical. If you have sons, this is also a great opportunity to set a good example and help them get comfortable with having annual physicals.
Tip No. 3: Opt for a cleaner, heart-healthy diet.
Another possible risk factor for single dads’ shorter life spans may be unhealthy eating habits. As the Lancet researchers pointed out, single fathers in the study ate fewer fruits and vegetables than their counterparts.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends following a healthy diet plan that includes nutrient-rich foods with a balance of fruits and vegetables, minerals, lean protein, whole grains, nuts, legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. In addition, the AHA suggests limiting sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar. Eating more fresh, unprocessed foods is a great first step to getting the nutrients you need and avoiding the unhealthy ingredients you don’t. As an added bonus, this is a terrific way to teach your kids how to eat healthy, too.
Tip No. 4: Get more active in activities with your kids (and on your own).
The next time you’re planning an outing with the kids, find an activity that gets you all moving – whether that’s hiking, biking, swimming or taking the dog for long walks. You’ll burn calories, strengthen muscles and won’t be tempted by that jumbo bucket of buttered popcorn and sugary soft drinks at the movie theater.
The AHA recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of strenuous activity – or a combination of both – every week. Adding more physical activities to your agenda – with your kids, friends or solo – can help you reach that goal.
Tip No. 5: Seek out support from other single dads.
Nobody knows what you’re going through better than someone who has walked in your shoes. There are plenty of single dad support groups and forums out there – both in person and online – so you don’t have to go it alone. Many of these groups offer great resources and tips for dads on healthy single parenting, and they typically do so in a very supportive environment.
Tip No. 6: If you can’t get over your failed marriage or relationship, seek professional help.
Many people who go through divorce compare the loss to the death of a loved one. While it takes time to get over a divorce or break-up, there comes a point when it’s time to focus on living your life. If you’re having trouble moving on or are stressed out from dealing with your ex, co-parenting or both, consider seeking advice from a mental health professional who specializes in helping divorced families.
Stress can really do a number on your health – from headaches to heart attacks and even sudden death – so it’s important to take mental health seriously. Family therapists can be a great resource for single dads and their kids, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Your life and your children’s futures depend on it.
RELATED: Contemplating divorce? Learn how to set the stage for an amicable divorce in this recent post.
Since founding Connatser Family Law in 2013, Aubrey Connatser and her team have firmly established the next in a line of great Texas divorce and family law firms. To learn more about divorce and child custody in Dallas and Collin Counties, please call (214) 617-1583 to speak confidentially with a knowledgeable and compassionate member of the Connatser Family Law team.