Struggling Single Dad

Dear Sara,

My wife died three years ago with cancer and I am trying to raise three girls by myself. They are nine eleven and thirteen. The nine-year-old seems to be doing OK but the other two are either in tears or arguing about what kind of clothes they can wear. I feel like they need a mother but I am not ready to marry again and the girls probably wouldn’t accept another woman. I am at a loss about all of this puberty business. So far I am managing but I feel like I am not doing a very good job.

Dear Ethan,

All teens have their ups and downs and teen girls are often dramatic. It sounds like even though you are unsure of yourself that you are coping with the problems. You are the girls’ father and they need for you to be strong and dependable for them. You may make a few mistakes along the way but as long as you are there emotionally for your girls everything will work out for you and for them. They need that steadying influence. Get them into a routine and stick with it so they can know what’s happening next. Have rules for them so that they will know what to expect. They will not always be happy with you but if you are there for them to depend on they will love you.


  1. Dear Ethan,

    You have a tough job ahead of you with the
    passing of your wife (their Mom) even if
    it has been three years. You have to reassure
    them that you cannot fill the shoes of their
    Mother but you are trying to do the task
    of both parents. It’s obvious they need some
    female influence right now. However; maybe
    an aunt or grandparent can help in areas
    that the girls would prefer a woman’s advice
    on. That could be accomplished through a
    phone call or video chatting or personal
    visit; whatever is easier. It might help
    the girls in a big way.

  2. Very nice answers by Sara and Sue. I’ll say a prayer (I just did) for Ethan. God’s blessings to him.

  3. Ethan,

    I know it’s hard. I have 2, a 13 yo son and a 12 year old daughter. Don’t consider yourself as forever alone. When the right woman comes around, you and they will all know it. Start out very casually. If you find her worthy of meeting your children, invite her to an activity that you can both do with your kids (and make it a new activity; not one you did with your wife). Ultimately, it would be great for the girls to have a female adult around. She’s not a replacement for your wife, just an addition to the family. Hope all goes well for you.

  4. Ethan,

    Drama is part of puberty. I was a single mom when my oldest daughter was 13 and she was moody and tearful some times. Don’t take it personally. It is not about you. When a little drama is disrupting your day, take a breath, and say to yourself, ” this makes us normal.” If there is a female relative of friend the girls are comfy with, encourage or arrange some girl time. But you are Dad and you can do this. Be sure to connect individually with each one each day. Be like ” is there anything you need to tell me” or “tell me what you would like to see happen tomorrow..” (or next week or this summer). And sit them all down together For a family meeting and let them help think of practical changes the family can make to lessen the morning drama so everyone’s day starts out better. Also try a mindful moment or devotion time daily or weekly and have them take turns sharing a thought or a story or a verse. A “Chicken Soup” book can be a good way to start

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