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Co-parenting Dads: Find Your Tribe

Let’s start by saying moms are better at tribes than dads. There are many physical and mental benefits to having a strong sense of kinship, of community or tribe.
(3 min 31 sec read)

Dave Chartier
A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Let’s start by saying moms are better at tribes than dads.

Men go through different stages of tribes throughout their lives; high school and college social circles form through the years. As you can imagine this plays out again as their status graduates from ‘single’ to ‘married’. Friends may drop off the calendar as the pressure is on to build the family, maintain career trajectory, develop friends who have also ‘coupled’ and grow closer relationships with the in-laws and extended family. Like in marriage, when you have a kid, your status changes from ‘Hubby’ to ‘Dad’ there is the opportunity for your tribe to grow again. You connect with the like-minded Dads.

Most know this process is pretty fluid but over the weeks, months and years you may have found you lost touch with the best friend you had in college or that close cousin. Some guys are definitely better than others hanging onto friendships, we know this.

Men know the ‘Lone Wolf’ status is still prevalent. Feeling the sting from divorce, you may feel disconnected from the dads in your circle as they are challenged to take sides between you and your ex. Friends from older social circles (school, old jobs, home town, etc.) may be reduced to occasional ‘likes’ and ‘thumbs up’ on social media channels. That’s why on the other end of divorce, the best of us may take stock and feel there is room for improvement.

Notable to the concept of ‘tribe’ for men, whether it is Thursday poker night, Wednesday book club, Monday bowling night, Sunday tailgating or something else, there needs to be a level of sharing, and closeness that works for you.

There are many physical and mental benefits to having a strong sense of kinship, of community or tribe. Here are some of them:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with trauma, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.1

Take a moment to let that sink in.

Find your tribe, it’s good for your health in the long run.

Let’s assume you’re starting from the beginning post-divorce, perhaps through the course of your marriage, your friends and family fell by the wayside for whatever reason. Don’t worry, there are steps you can take to grow your tribe. Go in with the mindset that a new tribe member might be standing next to you at the store, you simply don’t know it. It is about leaving yourself open to the universe and open to the possibility of connecting with like-minded individuals with common interests.

It also means having a discerning eye when stepping into new situations, say joining a pick-up soccer league in your neighborhood, or going to a monthly mixer at your church. Your discernment means you are being clear on what type of tribe you are building. This means thinking about what you are going for and what type of people you are willing to let in. It shows an awareness of purpose and the need for filters but still being open to it.

Some relationships may stick, others may not. Chances are you’ll reach out to old friends and family with mixed results. That’s okay, too.

Remember, an outcome of this is your kids watching you make this effort and it may have some unexpected effects on them. You may be showing them essential social skills that go well beyond their formative years, showing them how adults build/rebuild their circle of friends. This is always a tricky thing for kids during their school years, as we may remember. Just remember there is learning in it for you and for them.

  1. Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health | The Mayo Clinic

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